One of the highlights of this final week of the 2008-09 television season is coming courtesy of the 2009-10 season: the pilot episode of Glee, which Fox is airing in a rare sneak preview this Tuesday at 9 p.m, following the final performance episode of American Idol.
It's not surprising that someone would eventually try to capture the High School Musical magic in a series, but one might not have picked creator Ryan Murphy to be the one spearheading Glee, given his work with Nip/Tuck, easily the most lurid show on commercial television. The pilot covers the efforts of Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), a Spanish teacher at a high school in Nowheresville, Ohio, to revive the once-proud glee club tradition in the face of an administration and student body that finds the whole thing lame. Particularly noteworthy in the cast: Lea Michele, playing the show choir version of Tracy Flick; and Jane Lynch as the school's arrogant cheerleading coach. Musical shows on television have had trouble sustaining momentum, but the pilot ensures that this will be one of the most anticipated new series of the fall.
Also this week:
Monday: Dancing With the Stars (ABC, 8 p.m.): The final performances of the season from Shawn Johnson, Gilles Marini, and Melissa Rycroft, featuring that all-important paso doble. Gilles will almost certainly win unless I've jinxed him beyond all hope.
Wednesday: American Idol (Fox, 8 p.m.): After four months punctuated by Tatiana Del Toro's breakdowns, a young mom making bird calls, massive amounts of lip syncing, and judges who refuse to shut up, either Adam Lambert or Kris Allen will be crowned as America's newest idol. Among those rumored to be appearing: Carlos Santana, Lionel Richie, Jason Mraz, and Cyndi Lauper.
Thursday: Ugly Betty (ABC, 8 p.m.): The little break this series took earlier in the spring pushed back its finale to this week. Betty (America Ferrera) has her plans to move in with Matt interrupted by a surprise visitor, and competes with Marc for a promotion. Also, Daniel makes an appearance on The View, and Wilhelmina makes threats against Claire.
Friday: Party Down (Starz, 10:30 p.m.): As someone who used to work for a caterer, I'm both pleased to see this series doing so well and amazed that anyone could make the job look funny or interesting. The first-season finale features guest star Kristen Bell, as our heroes work a gay wedding and find themselves outshined by some buff rivals
Saturday: Harper's Island (CBS, 9 p.m.): This show's quick move to Saturday nights isn't doing much to prove that limited-run serials still have a place in prime time. Henry (Christopher Gorham) has gone from anticipating his wedding day to investigating the murder of someone who didn't really care for him. Talk about your honeymoon buzzkill.
Sunday: The Tudors (Showtime, 9 p.m.): The third season ends with Henry VIII falling out almost immediately with Wife #4, the hapless Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone). I'd have more sympathy for him were it not for that whole mass-slaughter-of-religious-protestors thing. But the finale also features the long-awaited comeuppance for the loathsome Thomas Cromwell.