Here's something you don't see every day on network TV — a drama that's actually fun. Glee, which revolves around a Lima, Ohio high school teacher's efforts to turn a mediocre glee club into a champion, is wickedly funny, remarkably energetic and beautifully acted and choreographed.
Indianapolis native Ryan Murphy (Popular, Nip/Tuck), who's spent a lot of his career trying to rewrite high school and high school-type relationships, has invented a world this time where the glee club and cheerleading vie for the center of the universe while the football team can't win a game. Until the glee club intervenes, anyway.
This world may be topsy-turvy, but that's easily forgiven when you have characters like these: a vicious cheerleading coach (played by scene-stealing Jane Lynch); a crusading teacher/glee club coach (Matthew Morrison) determined to do things his way; his overly materialistic wife (Jessalyn Gilsig) and the germaphobic teacher who not-so-secretly loves him (Jayma Mays); and a wonderful group of actors playing the students.
In the first three episodes, the show sets up the battle lines, romances, jealousies and everything else that goes into high school life. The camera practically winks at viewers, daring us to remember high school as a kind of sadistic funhouse that shapes us and, hopefully, doesn't break us. And a good laugh is never more than a few minutes away, whether it's the outrageously gay student trying out for the football team or Lynch describing a glee club routine as the most sickening display she's ever seen — "including an elementary school production of Hair."
Glee premiered in the spring with the pilot episode, which was rerun last week. Perhaps you saw that pilot and worried, as I did, that the show would be filled with Journey music and similar drek. Don't worry: Subsequent shows feature more contemporary tunes — Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It" and Kanye West's "Golddigger" are given first-class arrangements in episode two, and Beyonce's Single Ladies is the centerpiece of next week's show. You don't have to like any of these songs to get a great laugh at how they're handled on Glee.
Murphy's shows have a history of starting strong and then becoming over-the-top outrageous. We'll see whether he can contain that tendency on Glee. But right now, if this isn't the best new show of this season, it's close.