LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
About a month ago, I was roaming around on Netflix when I saw that it offered the television show “Glee.” I’d always been semi-curious about the wildly popular show, but had never watched an episode, in part because I don’t watch TV during prime time hours, in part because laugh tracks kind of freak me out.
But here were the first three seasons of a show that everyone had been talking about for years free and available on Netflix. What did I have to lose?
Turns out I had everything to gain. I was hooked the minute the pilot opened with a beautifully executed cheerleader routine. Though my first love is marching bands, I can watch cheerleaders flip around for hours, and these girls and boys were the epitome of the American Cheerleader Dream. The routine ended with Coach Sue Sylvester screaming, “You think this is hard? Try being water boarded — that’s hard,” which promptly had me laughing out loud. (Happily, there was no laugh track to accompany me.) It was love at first sight, and I settled down for a delicious TV binge.
With my husband’s illness still weighing us down, I’d been on the prowl for The Perfect Distraction. And “Glee,” I’ve come to realize, is it.
First, with three seasons available and 22 episodes in each season, that’s nearly 70 hours of potential distraction available — a treasure trove for someone looking to escape.
Second, the show focuses on issues that happen in real life — teen pregnancy, homophobia, bullying — but it doesn’t necessarily make you think about your life. Or, if it does, it makes you think about your life when you were in high school, which was an admittedly awkward time but did have its charms occasionally.
Third, the characters are interesting but don’t get too deep because at any moment you’re only so far away from a joke or witty comeback, which pops any potential for tears or getting too serious.
Fourth, you get to settle into a world in which you can believe all of these amazing singers, a), go to the same school, b), are in high school even though they look 30, c), are able to perfectly harmonize songs the first time they perform them, and, d), always have a band there to accompany them.
While this world is fascinating to watch, it’s also one you can live in vicariously through the characters. Let’s face it, who hasn’t had dreams of having a beautiful voice and performing flawlessly on stage? Especially in front of a boy crush and a girl enemy? I fully admit to it. I also fully admit that somewhere deep down inside me, I still think it might happen one day.
After I’d gotten through a few episodes, I realized that this TV-watching experience could be made even better if I had a partner in crime. Luckily, I knew just who to turn to. Enter my stepdaughter Gabrielle, about to turn 13, just got her braces off, about to deal with the complication of high school.
“You’ve got to see this,” I told her after picking her up from school one day. “Seriously, it will change your life.”
I re-watched the first episode with her and saw her saucer eyes get bigger, her hand go over her mouth when Glee Club star Rachel Berry got a slushie thrown in her face by a football bully, her head bounce around while she subtly couch danced to one of the songs.
Like me, she was instantly hooked, in no small part because Netflix is set up to make exactly that happen. When one episode ends, a screen pops up telling you that the next episode will start in exactly 15 seconds. Why 15 seconds is the optimum amount of time to ensure binge watching I’m not sure, but suffice it to say it works.
Anyway, while we were close before, “Glee” has created an entirely new bond between us, one that I especially love because for once I get to be “cool.” Last Friday, after I’d informed Gabrielle her only responsibility that evening was to sit in front of the TV and watch “Glee,” she squealed and actually said the words, “You’re the best stepmom ever.” (OK, so maybe “Glee” did make me tear up just once.)
At any rate, it’s been fun, light and comical amid an otherwise dark, heavy time. And the best part is we have more than 50 more hours left in our trove.