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TV Review: FOX’s Award-Winning ‘Glee’ Returns Singing Same Song

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CHICAGOFOX hit “Glee” returns tonight, hoping to not only keep the rabidly-loyal fans it earned in its critically-acclaimed first season but even pick up a new ones curious about what this Emmy-winning show has to offer. Will “Glee” continue its pop culture rise, plateau as so many second-year shows do, or take a dive?

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.0/5.0
Television Rating: 4.0/5.0

The season premiere opens with a very-funny bit in which Jacob interviews glee club members for his blog and the writers of “Glee” cleverly address some criticisms of the show itself like the song choices coming from “a drag queen’s iPod” or the fact that Mr. Schuester really should stop rapping.

Coach Beiste (guest star Dot Jones, L), Will (Matthew Morrison, R) and Sue (Jane Lynch, C) argue in Principal Figgins' office in
Coach Beiste (guest star Dot Jones, L), Will (Matthew Morrison, R) and Sue (Jane Lynch, C) argue in Principal Figgins’ office in “Audition” the season premiere episode of GLEE airing Tuesday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Photo credit: ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose/FOX

From there, “Glee” picks up with a new year at McKinley High. Both the Cheerios (still hilariously led by Emmy-winner Jane Lynch) and the glee club need new members and face 10% budget cuts that could leave them even more devastated than when they lost at Regionals. Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) pushes his singing students to recruit new members to prove the value of the group and avoid further cuts.

Finn (Cory Monteith, L) and Rachel (Lea Michele, R) share a moment in
Finn (Cory Monteith, L) and Rachel (Lea Michele, R) share a moment in “Audition,” the season premiere episode of GLEE airing Tuesday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Photo credit: ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose/FOX

Meanwhile, a new female football coach presents a potential threat to both the cheerleaders and the glee club as she demands more money from both their budgets. Could Will and Sue work together to ensure each other’s survival?

The writers of “Glee” were smart to keep their protagonists as the underdogs. Losing at Regionals, opening with criticisms, facing cuts — one of the strengths of “Glee” has long been in the way it tells the story of creative arts triumphing over more-traditionally successful sports endeavors. But now that “Glee” is a hit, can it still be believable as the tale of an underdog?

Of course, all you really want to know is which tunes open the season, right? Ignoring the criticism that rapping is not the show’s strength, the club performs a lavish version of “Empire State of Mind” on campus to try and recruit non-plussed members. The execution of a complex musical number that features most of the young cast while nearly everyone around them ignores it is pretty clever as if McKinley is used to this kind of behavior every day. Most of the tunes in the premiere hail from the summer 2010 hit department, a choice that I personally don’t find nearly as creatively interesting as looking outside the charts for inspiration, but I understand the need for “Glee” to become a trendy jukebox every once in awhile. You have to stay current occasionally.

The Glee club watch Sunshine perform in
The Glee club watch Sunshine perform in “Audition,” the season premiere episode of GLEE airing Tuesday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Pictured L-R: Chris Colfer, Matthew Morrison, Harry Shum Jr., Jenna Ushkowitz, Dianna Agron, Mark Salling, Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, Amber Riley and Kevin McHale.
Photo credit: Adam Rose/FOX

“Glee” started its freshman year as not just the best new show of the year but one of the best programs, period. By the end of season one, there were already some concerns that the series was beginning to fade after a few spring episodes that weren’t as creatively vital as the fall arc. When “Modern Family” stole the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, it should have reinvigorated “Glee” to come back even stronger than when it left for summer vacation.

And yet it hasn’t quite done so. It’s way too early to tell after one episode, but this is spring “Glee,” still very good and totally worth the time especially for hardcore fans, but it’s missing that spark that it had for the first half of its first season and I’m starting to wonder if it can ever find it again. The cast is still strong and the production values are high but the season premiere of “Glee” feels like a song we’ve heard before. Perhaps a show this unique and creative is destined to lose some of its power as its originality fades, but it would be great to see “Glee” take a true risk beyond its high concept and feel completely fresh again.

Even if it’s not quite as blow-your-mind creative as when it began, there’s still no denying that “Glee” is unlike anything else on television. It’s still remarkably well-made, continuously clever, and just-plain-fun. It’s not that the show is hitting any false notes in the season premiere — it rarely has in its existence to date — just that it’s singing a song we’ve heard a few times before and even the greatest songs ever lose some of their allure with constant repetition.

‘Glee’ returns on FOX on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 8pm CST. It stars Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Jane Lynch, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer, Jenna Ushkowitz, and Kevin McHale. It was created by Ryan Murphy.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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