Hey, what’s the big idea? asks the cheerful Mika number that plays in the background for the Glee promos on Star World. After watching a couple of episodes of the most talked about television show in America, we found that Glee does rest on one big idea—its novelty factor. Of course, there are also the quirky characters, tongue-in-cheek humour, great music and a plotline that keeps you hooked.
A musical comedy set in a high school, Glee triumphed in America, winning many awards and hordes of fans—called Gleeks—and will hit TV screens in India one season after its American debut. It promises to be a big-ticket show for Star World, which lost its Grey’s Anatomy fans to Zee Café.
Misfits: Eternally optimistic, Glee roots for the underdogs.
Glee is about the Glee club, William McKinley High School’s school choir, and a teacher’s efforts to restore it to its former glory. The teacher, Will Schuester—an alumni of the school and now the director of the Glee club—struggles between fulfilling his wife’s demands for a bigger income and rediscovering his own passion for music. The club starts out with six students—the ambitious and fiercely talented Rachel Berry, the football star Finn Hudson, who is blackmailed into joining the club but soon discovers his passion, the talented Mercedes Jones who is overweight, fashion-conscious and has a chip on her shoulder, the effeminate male soprano Kurt Hummel, the wheel chair-bound Artie Abrams and the punk Tina Cohen-Chang, who auditions for the club singing Katy Perry’s I kissed a girl. They are considered misfits by their peers, who constantly bully them for being part of the club.
But then begin their efforts to recruit more performers for the group, popular students who could take the standing of the club higher and, along the way, fighting the aggressive cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, who is anxious that the spotlight doesn’t shift from her team. “You do with your sad little group what I did with my elderly, wealthy mother. Euthanize it,” she tells Schuester. There’s also a mysophobic guidance counsellor who has feelings for Schuester.
An eternally optimistic series that roots for the underdog, Glee doesn’t possess many novel elements. The stereotypical American high school characters and situations are all in place—from bulimia to bullies, hormonal teenagers to love triangles and students navigating the high school caste system. But once established, the stereotypes are upended. The cute, curly-haired idealistic Schuester plants marijuana in Hudson’s locker and blackmails him into joining the club. The popular cheerleaders are all part of the Chastity Club (their motto: It’s about the teasing, not the pleasing), but it’s the bullied, plain-looking Berry who stands up to them and says, “girls want sex just as much as boys”.
There is humour in almost every scene, but unless you’re paying attention, you are liable to miss it. There’s no laugh-track cue when the effeminate club member comments at Schuester’s choice of disco music as being “too gay”, or when the camera pans at the pamphlets on the counsellor’s shelf, Divorce: Why Your Parents Stopped Loving You and I Can’t Stop Touching Myself. Or when Schuester’s wife while buying her dream house, has to make a choice between a grand foyer and something else, exclaims, “Oh, this is my very own Sophie’s Choice”.
Most of the show’s cast has Broadway experience. Numerous cover versions of songs are featured by artists ranging from Rihanna and Kanye West to Madonna and Amy Winehouse. But the characters don’t break into songs at any point. To keep the proceedings realistic, songs are usually performances on stage.
True to its name, the show works on spreading cheer and keeps you smiling. It’s hard to say if the series will find as fanatical a fan following in India, where viewers are more used to tear jerkers and women-oriented shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. But we shall be eternally optimistic.
Starting 25 June, Glee will air on Star World every Friday and Saturday at 10pm.