Well, the 2009-2010 television season officially kicked off for me last night with the season premiere of Glee. After thoroughly enjoying all that the pilot had to offer last spring, I was eager to see if Glee would be more than a one-hit wonder. I’m pleased to say that it was not a fluke. This show is utterly hilarious and endlessly entertaining. And yes, it’s probably the closest television has ever come to a succesful full-fledged musical narrative.
I’m sure many people remain skeptical of the concept, but let’s be honest: no better environment better lends itself to musical theater than high school. I’ll prove it. Right now, I want you to write down the names of the first five musicals that pop into your mind. Got ’em? Okay. I bet you that no fewer than three of them take place in a high school. Hairspray? Grease? That preposterous Disney franchise? I rest my case. The hormonally-heightened drama of one’s more formative years almost demand expression as gratuitous and grandiose as integrated song and dance.
Yet while everything about high school may seem bigger than life, if Glee is going to succeed, its characters will have to come down to earth. As of now, they’re broad, brash archetypes: bitchy cheerleader, sassy black girl, disinterested principal, effeminate drama kid. I hope as the show settles, they’ll evolve. Most in need of some shading is Terri (played by Jessalyn Gilsig), the shrewish wife of Glee‘s hero, Will Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison). One episode in and she’s an indefensible suburban Lady Macbeth.
I have faith. Glee is wonderfully, wittily written; features a large, diverse, talented cast; and has, so far, delivered on its musical numbers. The performance of “Push It” was uproarious, but for my money, the best number was the performance of “I Say A Little Prayer For You” from the conniving Quinn (Dianna Agron) and her cheerleader back-ups. It was the best60’s girl group dancing since Dreamgirls! The only flat note among the episode’s set list was Rachel’s (Lea Michele) “Take A Bow”, which was essentially just a music video that did the unfortunate job of highlighting Ms. Michele’s overemoting. I think it’s in Glee‘s interest to keep its songs diegetic. Why break the audience’s suspension of disbelief after you’ve got them eating out of the palm of your hand?
Glee is lucky in that if they ever find any aspect of the show lacking, they can eat up the screen time by writing more material for Jane Lynch, who plays the ruthless cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. I wet my pants no less than five times over Ms. Lynch’s deadpan delivery of series creator Ryan Murphy’s uproarious lines. Give her an Emmy now.
Keep an eye on this one. It could be big.