DVD Review: Glee Is a Joyful Addition

In a rather unorthodox move, 20th Century Fox released the first half of the very first season of its moderate (or as some have said, cult) hit Glee onto DVD during the midseason break. Most TV shows, as many of you know, are released within weeks of the follow-up season opener in hopes of drumming up interest for the new season while catching people up or introducing them to the previous season altogether. But not Fox. Instead they sent out copies of the first 13 episodes to virtually every critic I know in what appears to be a brilliant piece of marketing.

Before I even had the wrapper off my DVD set, critic buddies from around the country were tweeting their instant love for the show and diving in to watch it beginning to end. My wife, having seen the overnight explosion of interest amongst our friends, asked if we could do the same. So we crawled into bed early Saturday and stayed there all day, watching every last episode of the journey titled "Road to Sectionals." And now we're hooked, ready and waiting for the second half of season one to restart April 13, 2010.

Glee is the story of Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), a young Spanish teacher who was once king of the glee club (show choir) during his high school days. Now wrestling with a bad marriage and feeling generally unfulfilled, the position of glee club advisor opens up and changes his life forever. The next few episodes involve Will assembling the bare bones of a club loaded with misfits in order to meet the minimum requirements for competition. But when the club's funding begins to drain the coffers of the over-funded national cheerleading champions coached by Sue Sylvester (comedienne Jane Lynch), a rivalry is fueled that sets Sylvester on a course to destroy the Glee club for good and for all.

While the plots are highly derivative of soap opera television, what sets Glee apart from most similar hour-longs is its wicked sense of humor and its characters. Everyone in this show is somehow self-involved, deceitful, brainless, vindictive, or otherwise highly flawed. And while several people have used this as their excuse for disliking the show (a fair criticism, to be sure) Glee goes out of its way to make even its most despicable villains sympathetic. In that way, Glee creates authentic feeling and very grounded characters who you can at least momentarily connect with. And as the story unfolds and the choir gets ever closer to its big showdown at sectionals, it is the characters and not the plot twists that drive you to hit play on each subsequent episode until you have seen every last one.

Funny, abrasive, and altogether adorable, each episode is also punctuated by a number of choir-performed pop songs, often mirroring whatever is going on in the episode and occasionally becoming musical-like set pieces in the imagination of the students. Fortunately for those not a big fan of the songs or of musicals in general, these are often truncated versions cut for time and pacing. They rock out the song and then move on with the story. All told, this package is a highly addictive episodic treat that will have audiences ready and waiting for the April restart of season one.

Glee is available now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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