Fox's megahit Glee returns Tuesday night with its much-hyped season two premiere. One of last season's highest rated new TV series, the show dominated the pop culture zeitgeist over the past year. Part comedy, part Broadway, part soap opera, Glee filled a niche for something that until that point hadn't existed on television: an of-the-moment, referential, and —most importantly—high-quality television musical series.
The show spawned Billboard-charting singles, four Emmy awards, countless parodies and tributes, a nationwide tour, and record DVD sales. Thusly, Glee fans ("Gleeks") are counting down the seconds to Tuesday's premiere. Not among the thousands who shelled out $90 for a ticket at a tour stop, or the 11 million viewers who tuned in to last season's finale? Fear not, we've put together a Cliffs notes study guide for season one: the five things you need to know before season two begins.
1. Everyone's an Archetype
Much like The Breakfast Club before it ("Dear Mr. Vernon...You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal..."), Glee casts its characters in conventions. Each high school archetype is represented, and then splashed with (a Slushie of) caricature and cliché.
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Rachel is the tenacious star of the glee club, New Directions. Her ambition, ego, and sense of entitlement is matched by her hidden insecurities—and backed up by her talent. Her male lead is Finn, a bumbling jock with vocal chops who fumbles his way into the choir, convincing his MILF-hunting, tough-guy best friend Puck to join with him. Mercedes is the black girl with the big voice and 'tude; Kurt is her sassy gay best friend. Artie and Tina round out the band of misfits: he is in a wheelchair, wears glasses and tucks his sweater vests into his slacks; she has pink streaks in her hair, wears finger gloves, and stutters.
The prim, judgy, and bitchy cheerleader role is filled by Quinn, with Heather and Santana as her ditzy and trampy sidekicks. The earnest choir director with the heart of gold and speech of schmaltz is Will Schuester, and the hubris-redefining Sue Sylvester coaches the Cheerios cheer squad—in between crushing the glee kids' dreams.