TV Series Review
It's been quite a long while now since Spanish teacher Will Schuester danced in to lead William McKinley High School's glee club. Most of the original gleesters—Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, etc.—have moved on to brighter lights and bigger cities. But time stands still on Netflix, and the whole song and dance is still going on. The hopes and dreams of the club's cadre of newcomers can't be quashed under Sue Sylvester's heel like a wayward grape. The melody can't be silenced by the shrill scream of negativity or fear or, let's just say it, reality. No, the show will go on.
Just as the lives of McKinley's New Directions members had their ups and downs, so did Fox's musical dramedy. It began with a drum roll in 2009, becoming the buzziest and, in some circles, the most beloved of shows. It was never a ratings blockbuster, but critics liked it, and fans—drawn in by its toe-tapping tunes, audacious optimism, messages of inclusion and Sue Sylvester's crackling wit—adored it. And even if there were fewer and fewer of those so-called Gleeks making L's with their fingers each passing season, the musical series still drew some high-wattage guest stars, including Neil Patrick Harris and Gwyneth Paltrow. Then Glee went through its most difficult stretch when Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, died of a drug overdose. It was a poignant reminder, even within the show, that dreams don't always come true.
Let's give Glee credit for what it does well. It showcases talented kids who love singing. Some of the lessons it offers are encouraging. Kids' relationships with their parents and other authority figures are often positive. And throughout, all of them are pushed to follow their dreams and be themselves—good advice, as far as it goes.
But in the context of 21st-century America, the phrase "be yourself" is loaded with some seriously political, social and spiritual baggage. Glee is most famous for being a longtime primetime advocate of homosexual expression among teens. Newsweek's Ramin Setodeh, in fact, has called Glee "TV's gayest product since Richard Simmons."
It only got gay-er over time, according to Slate's June Thomas, who called the final season "the gayest thing I've ever seen on television—and ever expect to see. The TV version of Lima, Ohio, is a fantasy world where sexual minorities rule the roost and heterosexuals are background players, coming into focus only when they interact with queer characters." She goes on to say that "Glee did more to normalize homosexuality than any other show in TV history, perhaps more than any other mainstream work of art."
It also wallows in, like creator Ryan Murphy told the Los Angeles Times, "the cultural phenomenon that anybody can be a star overnight on MySpace or YouTube." Murphy continues, "There are all these different ways that you can be celebrated quickly and instantly now for your talent or lack thereof, and the show also deals with that." How? It comedically spoofs those dreams of instant fame … while earnestly encouraging viewers to go ahead and seek out the spotlight anyway.
It embraces outcasts and tells them they are, indeed, special. Then, as The New York Times points out, gregariously undercuts those nuggets of goodness, "rounding out the choir with generically good-looking ringers imported from the football team and cheerleading squad, leaving the impression that a show choir—even a cast on a television series about a show choir—can't sustain itself without an injection of cool kids."
Glee also suffers from sleazy sexuality and severe sacrilege, and it stumbles—often—over crass gags and strident stereotypes.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester; Cory Monteith as Finn; Lea Michele as Rachel; Jane Lynch as Coach Sue Sylvester; Chris Colfer as Kurt; Kevin McHale as Artie; Darren Criss as Blaine Anderson; Becca Tobin as Kitty Wilde; Samuel Larsen as Joe Hart; Melissa Benoist as Marley Rose; Jacob Artist as Jake Puckerman; Alex Newell as Wade 'Unique' Adams; Blake Jenner as Ryder Lynn; Kate Hudson as Cassandra July; Whoopi Goldberg as Carmen Tibideaux; John Stamos as Dr. Carl Howell; Kristin Chenoweth as April Rhodes; Sarah Jessica Parker as Isabelle Wright; Gwyneth Paltrow as Holly Holliday; Jeff Goldblum as Hiram Berry; Helen Mirren as Becky's Inner Voice; Josh Groban as Himself