November 4, 2009By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Nov 4, 2009
GLEE is preempted for baseball tonight, and that totally bums me out, because it's my mid-week pick-me-up. Think about it: It's funny and daring, there's singing and the cast is diverse. It's SO a "Mala show." I mean, all it needs is a baby in a hat! And, well, if the Quinn/Terri baby switch story keeps playing out, I may just get that, too!
Music and high school may make people think of Disney, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, but Ryan Murphy's darkly irreverent GLEE bears little resemblance to the cookie-cutter world of the East High Wildcats. McKinley High is...smutty. To say the least. There's casual drug use and not-so-casual sexcapades galore, and the satire seesaws between deft and being about as subtle as a chainsaw. The kids themselves also aren't the polished, gee-golly-gosh Troy and Gabriella types. Don't get me wrong, I do love me some Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and Chad (Corbin Bleu), but the GLEE kids feel more real. Where Ryan accessorizes with pink hats and a subtle sparkle, Chris Colfer's Kurt full-on glitters. There's no doubt about his sexual orientation and he's, frankly, just awesome in how secure he is in his identity. And the sanitized, United Colors of Benetton diversity of HSM is blown out of the water by Mercedes and her powerful vocals, shy Tina and her stutter, wheelchair-bound Artie (who viewers will get to know much better in next week's episode), Santana, Mr. Tanaka, Principal Figgins and several Jewish characters.
Sure, it's not uncommon for comedy to feature leading Jewish characters — hi, SEINFELD — but this isn't a sitcom. Lea Michele's Rachel is the star teen in an hour-long show, and I can't recall very many instances where that has occurred. Erin Karpluk's Erica, on the Canadian drama BEING ERICA, is Jewish but, again, that's Canada. They're a little ahead of us in terms of diversifying their shows. Rachel is neurotic, driven, a total diva who is often unlikable, and I love it. And I love that a recent episode, "Mash-Up," featured her hooking up with asshat football player Puck (breakout heartthrob, Mark Salling). I made the joke on my Twitter: They were a couple for roughly 20 minutes and that's still longer than we've had a Jewish couple on daytime. And you know what? They were smokin' hot, too.
The show's not perfect — the star-crossed romance of Will (Matthew Morrison, ex-Adam, ATWT) and Emma (Jayma Mays) actually makes me want to stab something and I think the musical numbers are way too overproduced at times — but it makes me smile. It literally puts a song (or two) in my heart every week.