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April 16, 2014

Glee -- An early look

by Allison Waldman, posted May 19th 2009 9:02AM
Lea Michele - GleeIf you heard about Fox's new musical drama/comedy Glee and thought it's probably going to be something like Disney's High School Musical, you're wrong. Gleefully wrong. Glee is one of the best entertainments I've seen on television in a long, long time.

Writer/producer/director Ryan Murphy describes the show as a hybrid, and he's right. It is. For me, I saw elements of the movie Election, plus Fame and Friday Night Lights, with a bit of The Wonder Years thrown in, only it's not nostalgia. Glee is all the best parts of all the above, plus music and dancing and great characters and really witty material.

Glee is set in the now, at an Ohio high school, where Will Schuester, the Spanish teacher, jumps at the chance to take over leading the glee club. As the principal observes, he might also enjoy helming the Titanic. The glee club, which was once pretty special -- when Will was a student in the 1990's -- has become the repository of the kids who are deemed losers by their fellow students.

Despite the odds against him, which includes having to fork out $60 a month out of his own pocket to keep the club going, Will believes in the kids and what they can do. He renames the group New Directions and gets started, working on the theory that "being a part of something special makes you special."

Glee works remarkably well considering it's based on the old trope "let's put on a show." The kids are all new faces, like the Friday Night Lights cast were, only in Glee they not only have to look and act like real high school kids, they also have to believably sing and dance. Lea Michele as Rachel Berry stands out, as does Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson. She's the girl who's determined to be a star no matter what, and he's the jock who Mr. Schu blackmails into joining the club, but he's secretly glad because he loves to sing.

The entire cast of Glee is spot on, including Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, the successful cheerleading coach -- she's had her Cheerios on Fox Sports Net twice! -- and Jayma Mays as Emma Pillsbury, the OCD guidance counselor who's in love with a married man. The married man is Will. By next season, Matthew Morrison, a Broadway vet who plays the role, will be a breakout star.

The cynic in me wonders if a show as terrific as Glee will find a wide audience. After all, it is about high school life, about how being popular is so important and being labeled a loser is so catastrophic. And it's told in song and dance -- not like breaking out in song, but numbers that are part of the club performances or commenting on the action.

It's ingeniously done and sounds like your favorite songs from the Top 40 because they are. There are popular tunes all over the show, from "Rehab" to "Don't Stop Believin'" to "Leaving On A Jet Plane." There was even a bit when "Don't Worry, Be Happy" started playing in the background and suddenly, there on screen, were the steel drummers banging out the Bobby McFerrin hit! Completely out of left field, but hilariously funny and appropriate. The soundtrack for Glee is as smart as the storytelling.

The bottom line for me is this: Glee made me feel really happy. Ryan Murphy has put together a brilliant show, engaging and truly entertaining. It connects on an emotional level because it reminds you that there was probably some team, club, group or activity in your past that once made you believe you were special. That's a universal feeling and a very human one, as well.

The pilot is previewing tonight on Fox, after the American Idol finale (part one), and hopefully, a lot of people will give it a try. It's like that the old Alka-Seltzer commercial, "Try it, you'll like it." After one viewing of the pilot, I know I'm hooked. Next fall, when it's on Wednesday night at nine o'clock, I'll be watching.

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Travis

Go glee! http://www.gleeforum.com

May 29 2009 at 6:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

I really enjoyed it, but I have 2 problems that I hope they address as the show moves forward next season.

First, Scheuster's wife. Look, we believe in him as a real person, he's the way we're grounded to the show. Giving him a wife who is 90% quirk and punchline, not to mention an airhead, is a bad plan. She was his first girlfriend ever, but even that doesn't forgive such a bad decision on his part. They've got to make her a more real person, or we can't believe him as one.

Two, during the musical numbers, they're edited to within an inch of their lives. No scene lasts more than about 2 seconds before it's cut to the next one. I understand about editing conveying energy and excitement, but this is an extreme. The editors need to slow it down just a little--give a frame a chance to breathe for a few seconds before cutting away to another angle! I love the music, and the obvious joy the characters have for it, but it actually physically hurts to watch those scenes--just as my eyes focus, boom, it changes again. And if you're wondering, I'm only 40, not some 80-year-old ranting about young people's attention spans.

Overall, though, it was great. Borrowed a lot from "Election" -- an awful lot! -- but it all worked. I look forward to more in the fall.

And if they want to bring back that student who's singing at the beginning when the former glee club advisor feels his abs, I'd like it even better! He was great eye candy, and had a good voice, too. What happened to his character? :-D

May 20 2009 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Age-K

I actually enjoyed this very much. While I don't remember people being physically threatened in my HS for being odd or different, there was some mental torment amidst overall apathy/insecurity, but that was a decade ago, so maybe things have changed. While I was teaching, it was pretty much the same, but more mental torment. That being said, they definitely captured that awkward feeling for both out-of-the-ordinary students and teachers who want to make a difference.

I also liked that they sang solid, single notes. The thing that drives me nuts with pop songs and singers on these types of shows is usually the singer seems to feel the need to demonstrate his or her complete vocal range in every bar of music. If the note's supposed to be a C, sing a freakin' C! Don't fluctuate between between twelve million other incredibly misnamed "grace" notes. These singers didn't do that, so I wasn't cringing through all their singing...I did laugh at the ridiculously long-held notes, but I'm pretty sure they intended that reaction. Anyway, I'll watch this when it airs in the fall.

May 20 2009 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TK101

Great show - and I think the breakout star here is Lea Michele. She's amazing!

I hope it retains (and expands upon) the wit and quirkiness that started in the pilot.

TK

May 20 2009 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason Nichols

Fantastic Show, I cant wait for the Fall!!

May 19 2009 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Allison

Just finished watching and it was excellent! I like muscials, but I would have enjoyed this even without the music. The characters were engaging and I already care about them after one episode.

May 19 2009 at 10:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
leah

I'm really looking forward to this. I hope they got the rights to the songs for the dvd release so nothing will change.

May 19 2009 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott K.

We saw the TiVo add for this and thought it looked like a lot of fun. It's already set for recording, so we're giving it a shot (and with nothing much else on). I hope it's as fun as the review states. :)

May 19 2009 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian

I'm sorry, but I've had it up to my eyes with all the singing and dancing on television.

I think it has more to do with the fact that American Idol, America's got talent, and several other shows idolize people as if they're divinities because they have a good voice. Now I appreciate someone who can sing as much as the next guy, in fact, I'll admit, I was in choir & glee club in high school, and even was in a few plays back then, but there's no glorification of people with talent in Mathematics, Chemistry, History or any other High School subject, just sports or singing.

High School is a scary experience for most kids, and most of the times kids feel left out and abandoned because they don't have the talents that these kids have on TV.

So while this show might actually be entertaining, if Freaks & Geeks, a show that glorified being a smart, socially inept high school student, can't find an audience on the air, then I'm not interested in this.

May 19 2009 at 10:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian

If anyone's ever seen Spring Awakening, Lea Michele was the first Wendla. So obviously they're pulling from the Great White Way's gifted young talent pool.

I'm slightly optimistic about this show. Since it's comedy, its success is above average. I just hope people watch.

May 19 2009 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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