Wednesdays at 9 on Fox
Snobby cheerleaders? Check. Corny mantras? Check.
Take all of the most extreme high school stereotypes, wrap them up in the typical underdog power story and blend them with the flashy exuberance of high school show choir. In just about every case, the result would be a cliched and excessive flop.
And yet somehow, Glee proves otherwise. It’s nowhere close; embedded in Glee is heart, soul, and a catchy feel-good vibe that, at the end of the hour, leaves the viewer feeling perked up and begging for more.
Admittedly, I was among those that saw snippets of advertisements here and there for the new Fox series and wondered what the heck its producers could possibly be thinking. Yes, there are evil cheerleaders, outsiders coming together under the not-so-proud banner of show choir, and a Spanish teacher turned singing coach on a quest for self-discovery. Every over-the-top element of Glee wears it cheesiness with in-your-face dignity, and it works. The characters are delightful, the conflicts both hilarious and gut-wrenching, and the songs incredibly entertaining.
At the heart of the show is Glee club, whose anticipated band of misfit members comprise the lowest rung of the social ladder — the “sub-basement” as the malicious cheer coach, played excellently by Jane Lynch, calls it. But these characters are so incredibly fun to watch and you’ll immediately find yourself forgiving their stereotypes and succumbing to their fears, triumphs, and heartwarming relationships with each other. One of the show’s driving forces is the audience’s emotional investment in the characters, all of whom are acted out brilliantly. From the outwardly self-confident but bullied Rachel Berry (played by Lea Michele), to the obsessively sanitary and heartbreakingly lonely Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), everyone is an impression of someone we knew in high school (or perhaps ourselves). The characters are all hilariously personality-rich, yet endearing in a very real way.
The other of Glee’s driving forces is the sheer fun of its conflicts, personality clashes, and musical numbers. These kids can sing, and the show includes a light-hearted medley of musical arrangements ranging from the awe-inspiring “Don’t Stop Believing” to Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” You don’t have to be a choir kid to love Berry’s emotionally charged Les Miserables solo, or fellow Glee member Mercedes’ (played by Amber Riley) sassy “Bust Your Windows.”
Like the characters it offers, Glee isn’t a one-demographic show. Rather, it reaches out to those who can laugh at the stereotypical ways we treat each other, overcome the idyllic nature of our dreams, and recognize the underdog in themselves and in turn aspire for more than we often settle for ourselves. Perhaps all of us ought to turn up the a cappella soundtrack of our own lives once in a while and let a little extra glee into our hearts.