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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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. 

Much Loved but Seldom Seen: ABC passes on ratings challenged trio

TVGuide.com, courtesy Andrew MacPherson/ABC

TVGuide.com, courtesy Andrew MacPherson/ABC

 

Sadly, my prediction about the fate of Pushing Daisies in my recent post was apparently prophetic. Whilst checking out The Ausiello Files on Friday I read the sad news that ABC has cancelled not only Pushing Daisies, but also other cult favourites Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money. ‘Quality television’, as Ausiello puts it, has suffered a serious blow. Although I hadn’t been keeping up with Eli Stone, from all I have heard it was a delightful and original concept, garnering much critical attention and attracting big name guest stars such as Katie Holmes, who performed a musical dream sequence in the second episode of season two. Created by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim (of Brothers & Sisters fame) and with the entire first season written by the pair, it was certainly a show on my list for future viewing, perhaps over summer. Dirty Sexy Money (also executive produced by Berlanti) was a guilty pleasure of mine, but I am not really surprised it has not been renewed. Despite its stellar cast, I just haven’t felt the ‘appointment television’ vibe from it this season, and I feel it is another show that’s momentum was damaged by the WGA strike. I will however, miss the oh-so-wrong sexual chemistry between Darling twin Jeremy (Seth Gable) and the older woman, wife of Jeremy’s lawyer, Lisa George (Zoe McLellan).

The only light at the end of this story is that apparently all three shows will finish production on their ordered episodes, but as Ausiello points out, them being finished and them actually airing are two different things. Let’s hope ABC grants us this small virtue and lets the final episodes of these three terrific shows go to air. If, however, this is too much to ask, we thankfully live in an age of DVD box sets! 

Pushing to save Daisies

ABC.com

ABC.com

 

ABC’s delightful and imaginative series Pushing Daisies could be nearing the end of its run on network television. Production has started on the last episode of its 13 episode order, with sluggish ratings suggesting the network will not order a back 9 pick-up of the cult favourite. Campaigns are underway to help save the series, here and here.  Daisies got off to a great start in its first season receiving much favourable critical attention, but was halted drastically by the WGA strike, and it seems it has straggled to regain its original momentum. As a new show trying to make its mark in the televisual landscape, and with one of the most bizarre premises a TV series has ever seen, it was arguably one of the shows hurt most by the strike. Daisies aired just nine episodes of its first season before being shut down, and ABC executives decided not to order additional episodes once the strike was over, (something they did with their other favourites Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty), instead choosing to hold off on new episodes until the next American fall season. This meant that a show that had barely found an audience was absent from TV screens for almost 10 months; a long time for any show let alone a quirky little one that had only ever aired nine episodes.

Pushing Daisies stars Lee Pace as Ned, a pie maker with an unusual gift; he can bring life to dead things with his touch. Once touched a time limit of one minute applies whereby Ned must touch the thing again, committing it to death forever, or something else must die in its place. Ned decides to use his powers for good, solving murders with local P.I Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) by touching murder victims and getting vital information from them within the one-minute time frame. Anna Friel plays Ned’s childhood sweetheart, Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles, who is murdered and subsequently brought back to life by Ned. The rules of Ned’s gift however mean that Ned and Charlotte, although clearly in love, can never touch – ever.

If you’ve never seen the show the premise reads as highly convoluted, but in viewing it, its delightful, unique and refreshing; a true original in a landscape of law, crime, and hospital dramas. Its high production values are evident in its rich and textured sets, costuming, and special effects. The whole thing feels like a fairytale, a storybook being played out in real life. The general rules of television don’t apply here, and there are often moments of pure, unpretentious joy.

Waitress Olive Snook, who works at The Pie Hole with Ned, is an irreverent, sassy blonde whose love for Ned is evident to all but Ned himself. Played by the enchanting and incredibly talented Kristin Chenoweth, Olive is prone to musical interludes such as her fully orchestrated rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ delivered as she shuts The Pie Hole for the night; or her duet with Chuck’s Aunt Vivian (Ellen Greene) ‘Make a Little Bird House in Your Soul,’ an elegy to the grief Vivian feels over Chuck’s supposed death, and how Olive suggest she should deal with it. Vivian also has her own musical moments, such as her hopeful and bittersweet rendition of ‘Morning has Broken,’ delivered as she walks from her house into the rain, a new woman reborn from the grief and depression that has plagued her.

Pushing Daisies is a visual fantasyland, with a decidedly 50’s throwback aesthetic coupled with heightened colour and stylisation. It even feels emotionally like a 50’s family drama, with its sense of innocence and jubilation. It is witty and charming without any sense of highbrow television elitism. It is quite simply, fun.

As of today Channel Nine in Australia has no scheduled date for when they will begin screening this gem, but I was advised by their programming department it would most likely air over summer, from mid-December onwards. If you can’t wait that long, and I hope I have convinced you that you can’t, Pushing Daisies is available from Amazon.com in Region 1 format.