Glee: Season 1 Volume 1 review (DVD)

Glee didn’t win me over straight away. Perhaps because it was so spectacularly built up by even the snarkiest of press, who said it was bursting with colourful characters and excitement, who of course didn’t all show up at the start of the first episode. Perhaps because you should never judge a TV show on its pilot. Or perhaps because I missed the first 20 seconds, thereby missing the first line from Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), who is the Gene Hunt of cheerleading: “You think that’s hard? Try being waterboarded, that’s hard.”

But then it clicked. Glee is a show in which people burst into song. It’s a show about singing and dancing, without having to be in a Disney movie. There’s a Facebook group called “And WHY can’t my life be a musical?” This is the kind of outlook that will serve you well in the land of Glee. Which is a completely wonderful show, though I still can’t bring myself to use the term “Gleek”.

Spanish teacher will Scheuster (Morrison) is trying to revive the high school glee club (or choir, to us Brits), to the chagrin of wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig, one of three Heroes actors to show up in Glee). He’s also rather friendly with guidance counsellor Emma (Jayma Mays, Heroes actor number two). Too friendly, some might say.

The main players in the glee club include Rachel (Lea Michele), who’s determined to become a  star – she won her first dance contest at three months old but isn’t exactly popular with her classmates. Rachel’s got feelings for cool football guy Finn (Monteith), who’s dating bitchy cheerleader Quinn (Agron), who’s only joined Glee to help Sue Sylvester sabotage the group. Oh, and she’s up the duff. Is it Finn’s? It might not be.

In the pilot episode, you get the feeling Rachel’s going to be a scheming bitch on a par with Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf. But while she’s annoying and prone to preaching, she’s actually kind of nice and therefore more wishy-washy than bitchy. Even Quinn gradually defrosts. The show isn’t as soapy and scandalous as you might expect, and everyone’s just improbably talented, with seemingly no training, but it is a heck of a lot of fun. The subplots are genuinely interesting ones, there are some excruciatingly funny lines (especially from Sue) and above all else it’s fun. There’s dancing and singing and it’s (gasp) cool. I wish this show had been around when I was at school being a music geek.

Of course you may be thinking it’s just High School Musical, the TV series. But let’s see. Would you ever hear the  following line in HSM: “I want it on my desk warm from the laminator at 5pm, and if it one minute late, I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then, on some dark, cold night, I will steal away into your home...  and punch you in the FACE.” Thought that was tasteless? Nothing but High School Musical for you, then. Chuckling? Go and watch Glee, immediately.

EXTRAS ★★★ Music video, featurettes, video diaries, dance boot camp and some brief interviews. Not too shabby.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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