Fox is Glee-ful About New Musical Comedy

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” contagious? Some find the 1980s classic cheesy, but few can deny the powerful pop hook and emotional resonance that ended “The Sopranos” on an ambiguous note of hope two years ago.

Cast from the anticipated hit Fox show, Glee
Cast from the anticipated hit Fox show, Glee

The irresistible anthem is back in a big way. Each week on American Idol, during commercial breaks, the Fox network has been using the song in promotional spots for its buzzy new series Glee. The first episode of the one-hour musical comedy, which focuses on underdogs involved in a high-school glee club, debuts May 19 following the final sing-off on American Idol.
That just might be the sweetest time slot in television. A post-Idol premiere, given the popularity of the Fox ratings ruler, guarantees extra eyeballs for the offbeat dramedy by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy. In an unprecedented move, Fox will present only the post-Idol pilot and air the rest of the episodes in the fall.

Echoing the catchiness of That Song, performed by the ragtag Glee crew in a key scene, the idea is to keep the show in viewers’ heads long enough so they tune in after the summer break. The sound of Glee will range from “standards with a new twist to hip-hop and very current artists.”

“The show is unconventional,” Fox president Kevin Reilly said. “It is a bit genre-defying. It’s got music, but it’s not a musical. It’s got comedy but it’s not a comedy. … It’s set in a high school but it’s not a high-school show. It’s sweet and uplifting but it is not saccharine. It’s got edge and attitude. So, that is the kind of show that, historically, people would take a while to get their hands around.”

Indeed, the tone of Glee smacks more of Freaks and Geeks than the happy-go-lucky High School Musical franchise. In one cheeky scene, a rival show choir performs the Amy Winehouse hit Rehab, grinning like American Idol finalists during a wholesome group sing-along.

The show, set in small-town Ohio, features a slew of unknowns, including Broadway performers Lea Michele (Spring Awakening) as an ambitious social pariah and Matthew Morrison (revival of South Pacific, Hairspray and The Light in the Piazza) as an idealistic teacher searching for escape from his dull life and demanding wife. There will be future appearances by Kristen Chenoweth and Victor Garber (as Morrison’s father).

Reilly, who greenlit the dark drama Nip/Tuck when he was president of the FX network, said he’s confident “a huge chunk of people” will respond to Glee, which has more heart than Murphy typically offers. According to Reilly, word of mouth is the core of this massive marketing campaign.

“We’ve got every part of the marketing and publicity machine firing on all cylinders for this, and this is something that’s never been done before — to premiere a fall show in May,” said Joe Earley, the executive vice president of marketing for Fox.

Earley outlined a strategy for building buzz through the summer months. The pilot will be available online, along with behind-the-scenes footage, cast-and-character introductions and an interactive competition where people can submit their own Glee-style performances.

Fox will promote the show during the upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance, dispatch street teams to distribute promotional material and reach out to cheer squads as well as glee and drama clubs, Earley said.

Editor’s note: As a reminder, Glee will be airing on Fox on Wednesdays at 9pm.