Debbie Allen first appeared as the dance teacher Lydia in the movie Fame (1980), but was only shown judging auditions at the beginning of the film. She had two lines: commenting that Leroy didn't have a registration form, and calling his dancing "wicked!!" She is still identified as Lydia in the film's closing credits.
Although mostly shot at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in California, the cast and crew made at least one trip to New York City each season to film exterior scenes in advance of the rest of the episode's shoot back in LA.
This series combined musical numbers with dramatic scenes. Cast members went on the road and performed live concerts (usually performing songs first done on the series) to satisfy the fan base of young people who regularly watched the show.
In the final year, Debbie Allen was appearing on Broadway in "Sweet Charity". Her stage run overlapped with the filming of the final season. To be able to include her in episodes, the producers filmed all of her scenes in New York City. That is why she appears in only exterior scenes, and had no interior scenes for several episodes.
In an EmmyTvLegends interview Debbie Allen has said that the perfect romance for the show would have been between Lee Curreri ( Bruno) and Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy.). But because the censors were too restrictive back then, and because certain people were still in the closet, that never came to be.
Janet Jackson, who appeared on Fame for one season as Cleo, this being the third TV show she starred on after Diff'rent Strokes and Good Times, claimed that she and the other young cast members were mistreated by the producers of Fame, and consequently quit before the season was over.
Debbie Allen's character Lydia was actually a student in the movie Fame, not a teacher as is commonly thought. She was an older student who was just supposed to be helping with the auditions. There were a couple deleted scenes which show her facing off against Coco, who was supposed to be a peer and a rival of hers. When the producers asked Debbie Allen to come back to do the series it was two years later and she was obviously no longer a high school student at that point. Because of that, and because the editing of the original movie wound up making her look like a teacher anyway, they changed Lydia from a student to a dance teacher for the series.
Lee Curreri was in fact a nascent songwriter at the time he was cast as Bruno, it's part of why Alan Parker cast him in the first place. Part of why he quit is because producers were altering his music, and not featuring enough of it.
The (London) Telegraph obituary for Gene Anthony Ray reported that "in 1984 Ray was axed from the show after his mother was jailed for running a drug ring, and he failed to turn up for work 100 times."
Fame, unlike Glee, won many awards for original songwriting. Composer Michael Gore (brother to "It's My Party" Leslie Gore, who helped him with the songwriting) won academy awards for best score in 1981 as well as best song, the title song Fame. Glee, conversely, was always just a cover show.
Continuing the Fame/Glee connections and coincidences, the male leads of both shows died at a tragically young age: Gene Anthony Ray, (Leroy), the star of Fame died from a stroke at age 41. (His Mom confirmed he had contracted HIV.) Corey Monteith, star of Glee, died of a drug overdose at age 31. Both were talented but self destructive and died way before their time.
In the movie, during music class, Shrofsky shouts at Bruno:"No! No! That's not your dick you're holding! It's a violin bow! Show it some respect!". This is not a line that would appear in the TV show or any movie or show today! (Although it does recall the student/teacher relationship of Whiplash a little bit!)