Tube Talk: Be a Gleek

September 2, 2009

By Paula Hendrickson

Contributing Writer

Fox tried something unusual when they decided to preview the pilot episode of the new fall musical series, Glee, back in May. The idea was to entice viewers to stay tuned by capitalizing on American Idol’s popularity. The downside? Having to wait until September for the next episode.

If you missed the engaging pilot about a high school glee club, don’t despair. Fox will rebroadcast the pilot—including some new material—from 7:58 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 2.

For all of you who say, “I hate musicals—it’s so unrealistic when people burst into song like that,” Glee is one musical you might enjoy. Singing is reserved for scenes where characters audition, rehearse or perform. Sure, there may be a fantasy sequence or two, but students are not singing and dancing willy-nilly through the halls of McKinley High.

“Families can definitely watch it,” says the show’s casting director, Robert J. Ulrich, who marvels that his 17-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter are both as obsessed with Glee as he is. “It’s sweet, yet there’s a lot of sarcasm and contemporary humor that I think teens and people in their early 20s will really like. It pushes the envelope in so many ways, yet it always comes back to having a great heart.”

Adults may identify with teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), himself a former glee-club member, who, in the pilot, is torn between a desire to revive McKinley’s glee club or follow a different career path with more obvious payoffs.

The series is a comedy-drama-musical hybrid, full of interesting characters. The students include: Rachel (Lea Michele), a powerhouse singer certain she’ll be a star; Finn (Cory Monteith), the star athlete with a secret talent for singing; diva-in-training Mercedes (Amber Riley); boy-soprano Kurt (Chris Colfer); and two-wheeling guitarist Artie (Kevin McHale). The adults are just as colorful, including Jane Lynch as a malicious cheerleading coach, Jessalyn Gilsig as Will’s manipulative wife, and Jayma Mays as a supportive fellow teacher/germaphobe.

If you thought you heard Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” more this summer than in the past 15 years, it might be because it was the show-stopper in the pilot episode of Glee and the Glee version quickly hit No. 1 on iTunes. Clips from the show—and a “bootlegged” version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” performed by the cast—are easy to find on YouTube.

Glee will incorporate old and new songs, plus a few show tunes, throughout the season, offering selections for viewers of any age. The trick will be getting viewers to give such an unusual series a chance.

The first 13 episodes have been shot, yet only the pilot has aired, which is a strange position to be in. Most series are still in production when the season starts. Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk loves the show, and hopes viewers will feel the same. “I can’t wait for it to start,” he says. “We’re very anxious to put it out there and see how people respond. The hope is we’ll get an order for some more and start shooting as soon as we can.”

So, don’t miss out a second time around. Watch the pilot episode Sept. 2. If you do, be prepared to become a Gleek. As Ulrich says, “I can guarantee if you do watch, you’ll get hooked.”

Fox is looking for the world’s biggest gleek. Go to www.fox.com/gleek to register. You might even win some prizes. (If you win something, be sure to let us know!)

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to tubetalking-paula@yahoo.com.

From the September 2-8, 2009 issue

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