Two nights ago, I watched the pilot episode of Glee with some friends. This episode was first shown after the American Idol finale way back in spring, but they’ve been showing it again in preparation for the “series premiere” next Wednesday. Two of my viewing companions had already seen the pilot (for one of them, it was her third time watching it), and I was a bit perplexed by their addiction to a show that has only one episode, so far.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the show. It’s been getting good reviews (judging by the hyped-up commercials), but it also looked a bit too High School Musical-y for my liking. But I went in with an open mind, and was pleasantly surprised by the pilot.
It started off with some of your usual high school cliches. The bullies are dumping some poor murse-bearing lad in a dumpster, and Jane Lynch is a drill sargent in a jumpsuit who’s terrorizing the cheerleading squad. And then you’ve got Will Schuester, the bright-eyed young Spanish teacher who’s determined to save the school’s glee club. But while High School Musical basks in such cliches, Glee definitely has a darker, satirical edge to it. There’s blackmail, teachers getting fired for inappropriate behaviour with students, and a general lack of the G-rated merriment that’s to be found in the High School Musical franchise. That’s not to say that it’s an especially racy show, but Glee is just a little less naive.
And then there’s the singing. Glee is not a musical – people don’t break out into song while doing the dishes, thankfully. But the pilot featured several musical numbers put on by the glee club. And while these numbers could have broken up the show too much, I really enjoyed all of them. The cast features several very talented young singers, and it’s really fun to listen to them take on “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Also, a rival school’s glee club had quite the production of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, which was bizarrely hilarious.
Both the adults and the young stars of the show are well-cast. Matthew Morrison is very likeable as Will, the glee club leader who seems a little bit out of his comfort zone. Jayma Mays is a germaphobic fellow teacher, and makes a charming would-be love interest for Will. The two stars of the glee club, Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) are a lot of fun, too. Though the two of them could be boiled down to stereotypes, the show is already fleshing them out into fully-formed, fascinating characters. And I have to admit, my heart was shamelessly fluttering for Finn by the time the credits rolled.
I’m not entirely sure if an hour-long satire that’s so focused on musical numbers will be able to find a big enough audience, since musicals (Viva Laughin) and well-written shows (Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, etc) don’t usually fare too well with TV audiences. But I think that Glee’s positive buzz and sharp writing will help it acquire a devoted following. I’m usually reluctant to watch new shows, for fear that they’ll either be terrible, or be cancelled as soon as I begin to get attached, but I’ll definitely be tuning in Wednesday nights for Glee. And I might just be tuning into to watch the “tweetpeat” (whatever the hell that is) of the pilot tonight at 9.