Join the Club

Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Kevin McHale, and Jenna Ushkowitz in Glee


When Fox offered a preview airing of Glee last spring, the comedy-cum-cummerbund spectacular captured hearts all across the USA. Which is fitting, as the series feels like American Idol meets American Beauty meets American Pie (think harmonious pageantry, cheerleaders as total-tease forbidden fruit, and horny teenage boys with ejaculation problems). The series, created by Nip/Tuck‘s Ryan Murphy, tells the story of high school Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and his quest to lead a gang of glee club misfits to glory, jazz-fists in the air. While Glee boasts a vibrant aesthetic, snappy dialogue and an extraordinary line-up of character actors (Jane Lynch in particular kills it as a cantankerous cheerleading coach named Sue), it comes as no surprise that the heart of Glee beats most strongly during its musical sequences. These retro-zeitgeisty numbers reach deep inside the subtexts of the show and push them onto a spotlit center stage.

Picking up where May’s pilot left off, Glee‘s fall premiere finds Will in battle with his wife, Terri, (Jessalyn Gilsig) over a house they can’t afford. Terri coaxes Will into taking a second job, and a cut later Mr. Schuester and his kids are performing Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” with unbridled gusto. When the glee club hollas “we want pre-nup,” it jabs at Terri’s materialism and underscores the tender relationship Will has been forming with doe-eyed guidance counselor Emma (Jayma Mays).

On the student romance front, lead singer Rachel (Lea Michele) has decided it’s time she come between power couple Quinn and Finn, a pair of popular beauties struck by the arrow of a Cupid raised on too much Dr. Seuss. Rachel joins Quinn’s abstinence club as a way to move in on fellow singer Finn, and soon discovers that each of the club’s chaste teens is more sex-starved than the last. This sparks Rachel to lead her glees through a raunchy performance of Salt N Pepa’s “Push It,” an exercise in booty dancing that tests the limitations of spandex pants.

When things don’t work out between Rachel and the bari-tenor of her affections, she’s left belting Rihanna’s “Take a Bow” into a hairbrush. It’s a powerful song of heartbreak and the girl can really sing, proving that after all the glitz and pop it’s the talent of the cast that makes Glee so enjoyable. Perhaps that’s why the producers were able to license “Take a Bow” at a reduced rate. And why Billy Joel has reportedly offered up his entire catalog free of charge.

So what will it be? “Piano Man” as Finn sits alone in the empty cafeteria, nursing an instant hot chocolate? “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” belted out while the yearbook committee compiles a slideshow of the semester’s greatest moments? Or maybe “Only the Good Die Young,” once the abstinence club finally decides to embrace the joys of pushin’ it real good.