Glee: Season 1
I readily admit that after doing what would appear to be countless reviews of high based flicks and television series I have reached the point of being pretty jaded about the whole subject. I was certain that I have witnessed virtually every conceivable variation conceivable. Just when it seems all hope of something fresh and original appearing on that glowing box in the center of our living rooms a series comes my way that quite literally reaffirms my faith in the media. The series that so completely surprised me has the simple yet very effective title ‘Glee’. True, there have been many series that attempted to fuse high school angst with musical numbers and some, such as ‘Fame’. And by a little extension to make for cable movies, ‘the High School Musical’ franchise. The thing is while those shows did convey a sense of infectious enthusiasm they just didn’t have the little magical twist that ‘Glee’ Presents with each episode. It is difficult to put into words what sets this series so far beyond the others but just be sure that such a difference exists and is extremely noticeable with every episode. A major part of what works so well here is the choice of setting and circumstances, a high school glee club. In most schools the students involved with this particular extracurricular activity are considered near the nadir of the social hierarchy. This immediately taps into a common experience we all have had of being rejected whether it is being picked last in the school yard or not permitted to sit at the lunch table with the ‘cool’ kids. This universal feel coupled with allowing the audience to cheer on the underdogs transcends whatever technical missteps may crop up during the first part of this initial season.
Like many shows this one came to fruition through the efforts of a team of creative people including one Ryan Murphy write is little r and director of the offbeat Indy treat ‘Running with Scissors’ this off center approach to telling a story propels this series to the top of the class with style. Some may say the series is overly hyped and there is little argument that a lot of media attention has been garnered by the series but the truth of the matter is it has been earned by the outstanding talent on both sides of the camera. The musical numbers will grab you but the character driven drama is what will keep you hook episode after episode. Admittedly some of the plot devices employed is straight from the soap opera play book but at least there is an attempt to put a little extra spin on the proceedings. Normally I’m not a big fan of this new trend towards splitting a season into halves. In the case of Glee I have to give the producers credit for using the mid-season break to incredibly good advantage. First of all the released a ‘part one’ DVD with all the episodes to date. They also used to break to re-run the episodes, present the songs on i-Tunes and stage live performances. All of this took the buzz already generated by the series and elevated the hype to mammoth proportions. I’ve seen this done to promote shows that failed to live up to expectations but in this instance the series deserved the attention as one of the most refreshingly entertaining series to come along in a very long time. Now that the freshman season has concluded and millions of fans are waiting with baited breath for season two to commence the full season is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The action takes place in the William McKinley High School located in the modestly sized city of in Lima, Ohio. At one time the school had a glee club that was well respected and known for fostering talent but has fallen into a disrespected place to gather the misfits of the school. When a teacher, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) takes a position at McKinley he wants to restore the glee club to a place of honor important to him as a former star of glee club himself. The current membership of the club has a lot of potential especial fame hungry Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) who has been preparing for inevitable fame practically since she could walk. Schuester realizes that in the clique drive social structure inherent in high school his biggest hurdle for acceptance would be moving away from the loser image. The key come in the unlikely form of star football quarterback Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) who not only has a great arm for passing but a phenomenal singing voice. With Finn on board Schuester is certain the student body would be forced to reevaluate their view of the club. It takes some doing but soon Finn joins up followed by the heads of the ‘Cheerios’ cheer squad Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron). Unfortunately, even with the most popular couple in school as members of the club there is still a lot of opposition to its success. One of the strongest and most persistent foes is couch Sue Sylvester played by the incredible character actress Jane Lynch. She resents the fact that the budget for Glee came out of her usual funding for the Cheerios and she is determined to destroy Glee club and ruin Will. Not only does Will have to put up with these nefarious machinations at work but his wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) wants him to quit for a better paying job even going so far as faking a pregnancy to force his hand. Meanwhile Will begins to form a mutual attraction with fellow teacher Emma Pilsbury (Jayma Mays) who happens to be engaged to head Coach Ken Tanaka (Patrick Gallagher). Okay, for the most part many of the adult roles are too broadly drawn and there are a lot of stereotypes among the kids but this series has an entertainment quotient that makes it one of the most refreshing shows on the air.
The mid-season break culminates with a fantastic performance that wins sections for ‘New Directions’. It starts with Rachel belting out a rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ that transition into the full group doing a cover of ‘You Don’t always get What You Want’. As the second half picks up the fame of the series extended so that well known musicians and singers and musicians queued up for exposure through the series. There was an entire episode devoted to the songs of Madonna that provides one of the shows most surreal moments. Jane Lynch in character does a cover video of Vogue that is perfectly executed. The sight of Sue in the ‘cone bra’ is not something you will soon forget. This was followed by an episode featuring the new diva extreme, Lady Gaga. Not only does that episode present some incredibly strange costumes it furthers the plot of Finn’s father becoming involved with Curt’s mother. This results with the two single parent households awkwardly merging together. Additional family drama leads to great music when Rachel discovers her mother id the couch of New Directions arch rivals, Vocal Adrenalin’. The mother is played by Idina Menzel, who along with series recurring cast mate Kristin Chenoweth represents the leads of Broadway’s big hit, ‘Wicked’. Also showing up for an episode and some lively music is Neil Patrick Harris. An unexpected breakout star here doesn’t get much in the way of solo time but fan eagerly look forward to her comments. Heather Morris plays the blond cheerio, Brittany. She is sexually experimental known for making out with both genders and a hint at a lot more with her best friend, Santana (Naya Rivera). Each episode there is a ‘Brittany-ism’ such as concern that her cat reads her diary or that dolphins are ‘gay’ sharks. This series is incredibly good so let’s hope that Fox keeps it around for awhile.