Road to Entertainment

April 13, 2010

Just when you thought that vampires and the horror scene were set to take over the visual world lock-stock, of all the genres, it was the musical that decided to fight back. But unlike its more saccharine feature-length contemporaries, HSM (High School Musical) and Camp Rock, Glee is a sat-sit (satire-sitcom) that gives the musical a fighting chance to achieve contemporary acclaim. Through a wise and self-reflexive reinvention of generic hybridity Glee presents, TV Musical Comedy.

Set in the fictional William McKinley High School where cheerleaders and jocks are popular, and anyone who isn’t either of those is not, the show focuses on a group of misfit kids who all share a passion and talent for singing. That and some well drawn stereotyped teachers who add an all important layer of sass to the show.

Its success rides really upon the combination of an outstandingly well-selected cast who can actually all sing and act, and sometimes even dance, combined with a unique mix of genuinely entertaining choreographed numbers and self-reflexive, satirical dialogue. The balance between the two is just right, goading its audience into simultaneously enjoying the cheesiness of the musical interjections without being twee, and the knowing back bite of a witty sitcom. Strangely enough (due to the musical interludes no doubt) the episodes manage to sustain an hour-long television slot (40-45 minutes in actual duration, allowing for advertisements) which is as much a testament to its writing as it is to its popularity. Usually sat-sits can only sustain half hour time slots due to the fast paced, hit-and-run momentum that is associated with snappy dialogue-centric TV. But Glee manages to combine its two central themes in such a way that forty to forty-five minutes go by without losing momentum or ratings.

The show has been a great commercial success in both the US and the UK, its first season premiering here on E4. And there’s even more good news for the Gleeks: whilst awaiting the television premiere of Season 2, Season 1: Road to Sectionals, is now available to buy on DVD. The box set is compact and complete with Special Features for the true die-hard fans. Some of the features appear to be promos (Glee Music Video and Deconstructing Glee with Ryan Murphy) as well as clips from episodes, both of which are short and unnecessary. Though there are others that do give insight into the show’s real charm: its cast (Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session).

It’s hardly going to go down in the archives as the most significant television programme of the 21st century, but when it comes to sofa viewing, it’s a rip-roaring success.


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