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Glee: Road To Sectionals - Volume 1 (Review)


Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

SPECIAL FEATURES: Welcome to Mckinley!; Glee Music Video; Full Length Audition: Rachel “On My Own”; Full Length Audition: Mercedes “Respect”; Fox Movie Chanel Presents Casting Session; Deconstructing Glee with Ryan Murphy; Dance Boot Camp; Jane Lynch A to Glee; Meet Jane Lynch; 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Jayma; 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Cory; 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Amber; 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Chris; Video Diaries (Play All); Jane’s Video Diary; Lea’s Video Diary; Matt’s Video Diary; Cory Video Diary; Kevin’s Video Diary; Amber Riley Video Diary; Chris Colfer Video Diary; Diana’s Video Diary.

SAY what you will about the hype surrounding Glee, the show is a feelgood sensation of incredibly high quality.

A music phenomenon as well as a TV sensation, it centres around the teachers and pupils of William McKinley High School, in America, and – in particular – the glee club. Once successful, the club has been left to flounder in recent years until idealistic teacher Will (Matthew Morrison) takes up their cause, vowing to transform the rag-tag group of singers and dancers into champions.

But the road to reclaiming their top position is packed with hurdles, not least in the formidable form of envious cheerleading teacher Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), who will employ any means at her disposal to prevent Will from succeeding.

Will has his own problems, too, given that his wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) is faking pregnancy and is a master manipulator, while fellow teacher and school counsellor Emma (Jayma Mays) also has the hots for him (and he has feelings for her).

The pupils, too, are a typically angst-ridden group of adolescents attempting to accept their place in the world. These include Cory Monteith’s football captain Finn Hudson, who is juggling his macho image as school jock with his newfound appreciation for all things glee, and Lea Michele’s ferociously ambitious and highly talented Rachel, who carries a torch for Finn.

There’s also Finn’s pregnant girlfriend and cheerleading queen Quinn (Dianna Agron), his best friend Puck (Mark Salling), who is the real father of Quinn’s baby, and Chris Golfer’s closet gay fashionista Kurt to contend with… all of whom make their mark in some way.

The first 13 episodes – as released in this early box set – follow the glee club as they prepare for sectionals and establish their characters – and it’s a laugh riot that sweeps you along in its bittersweet path.

The song and dance routines, in particular, are frequently inspired (and inspiring), featuring cover versions of popular hits from artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Queen, Journey and Kanye West, as well as stage shows such as Wicked.

And the various plot twists and character developments are worth taking the ride with, as almost every character is flawed but endearing in some way (even the vicious Sue Sylvester!).

Admittedly, the show’s format occasionally shows signs of fatigue (even early on), as each episode tended to place some new obstacle for its cast to overcome, but the energy and enthusiasm of all concerned is such that every episode has a moment to savour.

There are particular highlights, of course. Episode four, Preggers, in which Kurt eventually comes out but – in doing so – inspires his football team and his father is empowering, celebratory and really rather poignant to boot (particularly in the scenes between Kurt and his dad).

While Mash-Up offers an intriguing – and actually quite touching – behind Sue’s tough exterior, while providing the glee club with a comedown lesson in humility of their own.

The final episode, Sectionals, meanwhile, is a brilliant coming together of all the story strands to create a feelgood rush of the highest order… whether it’s viewing the glee club beat the odds to perform brilliantly at sectionals, or Will and Emma almost resolve their will they/won’t they dilemma. It makes the second part of the first season a tantalising proposition.

Performance wise, too, the show delivers with a cast of relative unknowns and newcomers really grasping their moment in the spotlight. Morrison’s Will is an endearing, if occasionally flawed, everyman hero, Lynch is a deliciously hiss-worthy villain and Mays offers just the right amount of kooky and nice.

The kids, too, are all engaging – with Monteith displaying an expert line in machismo and vulnerability, Michele similarly feisty but vulnerable (as well as jaw-droppingly talented vocally) and Salling a suitably conflicted anti-hero and foil to Monteith’s clean cut, all American values.

We could go on raving… but suffice to say, we highly recommend Glee as a bittersweet romp that fully deserves the acclaim and Golden Globes bestowed upon it. It’s not perfect… but when you’re having this much fun it’s difficult to care.

The hard work begins now, of course, in maintaining the high standards – but right now it’s best to just kick back and let the glee-ful times flow.

Certificate: 12
Discs: 4/Episodes: 13
UK DVD Release: April 12, 2010