Joining the 'Glee' club

I've laughed. I've cried. I've sung along to bad Journey and Rihanna songs. I've even re-thought my long-held belief that being a theater critic reviewing musicals week-in, week-out would be the worst job in the newsroom.

All of this because of a silly, sentimental, soap-operatic and absolutely beautiful Fox TV series called "Glee."

At its best, "Glee" — about teenage misfits who find their identities and common ground through singing — reaffirms the positive role music can play in our lives, no matter who we are or which cheerleader we've been tricked into thinking we knocked up.

At its worst, the series still proves that a fluffy, farcical, scripted TV series can be way better for this world than bottom-feeder reality shows.

"Jersey Shore," I'm talking to you. Not that you read newspapers.

Emmy voters, TV critics and the mass public already have given "Glee" the recognition it deserves. Which is why it's surprising that someone like me who usually avoids top-rated, Emmy-winning network TV also has been swept into the show's ridiculously chipper pull. Even the promise of an all-Britney Spears episode hasn't diminished my enthusiasm for the second season, which kicks off tonight.

Fox is already hyping the new season with the cast's remake of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," which should be available on iTunes later this week. These "Glee" songs have been a sizable boost for a sagging music industry, selling more than 10 million digital downloads and lending exposure to the artists being covered — you know, up-and-comers like Jay-Z and his little-heard quadruple-platinum songs. "Glee" producers are also promising another Lady Gaga tune this season. We definitely need more of her.

But "Glee" isn't about one genre of music, one actor, one type of kid or one particular high-school clique. It's about the commonality we all discover at the core of whatever music or form of artistic expression we choose — a lesson we can reapply to life, politics, marriage, etc.

Hardly a sociopolitical juggernaut — its most poignant message might be to get up and dance to forget the world's woes —"Glee" is more often just a simple but smart portrait of that vast political war zone known as high school. It's akin to the teenage wasteland that John Hughes presented in movies like "The Breakfast Club," where the stereotypes are believable, but are also only there to be broken.

Now you know


oThe second season of the Fox series begins at 7 p.m. today on cable 4 and Channel 24.