If you’ve been following my Twitter feed you’ve spent the last few days watching me fall in love, real time, with Glee. The show isn’t perfect – it’s got major dramatic issues that get on my nerves all the time – but it’s a wonderful, positive and thrilling TV experience unlike any I’ve ever had before. Yes, I’m gay for Glee. And if Prop 8 hadn’t passed in California, I’d totally marry it.
Glee isn’t really gay – at least not any more gay than any show about a group of high school students competing in show choir and singing a selection of songs ranging from show tunes to hip hop week to week will be – but let’s be honest and admit that culturally it feels gay. Like in the derogatory “That’s so gay” way. And I’m embracing that side of it. I love that side of it. That side of it is the big, broad, emotional, sappy, corny and silly side of it. That’s what I love about Glee.
If Glee was just sappy song and dance business I don’t think I could stomach it. Show runner Ryan Murphy cleverly cuts all of that with a deep comedic darkness, a serious level of snark and an eye for the realism of high school. The key to this is Jane Lynch, delivering perhaps the performance of her career as Sue Sylvester, the dasterdly head coach of the Cheerios, McKinley High’s nationally ranked cheerleading team. Lynch is a comedic dynamo episode after episode, dropping lines filled with venom with a striking casualness.
But come for Sue and stay for the kids and their songs. The plot is this: McKinley High once had an award winning show choir. Those days are long gone, though, and Spanish teacher Will Schuester (who was on that winning team in the 90s) is trying to rebuild the glory. Going up against Sue Sylvester, who wants no other programs competing with her Cheerios, and the general disdain of the student body, Schuester manages to put together a team of 12 amazing talents. And through circumstance (and some lying) he gets members of the football team and the Cheerios to join his glee club, called New Directions. Shuster is only able to get funding for glee by promising the principal that the team will make it to the sectionals competition for show choir, and thus is born the title of the DVD set: The Road to Sectionals.
So yeah, those kids. New Directions is made up of 12 strong singers and dancers, with two leads – Rachel, the annoying but mega-talented showtune diva and Finn, the quarterback with the unexpected voice of an angel – and some major second stringers. My favorite character on the show is Kurt, the gay kid who can hit the high F on Defying Gravity from Wicked and whose fashion sense and cattiness make the show live. I tend to hate the stereotypical flaming queen character, but Kurt’s really wonderful and nuanced, thanks to Chris Colfer. There was no Kurt in the original pilot, but when Colfer came in to read Ryan Murphy created the part just for him. It’s the kind of providence that makes or breaks shows, and I think Kurt makes Glee.
Murphy created Nip/Tuck, which admittedly makes me nervous about Glee‘s future. Glee has many of the same dramatic problems that eventually drove me from Nip/Tuck - the show focuses on long, drawn out stories that I end up hating (there are two awful pregnancy metaplots in Glee that slow things down) while sometimes shortchanging the dramatic beats within episodes; characters will change their minds on a dime simply to move to the next act. And if Finn quits New Directions one more time I’ll scream.
But even with these problems the basic Glee formula is magic (although I do wish the show would focus more on the kids and less on the love lives of a group of teachers. Glee is on a long hiatus, so hopefully this is being addressed). It’s hopeful and uplifting in a way that pop culture hasn’t been in a while. I love that while Glee has irony and pitch black humor, it’s non-ironic in the way it loves song and dance and self-expression. And it’s emotionally open and willing to look foolish as it tells the story of these kids learning to have faith in themselves and learning to come together as a unit and a family.
I’ll admit that I’m a crier – I am known to break down at movies. But TV usually leaves me dry-eyed. So it was a shock that Glee has made me cry multiple times in the first 13 episodes, and not from sadness but from beauty and triumph. There’s a moment where a deaf choir performs John Lennon’s Imagine that’s poignant and sweet and sappy and a low blow on the heart strings, but it fucking works. Other moments have transported me with the beauty of the performances and the sweeping uplift of these characters standing tall and proud above their adversity and belting out their feelings in song. Yeah, I cried when the team hit sectionals – but they’re just so fucking good and I’m so proud of them!
The songs, by the way, are great. The show makes a point of mixing modern stuff with classic rock and show tunes, meaning that every episode has something for everyone. Obviously not everybody is going to get into the style of these songs – they’re performed as a choir, and often with show-stopping solos along the way – but if you can get into it I guarantee you’ll find songs from Glee in your general rotation. Not every song is a winner, but enough are that the average is good.
There’s also a sense of history about Glee. While American Idol and all those shows have brought songs back to TV, there hasn’t been a musical TV show like this since… Cop Rock? While Glee often tries to keep the songs within the confines of show choir, the program does occasionally bust out into real musical territory, and that’s when I get most excited. I hope that in the future the show loosens up and begins having full blown production numbers in the hallways of McKinley High. But in the meantime I’m going to put my faith in the folks behind the show, as Glee has managed to grab a hold of the national consciousness in a really exciting way, and they have lots of opportunities ahead of them. If the show got this good in its first 13 episodes of season one, where might it go in the back 9? And in the future? Of course Glee is also the kind of show that could burn out and hard in season two or three, but I get the feeling I’ll be there for the entire ride. Cheering for Kurt to get the solo he so deserves.
Give it a shot. There are no monsters or swordfights or spaceships, and the show isn’t coasting on cheesecake and T&A. But it’s funny and it’s sweet and at the end of the first 13 episodes it’ll leave you feeling good about the world. And maybe that’s the most fantastic thing possible on television.
Buy Glee: The Road to Sectionals from CHUD by clicking here!