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Singing its praises



;9 p.m. Wednesday

Here's something you don't see every day on network TV – a drama that's actually fun. Glee, which revolves around an Ohio high-school teacher's efforts to turn a mediocre glee club into a championship team, is wickedly funny, remarkably energetic and beautifully acted and choreographed.

Ryan Murphy (Popular, Nip/Tuck), who has spent a lot of his career trying to rewrite high-schoolish relationships, this time has invented a world where the glee club and cheerleading vie for the center of the universe, while the football team can't win a game – until the glee club intervenes, anyway.

This world may be topsy-turvy, but that's easily forgiven when you have characters like these: a vicious cheerleading coach (played by scene-stealing Jane Lynch); a crusading teacher and glee-club coach (Matthew Morrison) determined to do things his way; his overly materialistic wife (Jessalyn Gilsig); the germaphobe guidance counselor who not-so-secretly loves him (Jayma Mays); and a wonderful group of actors playing the students.

In the first three episodes, the show sets up the battle lines, romances, jealousies and everything else that goes into high-school life. The camera practically winks at viewers, daring us to remember high school as a kind of funhouse that shapes us and, hopefully, doesn't break us. And a good laugh is never more than a few minutes away, whether it's the outrageously gay student trying out for the football team or Lynch describing a glee club routine as the most sickening display she's ever seen – "including an elementary-school production of Hair."

Glee premiered in the spring with the pilot episode, which was rerun last week (and still available for viewing at Perhaps you saw that pilot and worried, as I did, that the show would be filled with Journey music and similar dreck. Happily, in the Sept. 9 episode, Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It" and Kanye West's "Gold Digger" were given first-class arrangements, and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" is the centerpiece of the following week's show. You don't have to like any of these songs to get a great laugh at how they're handled on Glee.

Murphy's shows have a history of starting strong and then becoming over-the-top ridiculous. We'll see whether he can contain that tendency for Glee. But right now, if this isn't the best new show of this season, it's close.


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