Monday, September 7, 2009
A few brief words about "Glee"
It would be easy to bust on "Glee," the new, hour-long Fox comedy that officially debuts on Wednesday. I mean, the pilot for the series -- about a bunch of misfits in a high school glee club -- premiered in May. May! How's that for a lead on the competition? You'd think a show that debuted that early would get lost in the shuffle by fall, but our friends at Fox would never let that happen, would they? All summer long, my e-mail inbox has been bombarded with messages about "Glee" promotions, including an upcoming cast album and a contest. There are posters for the series everywhere, and Fox seems intent on shoving "Glee"-mania down our throats. With all that, you'd think I'd be really resentful toward "Glee" and hate it out of spite. But I don't, for two reasons. 1) I'm a professional, and I try not to let external factors affect my judgment of a series and 2) It's just damn good.
Really. I mean, I loved the pilot, with its plucky characters, terrific song and dance numbers and hilarious dialogue ("You think this is hard? Try being waterboarded. THAT'S hard."). I loved the way it used the great comedic actress Jane Lynch, who plays an evil cheer-leading coach. I loved it soo much! But I did wonder -- could the show carry this spirit into subsequent episodes?
Well, I've seen two more episodes of "Glee," and the answer is a resounding "yes." "Glee" continues to stand out as the best new show I've seen so far (admittedly, I haven't seen them all yet, but it's definitely the show to beat). Watching it is such a pleasure.
Few shows can mix music with storytelling in a way that's both seamless and entertaining. But "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy pulls it off. That's kind of a surprise, as Murphy is also the man behind FX's garish, over-the-top plastic surgery drama "Nip/Tuck," which is as messy as "Glee" is well-structured.
"Glee" is also just so much nicer than "Nip/Tuck." The characters are so likable, particularly the strident yet vulnerable ingenue Rachel (Lea Michele) and the sweet yet obsessive choir instructor Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison). And Lynch continues to be hilarious as the horrible Sue Sylvester, who fears the glee club will start sucking money away from her cheer-leading program. With her searing eyes and devastatingly dry delivery, Lynch is a perfect comic villain, and meshes nicely with Morrison's sheepish good guy.
The only character on the show that doesn't work is that of Will's wife, Terri, played by "Nip/Tuck" regular Jessalyn Gilsig. She's mean-spirited and crazy, and not in a fun way, like Lynch's character. In an irritating way. It's just hard to believe Will married her.
But why carp about that when the show gets so much else right? It's funny and it has such an inspired mix of music, from showtunes and Celine Dion to Kayne West and Salt 'n' Pepa (wait until you see the glee kids take on "Push It." No, I'm not kidding.).
Watching it is, at its best, like being front and center at a top-notch Broadway show. And I hope it's the hit of the season.
"Glee" airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.