I admit it. I'm a Gleek. It happened to me gradually over the past year. At first I was ashamed of myself. Then I made peace with my shame and gave into my enthusiasm for all things Glee.
By all standards, I should hate Glee. It's noisy, it's angst-ridden misfit teenagers, it's singing and dancing on prime time TV. I like rational detective shows like CSI, or high octane thrillers like 24 or even tongue in cheek spy capers like Burn Notice. Glee is a different animal altogether. And I love it. During its just ended first season, I couldn't WAIT to download the latest episode from iTunes. I sat transfixed through every hour, laughing and crying and sometimes cheering.
What gives? I discovered, over the course of 22 episodes, that Glee fills a massive gap in the television landscape: the celebration of talent. Sure there are reality shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Neither of those shows focus on talent as such. Mostly - in the case of American Idol - they focus on popularity.
Quick. Scan your memory banks and tell me how many American Idol kids stand out as performers and personalities. Now do the same for Glee. There's Rachel the nerdy girl with the captivating voice who takes on classics by Barbra Streisand and numbers from Les Misérables. There's Finn who can take a Journey song from the 1970s and make it his own. Even Puck, the former Mohawk sporting bad boy, does a touching solo of the cheesy Kiss song Beth. Let's not forget Mr Schuester, their teacher, who takes on everything from rap to a high octane duet of Bruce Springsteen's Fire with guest star Kristin Chenoweth. Finally there is the comic genius of Jane Lynch as Shuester's nemesis Sue Sylvester.
Coming completely out of left field in a television landscape dominated by procedural detective shows, Glee proves that Americans and the world at large love a good story of the underdog making good and the encouragement of talent. As the first season wore on, the Glee kids' ambition increased and the numbers they chose exploded in a dizzying display of theatricality. To be sure, there were some clunky subplots. I couldn't wait for the Terri Shuester character to go away so Will could pursue Emma, the quirky OCD afflicted guidance counselor. Similarly, Emma's 'romance' with gym teacher Ken Tanaka left me bored. But, the show's writers and producers had the smarts to learn from these mistakes and correct those problems early on, leaving more time for the core characters and their struggles and triumphs.
And then there were the turns by Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, both big Broadway, TV and film stars in their own right. The show gave them just the right amount of screen time without overpowering the rest of the show. Both ladies served to move the story forward without detracting from what everyone loves so much about Glee.
My recent articles have focused on political and social matters portraying some of the negative aspects of what's happening in the world today. In thinking about what I value and the things that bring a smile to my face, I immediately thought of Glee. It gives its viewers a pause from the heavy handed events playing out in the world today. Glee is a happy pleasure, not a guilty one. It reaffirms that life is worth living and with a little talent and pluck, success can be ours.
I'm a Gleek and I'm not afraid to announce it to the world.