This Chicago Tribune article struck me when I read it originally and recent tweets with the author, Steve Johnson, prompted me to revisit. [Disclaimer: I started this post as a way to argue to Steve that Glee was in fact better than High School Musical (HSM) only to find out he agrees – he just believes HSM offers a better depiction of the high school storyline it is trying to portray. Seeing eye to eye when you're preparing for a debate doesn't happen every day. Regardless, I thought I'd share a few insights from the post…]
Authenticity of actors
As a product of musical theater I can withstand a high volume of singing and dancing (compared to most), but do have a point where it becomes too much to handle. That point for me was High School Musical – the characters' language and mannerisms felt rehearsed and fake. Glee's male lead, Finn, may not have the strongest singing chops in the industry, but calling him "not handsome enough" plays directly into the the media's belief we need to have perfect people on our TV screens. Finn reminds me of my friends and seems to be the most relatable in the cast. (However, telling your girlfriend's parents she's pregnant by song may not be the most "real" event. It does seem that incorporating a little musical theater into the conversation could be one tactic to lighten the mood.)
Sustainability of ages
I can agree that High School Musical has more of an appeal to high school audiences. Even though Glee is based on a high school plot, is it meant for high schoolers? I know fans of Glee that span from grammar school students to grandpas. Isn't that what Fox aimed to do? Create a story that would appeal to a wide audience albeit with jokes that would be missed along the way (by both the younger and more senior audiences alike).
'Glee' is just cooler
The fact that Glee can bring in celebrities and Broadway stars for cameos or through the freedom to use their music demonstrates the high interest individuals in the industry invest in this program (i.e. Madonna, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Groban, Eve, Olivia Newton-John and Idina Menzel). If we're including outside factors in the cool aspect then the draw should turn into a win for Glee.