The similarities between the spring television season and August, the month on the Hollywood calendar when movie studios dump their untouchables, are kind of freaky. Didn’t the moderately successful premiere of Castle feel like a bad Nicolas Cage movie? Doesn’t In the Motherhood sound like some interminable Anna Faris comedy? Is Harper’s Island anything more than an episodic version of a cookie-cutter horror film? Only Parks and Recreation has our interest piqued, but that has more to do with the comedy-lover’s cast—in addition to Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation features Paul Schneider (All the Real Girls) and Aubrey Plaza (“The Jeannie Tate Show” and the upcoming Funny People)—than the actual premise. (We can’t be the only people exhausted at the thought of another snarky, single-camera, laugh-track-free, faux documentary, can we?) However, after watching the just-released trailer for Fox’s Glee, we think this spring might have found its lone standout hit.
From Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, Glee has a pretty bland premise: a new teacher arrives at a high school and tries to revive the fledgling glee club, which is filled with a bunch of social misfits. What separates Glee from every other teen show in the history of teen shows is that the cast members sing actual pop songs, from Katy Perry to Journey—think The Breakfast Club meets Moulin Rouge. Yep, it’s a musical. The cast is filled with a mix of actual Broadway stars and character actors: Matthew Morrison of Hairspray is the teacher; Spring Awakening’s Lea Michele co-stars as the beautiful/annoying outcast/perfectionist; and look out for Victor Garber, Kristen Chenoweth and, in an inspired bit of casting, the always-hilarious Jane Lynch as the cheerleading coach.
Of course, there are a few major problems here that could prevent Glee from achieving any success at all. For starters, Mr. Murphy is pretty much a hack. Nip/Tuck is an unwatchable mess, and his only foray into feature filmmaking was the derisible adaptation of Running with Scissors. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if television audiences are willing to accept a musical series—judging from the reactions to Viva Laughlin and Cop Rock, we’re guessing they aren’t. Still, we have to give Fox a lot of credit. While the other networks seem content to live and die with the same old tired cop shows and broad sitcoms, Glee represents a Philippe Petit tightrope walk. If it works, it will be a watercooler smash; if it doesn’t, it will be just another cautionary tale to warn people against originality.
Rather than premiere a short run of episodes during the overcrowded next two months, Fox has shrewdly decided Glee stands a better chance at being successful if the pilot airs in the post-American Idol finale timeslot on May 19th. If all goes according to plan, the remaining first season episodes will be on the schedule in the fall. Set your DVR accordingly.