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A NEW ARRANGEMENT TWEAKS FAMILIAR TUNE

Fox's new dramedy Glee is reminiscent of things we've seen before - a touch of Fame, a hint of High School Musical. Except Glee provides, not exactly a fresh take, but a few fresh ideas.

High school Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) is faced with a task even more difficult than teaching irregular verb conjugations: He has agreed to head the school's unpopular Glee Club. Will has to pull together his band of Breakfast Club-esque misfits to qualify for regionals. Never mind that Glee has half the members required for competition, and none of these kids even like each other.

To make matters worse, both Will and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Glee's student leader, are caught up in a rivalry with the Cheerio cheerleaders and their coach, Sue (a hilarious Jane Lynch, filling the role of crazy witch). For no apparent reason other than greed and jealousy, Sue does everything in her power to disband Glee, insisting that the "loser" status of those involved will never change. The exception is Finn (Cory Monteith), the star quarterback. Finn's voice is even stronger than his throwing arm. He ignores his teammates' disapproval to become the heart of Glee.

Meanwhile, Will has money troubles, thanks to his greedy wife, Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig). Her selfishness is played for comedy but is the true weak point of the show. Terri is so incredibly annoying that at times I was sorely tempted to fast forward. Will stands by his wacko wife despite his obvious attraction to the scene-stealing, albeit OCD, guidance counselor, Emma (Jayma Mays).

Perhaps the best thing about Glee is the musical numbers. The club's rendition of Journey's classic Don't Stop Believin' is great fun. However, the singing is far too polished to be plausible.

The drama comes from all angles, and while there is less comedy as a result, it makes Glee worth watching. It's one of those shows about believing in yourself and doing what you love, blah blah blah. Conventional, but Glee manages to overcome the obstacle of being weighed down by those corny concepts to bring something original to the small screen. I'm hooked.

Glee Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox

Grade ****

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