The reason why the High School Musical movies grate on many people's nerves is because of their sheer earnestness, their irony-free commitment to the task at hand: entertaining tweens and hypnotizing them into buying tie-in merchandise. It takes someone like me to come along and turn the franchise into the inside joke that Disney never intended. (Read this, this, and this, for example.)
Glee, a new TV series that recently premiered on Fox and that can be viewed for free right now on Hulu, is blissfully self-aware. (It was created by Ryan Murphy, who's responsible for Nip/Tuck.) Glee is about a diverse set of outcasts—the nerd in a wheelchair, the flamboyant gay kid, the big black girl, the quiet Asian chick, the Latina (?) diva, the hot jock with the voice of gold—who join their high school's glee club to make sweet music, while enduring the inevitable ridicule of their peers. The audience is encouraged to make fun of these students and root for them at the same time, a balancing act that the cast pulls off with, well, glee. And it's all framed by one of those inspirational teacher storylines that actually works because of a charming performance by Matthew Morrison, the Spanish teacher who wants to relive his own glee club glory days by leading this lovable band of losers.
Check out the trailer. Watch:
And the musical numbers? Stellar. The pilot episode culminates in a superb rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." See? Simultaneously cheesy and rockin'.
For those of you who don't mind a big-ass spoiler, here's that Journey number, which is the end of the episode. (The track is also available on iTunes, I believe.) Watch:
Finally, I must admit that it's time to kick Zac Efron out of bed. While his HSM3 shower scene never made it into the final cut, Glee boldly includes a scene featuring the aforementioned hot jock, played by Cory Monteith, belting REO Speedwagon under a shower head while soaping himself down. Be still my beating crotch! Zac is a boy; Cory is a man. A MAN!
Watch the pilot episode for free.
The series picks up in the fall.