Glee is a new musical comedy, which arrives on British television screens this Monday at 9pm on E4. The plot concerns a small group of high school misfits who join the "Glee Club" in order to perform song and dance routines to as big an audience as possible. Comparisons to High School Musical are easily made beyond even the basic premise. Its lead, henceforth known as 'NotTroy', is the quarterback for the school football team, who wants to perform on stage, even though his teammates have other ideas. The female lead, 'NotSharpay', is willing to do anything to take centre stage, and doesn't care who she stamps on along the way. Add to this the OTT dialogue and caricatures of high schoolers taken from every teen drama ever to grace our screens, and Glee seems like a show unashamedly jumping on the success of the HSM phenomenon.
However, to dismiss it as a HSM clone is to misunderstand its target audience. After the titles role, and the plot starts kicking in, you quickly realise this is not a show aimed at 8-12 year old tweens. Perhaps this is best summarised by a teacher being fired right at the start of the episode for 'improper misconduct' with a pupil. Later in the episode, we see accused teacher now making a living selling marijuana- Hardly the stuff of Disney Channel movies. Then again, what else should be expect from the creator of Nip/Tuck?
Trying to describe these two aspects of Glee makes it something of a hard-sell. It's not as rude or crude as the puppet musical, Avenue Q. Then again, neither is it as innocent or cheery as High School Musical. As such, you can only really understand the tone of the show by watching it. Having done just that, I felt like I was enjoying it fine as it went through the gears and set-up storylines for the rest of the season. The music was fun, the characters were enjoyable to watch, with just enough depth to keep me interested. Then the final number happened. Unexpectedly, my eyes got a little moist (Admittedly, by no means an uncommon occurrence). Somehow the show and its characters got under my skin and I didn't even realise it. So much so that for the rest of the day I was humming all the songs from the episode. You see, like all good musicals, Glee works on the strength of the songs: its ability to summarise all the emotions of a storyline in one 2-minute number. As such, the first episode at least was a complete success.
If you are a fan of musicals, Glee is surely must-see television. I feel like the harmonies, dancing and arrangements will only improve as the weeks go by. If you're not a fan of musicals (i.e. dead inside), I'd still advise checking it out, since it's mix of humour and quirkiness make it a lot more watchable than the average teen drama: Just try not to be too embarrassed when you end up humming Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" for the rest of the week.
E4 have put the entire first episode of Glee online now for you to view. So if you wanna get a sneak preview of the show click on the link below:
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/glee/4od (UK Residents Only)