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 .

BuzzFeed: "The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now"

The CBS legal drama, now in its sixth season, continually shakes up its narrative foundations and proves itself fearless in the process. Spoilers ahead, if you’re not up to date on the show. At BuzzFeed, you can read my latest feature, " The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now," in which I praise CBS' The Good Wife and, well, hail it as the best show currently on television. (Yes, you read that right.) There is no need to be delicate here: If you’re not watching The Good Wife, you are missing out on the best show on television. I won’t qualify that statement in the least — I’m not talking about the best show currently airing on broadcast television or outside of cable or on premium or however you want to sandbox this remarkable show. No, the legal drama is the best thing currently airing on any channel on television. That The Good Wife is this perfect in its sixth season is reason to truly celebrate. Few shows embrace complexity and risk-taking in t

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it