Gleeful Review: You Gotta Have Moxy Kid

June 7, 2010 by  
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GLEEFUL: Monday 7th June, E4, 10pm ALERT ME

Gleeful – you might have guessed – purports to investigate the rising popularity of Glee clubs across America and in the UK following the immense success of the television show. In actuality it’s part advertisement for Glee (which also airs on one of Channel 4’s subsidiary channels) and part aggrandisement of American High School culture. In its introductory segment a handful of talking heads ruminate on the short comings of British schools with predictable soundbytes; British schools have a “grey vibe?; Glee clubs “look like a Broadway show, they don’t look like a school assembly?.

In case you hadn’t worked it out yet your parents basically abused you by confining you to an English education where you couldn’t dance your socks off to power-ballads.

According to the governing conventions of debates concerning trans-Atlantic differences, Britain is Church of England and bad teeth whereas America is glossy and fluoride-white. Proof, if ever it was needed, that American propaganda stemming from the 1950s continues to permeate mainstream British culture and self-perception. Perhaps they’ll think differently when a disaffected geek opens fire with a semi-automatic, driven to murder by the incessant singing and aspirational crap fed down his throat on TV. One suspects they’d still deflect criticism back to England – “That Cumbria nutter was nothing compared to Columbine – the Yanks really know how to blow each others’ brains out with aplomb?.

Having established the fact that England is s*** and America is the closest a teenager purely raised on television will ever come to experiencing Heaven (even the talking heads from across the pond are better than ours) we are then propelled into the bizarre world of School Choirs in the States. Over the years these clubs have transformed from what looked like ordinary school variety shows into heavily budgeted song and dance extravaganzas. They’ve become so popular and overly-endowed financially that schools invest in hiring Broadway choreographers which, in turn, has started to attract head hunters from the Big Apple. Of course, this isn’t the case for 99% of American High Schools but Gleeful isn’t concerned about that. Instead it prefers to adhere to the image projected by the show which is why we’re really watching, right?

Never wasting an opportunity to fawn over the sensation that is Glee (the narrator at one point gushes “Ah Glee – the TV show of the decade?) most of the interviewees in some way reflect their fictional counterpart. Nakiya, an overweight black girl, fits the bill as Mercedes because she’s also black and overweight. Look! Glee isn’t just some dreamed up fantasy! It’s REAL! Fearing that this isn’t enough proof there are then a string of various awkwardly camp teenagers who act as stand-ins for Kurt. Stripped of expertly written dialogue they serve, in actuality, as the antithesis to Glee.

Whilst Gleeful performs an admirable job at promoting Glee clubs –or to call them by their official name ‘School Choirs’ – they crucially miss an opportunity to explore the darker aspects underlying proceedings, namely that of the rigorous schedule that requires many students to train to Broadway standards. Anyone with even a brief knowledge of theatre will realise the immense demands placed on performers who aspire to act on the stage and know that it comes at a cost. Quite what price students must pay to be a part of Glee club is ignored amidst the overtures for a concept so uniquely American and therefore over-the-top.