Culture & Conversation

The Glam Side of Ostracism

The epic struggle between jocks and geeks has been raging in TV land for years. The premise might be battle-weary, but it’s not dead yet. This season’s standout hit is another high school comedy, the new Fox series, Glee. It’s funny, but there’s also a potent Broadway kicker: the geeks of Glee sing and dance.

The show leapt from the brain of Ryan Murphy, the guy behind Nip/Tuck and Popular, and was picked up by Fox while it was still wriggling. Slotted after So You Think You Can Dance, Glee is cashing in on America’s dance fever: in less than one season, the series has already built a dedicated fan base (devotees go by the vaguely salivary moniker ‘gleek’).

The story unfolds in McKinley High where mawkish Spanish teacher Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) is appointed president of the glee club. Locked in a futureless job and joyless marriage, Schue wants another taste of the glee club glory he remembers from his youth, and dedicates himself to putting the motley crew of social rejects back on top.

Opposing him is the deliciously vicious head cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Jane Lynch brings her reliable comic swagger to the role and grabs most of the standout laughs, aided by writers feeding her a stream of hilariously acerbic lines. “You’re dealing with children. They need to be terrified. It’s like mother’s milk to them.”

Glee pokes fun at ambition and the absurd measures people take to get what they want, be it fame or a hovercraft. Amphetamine abuse, assault, betrayal, blackmail – in Glee, characters do whatever it takes.

Despite zany conflicts and cartoonish idiosyncrasies (the least exaggerated adult character has mysophobia), Glee musters enough humanity for compelling drama. Students and teachers alike contend with self-doubt and insecurity, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing to cling to their dreams.

Some of the ongoing subplots are predictable and mildly irritating — it took 12 episodes for Schue to figure out his shrew wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) was faking her pregnancy — but having a few cliff-hangers to string together musical numbers doesn’t hurt.

Ah yes, the musical numbers. Covering both classic and contemporary pop hits, Glee is a crowd pleaser, and Fox has already released Volume 1 of the soundtrack. Although the execution isn’t jaw-dropping, Glee’s fabulous musical geeks tickle a very hard to reach pleasure centre in the TV viewer’s brain.

Glee manages to blend caustic humor and kitschy fluff because it empathizes with its cast: the audience can appreciate the pain and sacrifice it takes to make the razzle dazzle moments happen.

Tonight is Glee’s last stand before it goes on mid-season break. The glee club will finally make it to the sectionals, so we can expect a lot of musical numbers, and a few plot twists to keep us hanging.

Glee airs on Fox at 9 pm.

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