I really, really wanted to love Glee , the new Fox comedy about show choir - that strange, unholy amalgam of drama club, choir, and dance team. After all, I have already made my love of such dorky performance activities rather public. And before the first commercial break, it seemed like Glee was really gunning for my affections in particular, showcasing all of the following:
- Clear allusions to one of my favorite movies, Election , as Willa has already astutely outlined
- A high school setting (as a former teacher myself, I’m a sucker for any show that prominently features a teachers’ lounge)
- Lea Michele, star of Broadway’s Spring Awakening
- An Indian guy in a nontrivial role
- A goth-lite Asian girl doing a raunchy rendition of “I Kissed a Girl”
- Jane Lynch , the funniest woman alive, as the captain of the cheerleading squad
But I felt like the show lurched around a lot, never quite finding its groove, either comedically or emotionally. For one thing, all five members of the team have fantastic (or at least very, very good) voices, so the whole Bad-News-Bears, we’re-a-crummy-squad storyline felt a little off. And while I am always up for a little Journey in four-part harmony , the show hasn’t quite captured the passionate, often hysterical (in all senses of the word), curiously subaltern nature of America’s teenage musical theater subculture. For that I suggest the 2003 film Camp , which has a rickety, see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away narrative but absolutely nails the anthropological elements - particularly the funny, complicated ways sexuality can play out in these hothouse, Sondheim-loving environments.
I’ll tune in next week, of course, if just to maintain my weekly jazz-hands intake. Maybe this pilot was just a shaky dress rehearsal?