Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Premier Episode of "Glee"

I currently have 4 channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS), so I wasn't able to watch the premier episode of Glee on Fox on Tuesday night. However, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I was able to watch it today, and I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are the fan of jukebox musicals, comedies set in high schools, or musical theatre, you should definitely watch the show when it returns to Fox in the fall (or you can watch the first episode here).

The basic premise will probably sound familiar: a young, idealistic teacher decides to take over his high school's glee club. He only gets a handful of participants, all of them outcasts (and all of them very talented). He tries to recruit some of the more popular kids, but he only gets one by some trickery/ blackmail. He has problems at home with a wife who doesn't understand his passion. He has problems at school with the administration and the other teachers. While this very basic plot outline might not sound interesting, keep in mind that the show was created by Ryan Murphy (who also created Nip/Tuck and Popular) and stars Matthew Modine (he was Broadway's original Link in Hairspray) and Lea Michelle (most recently seen in the musical Spring Awakening). Future guest stars include Victor Garber (John Wilkes Booth in Assassins! Jesus in Godspell! Spy Daddy on Alias!) and the always adorable Kristin Chenoweth.

For those of you who think that the show is a rip-off on the travesty of High School Musical, it isn't. Yes, there are some similarities (just as HSM was "similar" to [some might argue "ripped off from"] creator Ryan Murphy's other show, Popular). There is the jock who joins the glee club under great duress and endures peer pressure because of his decision. There is also the snooty princess-type who is wicked talented but exceedingly unpopular. However, whereas HSM had cookie-cutter characters and flat jokes, Glee has a sly sense of humor and a great blend of Broadway, R&B, and Top 40 songs. The best analogy I can come up with is that Glee is to HSM what reality is to Disney World. In the world of Glee, no one spontaneously bursts out into song nor do the popular kids gently tease the cool kid who decides to join the choir. This is the (relatively) gritty reality of high school, where hazing and bullying are common practice and the school hierarchy is readily apparent.

What I enjoyed the most about Glee (besides the awesome cover of "Don't Stop Believing") was the portrayal of what high school is like, particularly from the teachers' perspective. Yes, there are some cliches, but Glee also addresses the bargaining that goes on between teachers and the administration as well as the power struggle and social Darwinism that happens among the teachers and the students. It was also nice to see that, contrary to what Disney/ HSM would like for us to believe, the theatre kids are usually the bottom of the school totem pole. In Glee, the tomato soup/ drink thrown on Rachel Berry would be kids play to what the jocks and cheerleaders would to Sharpay Evans is she even dared step foot in the school's halls.

So far, the buzz around the show has been good. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker gave the pilot an "A," and the New York Post gave it a very positive review as well. Additionally, has a great article on the show. However, as shows like Arrested Development and Veronica Mars have proven time and again, being a critical darling does not necessarily translate into a large viewing audience or appreciation from a network. Now all we have to do is wait 4 months for the next episode and pray to the broadcasting gods that Fox does not prematurely kill this show.