A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Glee is an edgy teen comedy featuring a diverse cast, positive messages of cooperation and acceptance, and topics such as homophobia, bullying, substance abuse, teen sex, death, and other envelope-pushing topics. There's some occasional iffy language ("bitch," "damn," "hell"), some derogatory terms such as "cripple" and "fairy," and occasional references to genitals. There's also a bit of name-dropping when it comes to brands, and the cast performs songs by an endless number of popular artists ranging from Aretha Franklin and Frank Sinatra to Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, and Madonna.
What's the story?
In GLEE, high school Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) renews his own passion for music by starting up a glee club composed of talented misfits. His star pupils turn out to be a pitch-perfect but unpopular overachiever Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), a well-rounded jock whose friends practically disown him for putting singing before sports. Other glee club members such as Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), and Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) also add their talents to the group. Will is committed to the club, but his home life (early in the series), with an overbearing wife (Jessalyn Gilsig) and spats with cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), isn't as fulfilling. As the series progresses, the glee club faces pregnancy, love, first-time sexual encounters, and even death -- and express much of their thoughts about all of it with song-and-dance numbers.
Is it any good?
The combination of offbeat characters, fantastic performances, and a willingness to take on controversial topics in a sensitive manner make this show a winner despite its many flaws. Some critics have complained about Glee's uneven narrative and its overreliance on song-and-dance numbers at the expense of story development, but its hip sensibility has music-loving teens buzzing. The show's atypical blend of high school fare similar to that in Election, High School Musical, and Mean Girls is exciting, as are guest appearances by artists such as Ricky Martin, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Neil Patrick Harris.
If you love singing, musical theater, or show choir, Glee is going to make you happy. For one thing, there's the presence of two big Broadway names (Morrison has starred in shows such as Light in the Piazza, while Michele is known for her stellar work in Spring Awakening). Adding to the fun is the talented supporting cast that includes the always-reliable Jane Lynch (of Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and Party Down fame), a comedian whose gift for deadpan one-liners practically guarantees she'll steal any scene she's in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of high school hierarchies and whether students of any age truly divide themselves into insular groups like they do on Glee. Kids: Does your school have cliques, and do you ever have trouble making friends outside the lines? Parents: Do cliques still happen in adulthood, or is high school its own world?
Do you know anyone who's had a problem with bullying (either face-to-face harassment or cyberbullying)? Have you ever tried to stop someone from getting picked on?
How realistic is the show's portrayal of high school? Are the characters relatable? How do these students change during their years in school?
- Premiere date: May 19, 2009
- Cast: Cory Monteith, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison
- Network: Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Great boy role models, Great girl role models, High school, Music and sing-along
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.