One thing I can guarantee anyone who watches the new Fox musical comedy, Glee, Tuesday night: For the next 48 hours after the show ends, you will not be able to get Journey's song "Don't Stop Believin' " out of your head.
For the first 24 hours, that's not such a bad thing - kind of uplifting, in fact. After that, it will start to drive you mad.
But the staging of that song by a group of misfit high school students in glee club near the end of the heavily promoted pilot is so elevating and inspirational that it almost redeems all the stereotypes and lame humor that come before. Grit my teeth as I did at how one-dimensionally empty-headed the writing could be, I will still be back for the start of this series in the fall because of its musical punch.
Producer Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) and the programmers at Fox understand the power of capturing that one shining moment onstage - in this case, when a group of disparate underdog performers comes together and through discipline and hard work creates something transcendent. It was there in Disney's High School Musical (all three versions) and before that, in every successful real-life senior class play ever staged.
And, of course, it's there for the solo performer in American Idol, the mega-hit show that will provide Glee with one of the largest lead-in audiences in TV history Tuesday night. And just in case anyone might miss the connection between the two productions in terms of transformational musical moments, Fox has been endlessly playing a slick promotional ad for Glee that features "Don't Stop Believin'" during commercial breaks all season long.
But, first, there are all these cardboard characters to wade through. There is the mean-spirited and superior cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). She, of course, ridicules the kids in glee club. Then there's the geeky kid who everybody wants to beat up, Arty (Kevin McHale). He, of course, personifies the victimhood of kids at the bottom of the high school pecking order.
There's also the star quarterback, Finn (Cory Monteith), and his cheerleader perfect girlfriend, Quinn (Dianna Agron). Of course, there is also the overachieving, but not so perfect looking girl who longs for Finn, Rachel (Lea Michele). And let us not forget the thick-as-a-block football coach and a school principal who is largely defined by his East Indian accent.
I know comedy on Fox is not exactly Noel Coward, but I just wish Murphy and his writers had made some attempt to add a stroke or two of nuance to one or two of the characters.
Thankfully, there is a little more going on with Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), the young teacher, who against the advice of everyone, including his wife, decides to take over glee club. Schuester believes his best days were when he was onstage as a high school performer. In trying to get back in touch with his own passion, he inspires some in the crew of seemingly kids looking to him for guidance.
The final staging of "Don't Stop Believin'" is inspired - as only the sight and sound of ugly ducklings made beautiful by music can inspire (think Susan Boyle in a high school musical). Those viewers who hang around until the end of the pilot to see and hear the production will be blown away.
But the question I was left with as I got up from in front of the screen: Can the music make up for all the deficiencies in acting and writing week in and week out next fall?
Who cares? The musical selections from tonight's pilot - including "Don't Stop Believin'" - are already available on iTunes.
(Fox) Starring Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch. Created by Ryan Murphy. Premieres 9 p.m. Tuesday on WBFF, Channel 45.