Alphabet reaching for ‘Fame’

'Party of Five' scribe/producer to pen tale

ABC and MGM are teaming to produce a two-hour telepic sequel to the studio’s hit 1980 musical feature “Fame.”

Pic, which could air as early as November, is being developed as a backdoor pilot for a potential weekly series to debut in 2003. Oscar-winner Michael Gore, who wrote the original score for “Fame,” will serve as exec producer of the new pic with partner Lawrence Cohen via the duo’s White Cap Prods.

Mark B. Perry, a scribe and exec producer of Fox’s “Party of Five,” will write the script for the new “Fame.”

Pic, to be produced by MGM Television and Touchstone Television, will include updates of the “Fame” title song and “Out Here on My Own”; Gore also will contribute several new songs.

Like the original pic (and a subsequent NBC series), the 2002 version of “Fame” will be set in the New York City high school for aspiring artists, singers and dancers that inspired the pic. Rather than follow the students through four years of high school, however, the new pic will focus on auditions to get into the school’s freshman class.

Should the pic generate solid ratings, a new series would follow the students and their families through the four years of school.

“It’s really ‘Fame 2002,’ ” Gore said. “The movie is the inspiration, but it’s about life at the high school for the performing arts today.”

While the core cast will be new, Cohen said he and Gore “are looking to find some old favorites (from the original film) to establish some continuity.”

What’s more, “The school itself is the biggest continuing character in this piece,” Cohen added.

ABC senior VP of movies and minis Quinn Taylor said he’s always been a fan of “Fame.”

“As a movie experience, it’s unbeatable,” he said. “You cheer on the characters, you’re awed by their talent, you’re heartbroken when they hit roadblocks, and you’re singing along to the soundtrack the entire time. We want to give today’s audience that same ride.”

Script ordered in August

MGM and ABC have been talking about reviving “Fame” as a series for several months, with the network ordering a pilot script last summer (Daily Variety, Aug. 7).

MGM TV Entertainment prexy Hank Cohen said that the time is right for “Fame,” because the public’s interest in becoming famous is at a high.

“People go on ‘Survivor’ and become stars, and then everybody sees that and wants to be famous, too,” the MGM topper said. “I think it’s also good to remind people that while shows seeking everyday people can put you out there, there’s another way to make it: Hard work, dedication and talent have always been a way to access fame.”

Cohen and Lawrence most recently exec produced ABC’s 2000-’01 version of “South Pacific,” which starred Glenn Close.

Lawrence Cohen and Gore are repped by William Morris, Perry by Endeavor.