Skip to main content

Is BBC America's The Choir The Anti-Glee?

It's a provocative question, really. Is BBC America's newest British reality import, The Choir, the exact opposite of FOX's musical-comedy Glee, despite the similar choral trappings?

It is, in every conceivable way and that's a very good thing indeed. The Choir, which launches tonight at 10 pm ET/PT, finds plucky choirmaster Gareth Malone attempting to create a competitive choir out of a group of musical novices at a run-down comprehensive school where music isn't an important element of their education. (You can take a look at some clips from The Choir here.)

With a spot at the World Choir Olympics in China on the line, Malone attempts to fashion these teens into world-class singers and teach them the joys of performing in a group. It's no small task, given that many of these teens are at-risk to begin with and none of them have any formal training.

The result ends up being paradoxically gritty and uplifting, as the cameras not only follow Malone as he attempts to awaken their slumbering musical abilities but also follows the teens home as well, focusing on their own adversities: anger problems, an absent father, a general inability to commit or to attempt to overcome a challenge.

Unlike Glee, these issues raised aren't wrapped up by the time the credits roll at the end of the episode; rather, they spill over from week to week as Gareth butts heads with his teenage choir members and attempts to rein in egos, attitudes, and expectations.

There are no showy daydream numbers here, no auto-tune, no anvil-heavy thematic storytelling. Just a rough docu-style approach that captures the small moments between rehearsals: a gathering of Gareth's opera friends and his search for sheet music is juxtaposed against the travails of modern life: a family awaits word whether their pater familias will be granted a visa to return to the United Kingdom, a mother frets about her daughter's tardiness, a young girl sees the consequences of her actions as she is barred from participating in the choir.

But it's not all doom and gloom, either. Gareth's drive and determination to pull off the seemingly impossible task of shaping these young singers into a single and competitive unit is refreshing in an age of cynicism; his efforts to give these kids a creative outlet and open their minds to something other than pop music is admirable, even as his efforts to get them to sing some Vivaldi is, er, met with some resistance.

Likewise, the series captures the joys and heartbreak of adolescence as well: the excitement that comes from landing a spot on the choir after open auditions to the despair of those who don't. (And those who, to their later chagrin, discover that not all of them may be heading to China to compete.)

The result is uplifting and entertaining in equal measure, not to mention genuinely emotional. Be prepared for the tears, though not the melodramatic kind. There, after all, are no fake pregnancies going on here.

The Choir launches tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on BBC America.

Comments

Harryette said…
Based on your review this seems MUCH more enjoyable than Glee--kind of like a Jamie Oliver special rather than a wannabe Lady Gaga video. I'm looking forward to watching it!
Anonymous said…
I love the Choir but I do not think compairisons between it and Glee are necessary. One is a scripted television show with professional performers . One can like them both for different reasons. I happened upon the Choir quite by accident and am so happy I did. It has so much heart and the choirmaster is a sweetheart.

I'm greatful for and enjoy both shows.

Peace ,
Lee

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

Me Want Food: Jenna Gets Famously Fat on "30 Rock"

I don't know about you, but I've already ordered my "Me Want Food" t-shirt from the NBC store. Last night's episode of 30 Rock ("Jack Gets in the Game") was, in my opinion, one of the strongest of the series and has officially pushed the zany comedy into the realm of Arrested Development : deftly plotted and intricately layered, with so many jokes piled atop of jokes that it requires several viewings in order to catch them all. While at its heart, 30 Rock is a workplace comedy, it's left that narrow pigeonhole behind to become a witty example of how intelligent and taut humor can work (and flourish) on television... and exist in harmony with hilarious throwaways like the Thriller -inspired Werewolf Bar Mitzvah music video that would have done the AD crew proud. I want Will Arnett to appear on this series whenever possible. His gay exec Devin is hilarious, manipulative, and has an inexplicable weakness for Kenneth the Page, but he claims to have

"Gilmore" Guy: Who is New Showrunner David Rosenthal?

A few days later and I am still processing the news that Gilmore Girls showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino--and her exceptionally talented husband, writer and producer Daniel Palladino-- announced their departure from the whip-smart drama after six seasons. The news wouldn't be such a blow, save for the fact that Gilmore Girls is as much about Amy and Daniel as it is about Lorelai and Rory. In their capable hands, the show explored a supremely complicated family dynamic through the beautiful friendship of mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory... and did so with smart dialogue usually found in a Nick & Nora film rather than on television. Zany subplots abounded as did quirky, beloved supporting characters. And now, after six seasons (including this most recent--and very shaky--season where Amy and Daniel wrote less episodes than usual), Amy and Daniel are passing on the showrunning torch to... Dave Rosenthal?!? For those of you in the audience unfamiliar with David Rosenthal ,