'Glee' sneak peek: Oh, joy!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and don’t watch “American Idol,”), chances are you’ve seen the promos for the much-hyped new Fox series “Glee” from “Nip/Tuck” and “Popular” creator Ryan Murphy. Though it won’t actually start until fall, Fox aired a sneak preview of the show’s pilot Tuesday night. And guess what? It’s awesome!
Let me start first by saying this isn't your mother's “Cop Rock.” Sure, it’s your standard plot, about an idealistic high school teacher banding together a motley crew of students to form a glee club, aptly called New Directions. But it’s seriously like nothing else that’s on television these days. It’s all sorts of snarky but has great heart too. And oh, those songs!
The show revolves around Spanish teacher and soon-to-be father Will Shuester (“Hairspray’s” Matthew Morrison), who takes up the club to bring out the joy in these kids and maybe, just maybe, rediscover what it was that made him so happy in the first place. The star singer, Rachel Berry (who even puts a gold star next to her name as a thinly veiled metaphor to prove it), is blessed not only with amazing pipes but the wherewithal to know it. (“You’re very talented,” she declared to another student. “I would know. I’m very talented too.”). Rachel has a wretched high school existence and is hoping her participation in glee club (or is it show choir?) will change all that. “I’m tired of being laughed at,” she said with a sigh. “Being great at something’s going to change it. Being a part of something special makes you special, right?” I just about fell down on the floor when Rachel (as played by Lea Michele of “Spring Awakening” fame) chose Eponine’s heart-wrenching anthem “On My Own” from “Les Miserables” as her audition piece (it was also one of my high school anthems, for better or for worse).
And I’m already crushing on Finn, the star quarterback. It’s always fun to root for the guy who’s smart enough to realize that he doesn’t have to follow the crowd. Plus, he can hold a tune and is cute as a button. Of course, his girlfriend, Quinn, is a cheerleader and classic mean girl (and president of the celibacy club – love it!), and I look forward to seeing more of her holier-than-thou bitchiness. (Did she really call Rachel “RuPaul” when she stopped Finn by the lockers?). One wonders if Quinn and Finn are just too cutesy to last. They’ve been together for four months, which in high school speak might as well be an eternity. Besides, their combined couple name doesn’t amount to anything clever.
This episode was about pushing these characters out of their complacency and what they “should” be doing and into, well, New Directions. And hopefully better directions. Will wants to remind kids that there is more to them than what clique they’re assigned to. “There is no joy in these kids. They feel invisible,” he said. “That’s why every one of them has a MySpace page.” Will said Terri (his crafty, baby-obsessed wife who uses her part-time job at Sheets N Things to fund her Pottery Barn addiction) pushes him hard, but he wonders whether she wants him to be the best person he is or if it’s just to take that accounting job at H.W. Menken and increase their bottom line so she can have her own best life. Clean freak colleague Emma pushed Will to explore what it was that truly made him happy (when she’s not making googly eyes at him). Rachel pushed herself to be the shiniest star she can be and pushed Finn to think outside of his own reputation. “You can’t worry about what people think of it,” she insisted. “You’re better than all of them.” Finn, already doing whatever he can to ease his widowed mother, pushed himself to think of a life outside this small-town narrow-minded existence of cool and uncool. “I used to think that this was like the lamest thing on earth. Maybe it is,” he declared of New Directions. “But we’re all here for the same reason. Because we want to be good at something.”
I loved how this show defies conventions. It’s a high school comedy that hilariously skewers and also drives home poignant messages. Mostly, though, I loved the music. Not only does it help the students transcend their own situation but the show's as well. It seemed to infuse and heighten every scene, from the a cappella interstitials to the passing steel drum band to versions of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” to show tunes from “Oliver” and “Guys and Dolls” to REO Speedwagon and back again.
Plus, anything with Jane Lynch is definitely worth watching. Lynch already puts an indelible tint on everything she does, and as Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester, she eked out every last syllable to wry perfection. My favorite line of the night: “Your resentment is delicious.”
By far, the highlight of the entire hour was the show-stopping finale, a rousing New Directions version of Journey’s power ballad “Don’t Stop Believin’,” accompanied by the William McKinley HS jazz band. It gave me goosebumps. Yes, I rewound and watched it again. A couple of times. And will most likely buy it on iTunes.
What did you think of Glee? Will you watch it this fall?
— Allyssa Lee
Photo: Matthias Clamer/FOX