Friday, December 18, 2009

WHEEEE! FOR GLEE


I HATED HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. ALL THREE OF THEM. High schoolers bursting into song aren't exactly endearing to me, or realistic, since I deal with high schoolers everyday and believe me, they aren't always up for pep squad or choir duty.

A HIGH SCHOOL GLEE CLUB ("NEW DIRECTIONS") BURSTING INTO SONG ON TV, AT LEAST THRICE EACH EPISODE IS SOMETHING ELSE. It is something else,entirely: funny, poignant, preposterous, sarcastic, campy, classy, witty, cheesy--you can't pigeonhole what the first 13 episodes of GLEE have been. You just can't stop with the pilot and assume that you've heard one song, you've heard them all. Instead, you watch on and sing, breathe, quip, cry, snicker with the characters.You hold your breath to find out who won the Rachel vs. Kurt diva sing-off using "Defying Gravity" as the contest piece. You cringe along with Teacher Will as he sings "Don't Stand So Close to Me" to an infatuated student, Rachel Berry. You get goosebumps as a guest hearing-impaired glee club signs John Lennon's "Imagine." So many moment, so little time. I AM SO LOVING THIS SERIES, it hurts that there won't be a 14th episode until April 2010.

The ensemble cast is just magic. Except for Jesalyn Gilsig (Spanish teacher Will's shrewish, duplicitous wife) whom I've seen in Boston Public, CSI:NY and Nip/Tuck, the rest of the cast are unfamiliar to me. Every single actor, from the regular leads (Teachers Will and Sue, Sophomore diva Rachel, singing quarterback Finn), to the recurring characters (Coach Tanaka, Guidance Counselor Emma, the other diva Kurt)carries his/her designated stereotype with gallant humor. Of course, the razor-sharply-worded script can be accredited for the actors' spot-on performances. While all the episodes teem with heart and soul, the penultimate "Mattress" episode rocked my Christmas socks off with the glee club's bouncy version of Van Halen's "Jump", revelations of each character's inner turmoils, and a very nasty breakup.

Perhaps Glee's unique charm lies in its unabashed championing of misfits and underdogs. The very premise of the show, that high school's pariahs can overcome their real and imagined handicaps and sing their way to success, may be the stuff of feel-good fantasy, but it is also an affirmation of what education ought to be: a venue where strengths are harnessed, talents are nurtured, and disappointments are dealt with courageously. Schools ought to be a home for diversity and tolerance, not a factory churning out model spare parts. Much props should go out to Ryan Murphy, the show's creator. Glee is a seminal television masterpiece that should delight a broad spectrum of audiences. Episode 13 airs locally (Jack TV, Mondays at 8; ETC, Tuesdays at 10 and Sundays at 8pm) in a week. Then it's 4 months of marathons. Pop the corn!

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