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Glee: First two episodes reviewed

A promotional shot from Glee.

Review by Jack Foley

I HAVE to admit, I was sceptical about the charms of new American TV sensation Glee for two reasons: firstly, I don’t tend to like musicals and, secondly, Ryan Murphy’s last creation, Nip/Tuck, has gone badly off the rails.

Fortunately, I was wrong on both concerns. Glee is immense fun – smart, sexy, knowingly cheesy but really kind of cool with it.

Set at McKinley High School in America, the programme follows ambitious teacher Will (Matthew Morrison) as he tries to revive the school’s Glee club in the face of scepticism from its headteacher and fierce opposition from cheerleader boss Sue (Jane Lynch) who wants to remain top dog.

His hopes are therefore pinned on precious but highly talented girl singer Rachel (Lea Michele) and sports jock turned entertainer Finn (Cory Monteith) to turn the Glee club’s fortunes around, as well as a misfit bunch of colleagues.

On the evidence of Monday’s two openers, their journey is going to be immense fun. Glee‘s success lies in its tongue-in-cheek revellry and knowing pop culture references.

Performances are, at times, wilfully OTT (especially Lynch’s deliciously wicked Sue), while the pop culture references fly thick and fast, taking in everything from Fame and High School Musical stereotypes to X Factor and American Idol-style celebrity posturing.

And yet there’s genuine talent and quality to savour as well. The song and dance routines, when performed, are genuinely amazing. The pilot episode, for instance, delivered a rousing version of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab as well as a crowd-pleasing finale of Don’t Stop Believin’. It brought the curtain down on the first hour in cheer-inducing fashion.

Episode two, meanwhile, delivered such highlights as a sexy rendition of Salt N Peppa’s Push It, which sent the High School teachers and parents into a nervous spin.

Amid all the razzle-dazzle are characters worth rooting for and sticking with. Michele’s Rachel is an intriguing prospect… as is her burgeoning relationship with Monteith’s conflicted Finn. Both have a natural chemistry and charisma that’s effortlessly appealing.

Morrison, meanwhile, provides an endearing central presence as the everyman Will… a teacher torn between loyalty to a manipulative and falsely pregnant wife, his own aspirations for artistic success and growing feelings for fellow teacher Emma (played with just the right amoung of endearing kookiness by Jayma Mays).

In the States, Glee‘s first season became one of the surprise hits of the Fall season and garnered four Golden Globe nominations. A second season is on the way…

Don’t miss out on this Monday night armchair pleaser. It does what its title suggests and makes you feel glee-full!

Glee is on E4 on Monday nights at 9pm. This review relates to the season opening double bill on Monday, January 11