Who would have thought that a cult television series about a misfit high school show choir would be taking the world by storm? The musical comedy, Glee, which first aired in 2009, has already been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and 19 Emmy Awards.  Glee’s featured music – recorded by the actors themselves – is a runaway success in its own right, with more than 4 million digital downloads sold and two soundtracks already certified gold.

The show centres on the lives of various high school outsiders and a long-suffering teacher who are brought together in their school’s Glee Club. Matthew Morrison (who was nominated in the best actor category of both the Golden Globes and the Emmy’s for his role) plays Will Schuester – McKinley High’s Spanish teacher who takes on the abysmal Glee Club, hoping to restore the choir to its former glory. The club itself features every stereotypical high school geek imaginable, including a goth with a stutter and a pregnant cheerleader (who is, ironically, also leader of the Celibacy Club).

The show has also featured guest stars such as Olivia Newton-John and Josh Groban, who essentially played parodies of themselves. Neil Patrick Harris, star of How I Met Your Mother, also featured. Harris won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor for his appearance.

The show has received phenomenal attention on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. The official Facebook page has almost 6 million fans. YouTube has also been overrun by the so-called “Gleeks” (glee + geek), with thousands of videos of fans re-enacting their favourite numbers.

Arguably the show’s most phenomenal success is the music. Surprisingly, Glee features re-worked versions of current and classic hits and no original content. The cast’s cover versions have charted on the Billboard Hot 100, which is almost unheard of for a musical soundtrack. In October 2009, one month after the show first aired in the U.S., music from the show held 10 spots on the iTunes list of top 200 downloaded songs.

The use of certain songs in the show has also proved beneficial for the original artists. The pilot episode featured a version of Journey’s “Don’t stop believing”, which gave the 80s hit a huge resurgence in popularity and it began charting again alongside the Glee version. Many artists are jumping on the bandwagon, with some even offering up their music for free. Despite this, there are a handful that turned the producers down, including Coldplay, Kings of Leon and Bryan Adams. However, Coldplay later reconsidered and allowed Glee the rights to their entire repertoire.

Despite the show’s obvious success, it has not been without its fair share of criticism. Variety magazine deemed the cast “over-the-top buffoons” while Time magazine claimed the show seemed to encourage “strange” behaviour in teenagers.

Regardless of whether you’re a “Gleek” or not, Glee is definitely here to stay, having just been picked up for a third season. The cast is set to return for season two on local screens next year on M-Net. If you can’t wait that long for your fix of Glee, Season one, Volume one has just been released on DVD in South Africa.

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