The first episode of this series originally aired in May after American Idol, a singing competition show, and it was a perfect fit. It was perfect because this series is similarly about young people pursuing their vocal abilities and performing skills.
About a year ago, CBS tried to put on its airwaves a musical drama called Viva Laughlin, which failed miserably. Besides awful characters, and awful musical numbers, the show had no spirit of fun. The whole thing never felt natural or fluid. After Viva bombed, any hope of a musical TV series that featured fictional persons bursting into song seemed futile. This new comedy on FOX, however, could change all that.
Tony-nominated Matthew Morrison plays William Schuester, a Spanish teacher at William McKinley High School who's bored and frustrated. His wife Terry, who has a Pottery Barn obsession, doesn't care that he's not passionate about his job. She's content with him continuing that way.
Once Schuester learns that Sandy, a male music teacher, played effeminately by Stephen Tobolowsky, has been fired as head of the Glee Club, it ignites something in Schuester. After struggling with the school's principal who'd rather see the Glee Club go away because it's not exactly FOX Sports material, unlike the football team or even the cheerleading squad, Schuester becomes the new head of Glee Club.
Created by Ryan Murphy, the man behind the FX series Nip/Tuck, this show rises above typical high school shows and delivers us fresh, interesting and eccentric characters. It kept me laughing. I loved its song choices, and I think it stands as the best new TV series of 2009.
Lea Michele, a young Broadway actress, co-stars as Rachel who is very much like Tracy Flick from Election (1999). She's one of five students who auditions and gets a role in the Glee Club, except she takes it a little bit more seriously than the others. For her, Glee Club is make or break.
Cory Monteith, who some might recall from the recent Kyle XY series, plays Finn, the football jock who is blackmailed into being the sixth member of Glee. Invoking a similar dynamic to Bryce Johnson in Popular and Zac Efron in High School Musical, Finn is torn between sports and singing. Though he wants to be the big athletic type who thinks anything artistic is lame, Glee taps a hidden passion in him.
The question becomes if the Glee Club will survive. The Glee members are an unlikely bunch of underdogs. They look more like the Eracists from MADtv. They're good singers, but it remains to be seen if they have the organization to go against the top Glee Clubs of the state and country with certainly no support from friends or faculty.
Schuester does get some support from Emma, the redheaded teacher who is either a germophobe or a neat freak with some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Emma is played by Jayma Mays. She encourages Schuester not to give up and to follow his passion.
Jane Lynch appears as Sue, the vainglorious cheerleading coach who is a hard nose. She does the opposite to Schuester. She probably represents either what a bully becomes when they become an adult or how the high school cliques and caste system doesn't just exist among the students.
Yet, the show makes the point that no matter what clique or caste one is, it's important to do what makes you happy. Bullying people because they're different or their pursuits aren't about fame or fortune isn't cool. Yes, this is nothing new, but, for a musical number that has kids doing their choreographed interpretation of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," this show definitely has a punch-drunk joy.
Five Stars out of Five
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX