Brimming with Glee

Fox Broadcasting Company

Fox Broadcasting Company

 

Sunday night Australian time, Channel Ten will air the pilot episode of the FOX network USA’s promising new musical-dramedy Glee; an infectious and charming affair set amidst the everyday dramas of high school, and the fledgling efforts of the once glorious but now misunderstood Glee Club. A decidedly American tradition, a Glee Club is somewhere between a choir and a dance troop, an all-singing, all-dancing mini-Broadway musical in every performance. After learning that the previous Glee Club supervisor has been fired (for somewhat scandalous reasons), Spanish teacher Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison), one of those rare teachers who teaches purely for the love of it, and with the hope and faith that he can make a difference, decides that a rebirth of the Glee Club might be the very thing he has been looking for to help inspire the all-too-jaded teens, and perhaps infuse some joy in them along the way.

Rachel Berry, the Glee Club’s leading lady, is a dramatic over-achiever who is all too aware of her talent and wants nothing more but to perform. Thanks to her gay fathers, Rachel has been instilled with a love of musicals from a very young age, and posts a new MySpace video every day performing a favourite Broadway classic. Lea Michele is an inspiring and exciting casting choice in the role of Rachel, having originated the female lead in the critically acclaimed rock musical Spring Awakening—(Michele won the role when she was 14, developing it through several workshops and off-Broadway performances until finally, at age 20, the show made its Broadway debut)—the belting tunes are left in more-than-capable hands. Finn (Cory Monteith) is Rachel’s male lead, the jock that is conned in to joining the Glee Club by Mr. Schuester—by some not-so-savoury means. Finn represents the every-guy, the guy who’s just trying to fit in, but who in a moment of passion, realises that singing is what he loves, regardless of whether his football team-mates think it’s cool or not. Other notable characters include: Sue Sylvester, the aggressive and driven high school cheer squad coach played to perfection by Jane Lynch, most recently notable for her hilarious turn as a cater-waiter in Party Down; Emma Pillsbury, the school guidance councillor with a phobia for germs, played by Jayma Mays most recognisable for stand out guest starring roles in Ugly Betty, Heroes, and Pushing Daisies; and Kurt Hummel, the obviously gay musical-theatre nerd who is resigned to the fact that the jocks will beat him up, just allow him time to remove his Mark Jacobs jacket, played by relative newcomer Chris Colfer.

Glee represents a marked change for executive producer Ryan Murphy, (who co-created Glee along with Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan), his most famous credit being creator and executive producer of the daring, controversial, and highly sexualised Nip/Tuck. Glee may appear to be worlds away from the happenings of Nip/Tuck’s plastic surgeons with their physical perfection and highly dysfunctional personas; yet, Glee too shows signs of the quirky originality and edgy self-awareness that initially made Nip/Tuck stand out. These qualities, coupled with the infectious enthusiasm of the Glee Club members, and the myriad of guest stars already lined up to take turns in Glee including Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Eve, and Josh Groban, all point to Glee being an exciting, intelligent, entertaining, and delightful edition to Channel Ten’s line-up. The first season of Glee debuts in the U.S on September 16th, and will air here in Australia shortly after. Don’t miss Sunday night’s preview episode, 9:30pm on Channel Ten.

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Will Dollhouse Deliver?

TVGuide.com, courtesy Kurt Iswarienko/Fox

TVGuide.com, courtesy Kurt Iswarienko/Fox

 

Friday night U.S time marks the premiere of one of the most highly anticipated and hyped shows in television history, Joss Whedon’s new Sci-Fi series, Dollhouse. The one-hour drama series from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel marks the auteur’s return to television, after the short-lived run of his previous Sci-Fi series, Firefly. Starring Eliza Dushku as Echo, an ‘active’ living and working within a secret organization wherein, ‘actives’ can be hired and their personalities implanted with a series of characteristics necessary for their current mission. After their role is complete, these characteristics are removed from consciousness, leaving the active in a state of blissful ignorance, of almost childlike unknowing.

The series’ development so far has been marred by very public re-writes, re-shoots, work stoppages, a killer timeslot (and I don’t mean that in the post-modern ironic sense), and questions about the lead thespian’s capabilities. All of which the mainstream entertainment media have taken as a sign of disunity, maybe speaking towards a larger problem between Whedon and the Fox network. Whedon himself however, has assured fans that the situation with Dollhouse is very different to the struggles of Firefly, and asserted that these teething problems were all at his request, in the greater interest of creating a more captivating and compelling pilot and a unifying start to the season. See Ausiello’s interview here, and Eliza Dushku’s response to the situation here.

All this attention ensures that Dollhouse will have a healthy pilot ratings share, despite its Friday night timeslot, however the scrutiny will also mean that the show has a tough mountain to climb to live up to the hype. In this regard, perhaps Friday night is not a bad slot to begin in, enormous ratings will not be expected by the network and within the context of new media formats, the show will still be found by its faithful prospective audience through DVR and TiVo playback, and online viewing. With less pressure placed on ratings, the show may be allowed time to build a larger audience before being shelved prematurely due to under performing, which is more likely to occur on a Monday or a Thursday night when the networks pay their bills. Fox’s move to program the most hyped show of the millennium on a Friday may seem like a death sentence, but ultimately, it could end up working in Whedon’s favour; especially considering that early reviews of the pilot (the re-shot, second pilot) are not fantastic, which points to the show needing time to establish itself.

I for one am looking forward to seeing what the show has to offer, and I certainly hope that, given time, Dollhouse can live up to its predecessors. I am also interested to see what in fact Dichen Lachman can bring to the table, as whatever it may be eluded me during her days on Neighbours. Whedon, however, is somewhat known for discovering talent in unknowns, and I hope that Lachman is the same, for the show’s sake as much as for her own.

One aspect of early reviews that disappoints and concerns me is the observation that Dollhouse lacks the comedic wit that Whedon is famous for. The humour in Whedon’s previous works is a huge part of their charm, and to see it not utilized would be a great shame, and may in fact serve as Dollhouse‘s undoing. I hope, that humour will begin to be woven in to the text as the show progresses, but I can’t help but consider that lack of humour is a conscious decision made by Whedon to heighten the isolation and desperation of the actives’ circumstance within the dollhouse. I guess only time will tell.

Here in Australia, we will be unable to watch Dollhouse on free-to-air TV, as Channel Ten, who originally bought the rights to the show, has now sold them to FOXTEL’s Fox8. This is frustrating, especially since Dollhouse would have been a pretty good fit with Channel Ten. However, perhaps Whedon fans can take comfort in knowing that at least Dollhouse will air in Australia, which is more than could be said for Firefly. Furthermore, I still hold out hope that Hulu could pull off its international deal soon, allowing us to watch online for free. Otherwise, there’ll be a long wait ahead for A DVD release. Dollhouse premieres in the U.S on Friday the 13th of February at 9pm. Fox8 has not yet set an Australian air date.

Channel Nine: One step forward, Two steps back

TVGuide.Com, courtesy Andrew Eccles/The CW

TVGuide.Com, courtesy Andrew Eccles/The CW

 

Hey upper-east siders, Gossip Girl here, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite world of television in Australia.

So, this was going to be a post about how happy I was that channel Nine in Australia had started to air Gossip Girl, albeit at 10:30pm on a Wednesday during summer non-ratings period, but instead, it’s just going to be an angry rant. Channel Nine originally bought the rights to Gossip Girl back in mid-2007, but on-sold them to FOXTEL’s Fox8 because it didn’t feel the show fit its demographic. Clearly channel Nine is committed to its whole crime procedural/reality vibe, because I honestly couldn’t tell you anything else that they screen. Listen up Nine, you’re not ‘the one’ anymore, it isn’t working, move on. You need to take a chance on some original programming that doesn’t involve a blue light and evidence bags. Gossip Girl was your chance to begin to attract a younger audience. OK, let’s not kid ourselves, this show isn’t going to win any Emmys, but it’s deliciously fun, and bitingly funny, and never fails to entertain. However, it was probably never going to work out, because you wouldn’t have invested anything in promoting it (anyone remember Nine airing three episodes of The O.C before giving up on it? Probably not, because it was barely promoted; Channel Ten bought the rights from Nine, promoted the hell out of it and it became a ratings staple for the underdog.) 

Anyway, I will try and get back to the original point of this article, before I digress again at the end. Gossip Girl has been airing on pay-TV network FOXTEL, with the second season premier set to air tonight. But of course, not everyone can afford, or even wants FOXTEL. Channel Nine, after the show’s now proven success, has picked up the second-run rights (or perhaps these were part of the original sale agreement) to air the first season. Although all the cool kids have already seen it, this is a step forward for free-to-air television and the Australian television industry. Pay-TV has not been the success story here in Australia that it is the U.S. People are not willing to part with their hard earned money for a boatload of garden design and cooking shows speckled with biographies of washed up stars. However, increasingly, FOXTEL is gaining the rights to more and more first run original programming from the U.S, and is producing more quality Australian shows such as Love My Way. This is making it harder for the average Australian to get access to these original and quality shows. The fact that Nine has finally decided to screen Gossip Girl, despite its ridiculous time-slot, means that more people can have access to this exceedingly addictive show. It is a trend that has been occurring increasingly, most notably with Channel Ten’s brilliant pick up of Showtime’s Dexter, which brought quality, original programming to Ten’s Sunday night line-up. Season 2 of Dexter will screen on Channel Ten early 2009, while Showtime will be screening season 3 on its Showcase channel at the same time. I hope Ten continues to acquire such quality programming – even if it is second-run, still, the majority of the country has not seen it – and I can only hope that Nine and Seven follow suit.

Now, on to the continuation of my rant. In my post about Pushing Daisies a few weeks ago, I mentioned that channel Nine would most likely air the brilliant but cancelled series over summer beginning in December, well, while doing some research for this post, I have discovered that this is no longer the case. Channel Nine has sold the rights to its swag of Warner Bros. shows which includes Pushing Daisies, as well as the successful and delightfully funny NBC spy comedy Chuck (incidentally also from Josh Schwartz, the creator of Gossip Girl and The O.C), and the action thrill ride and highly-acclaimed Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. FOXTEL really is becoming a force in the quality TV stakes, and if Nine keeps selling its original content to them, it’s only going to get harder for people to access quality television programs in this country. In this regard, Nine really has taken one step forward, and two steps back in terms of providing Australian’s access to great, entertaining, and well written television programming. I really hope they see the error of their ways, stat, and stop bulking up their schedule with more crime and legal shows.