It is hard to believe that we first met the students and faculty of William McKinley High School and their glee club, New Directions, 10 years ago. For six seasons, from 2009 to 2015, Fox’s Glee was the show everyone was talking about.
And ahead of Netflix dropping all six seasons on 30 June (this Sunday!), I got to wondering what made Glee a staple in the lives of so many millennials? Was it the sassy sarcasm, the memorable dance and music numbers or the real-life drama and issues?
Here are 10 reasons why I loved, and still love, everything Glee.
1. The music
A show about show choir is, of course, going to have spectacular songs! From Broadway anthems to popular music and classics of the decades – there was no genre of music the show didn’t venture into with dedicated episodes to musical stars and original songs too. But despite all of the great music over the years, Journey’s 1981 classic, Don’t Stop Believin’ remains the show’s anthem.
2. The characters
3. The humor
While Glee was a drama show, the humor was always there. From Brittany S. Pierces’s one-liners to Santana Lopez’s soul-crushing insults, there was never a dull moment. My favorites were always the “slushie-to-the-face” attacks. It was the official initiation into the school’s glee club.
4. The drama
Despite the humor and musical elements of the show, Glee still featured dramatic storylines. Homelessness, eating disorders, bullying, sexuality, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse – the show ventured into pretty much every territory. Later episodes also featured gender reassignment, attempted suicide and a school shooting – the writers were not shy about what they wanted to tackle.
5. The message
Glee’s main message? Be proud of who you are. Most of the members of New Directions were outcasts and while they had moments where they wanted to change who they were, they always learned to embrace their uniqueness. The show highlighted how to embrace being different and one-of-a-kind.
6. The strong females
Each female character went through moments that pretty much knocked them off their feet. Quinn Fabray giving birth as a teenager, Santana Lopez struggling with her sexuality and coming out, and Marley Rose having to confront her bulimia – the women of the show always rose up from the ashes, bigger and better. With high school being the most debilitating years of a teenage girl’s self-esteem, the show never failed to point out that girls were strong, proud, and could overcome anything.
7. The inclusiveness
William McKinley High School was the most inclusive school to ever grace our screens. A large LGBTQ+ presence with transgender and non-conforming students and staff, as well as the vast ethnic diversities in the cast – Latinx, African-American and Asian-American. Artie Hummel was wheelchair-bound and Becky Jackson had Down’s Syndrome. Collectively, the students had enough diverse life experiences for viewers to relate to.
8. The friendships
The beauty of friendship was rife throughout Glee’s run. It emphasized how much friendship in high school meant. Not everyone got on all the times, but despite the arguments, fights, silent treatments, jealousy, and other typical teenage behavior, the New Directions were always loyal to each other, even after they had graduated and moved on to other adventures.
9. The guest stars
Glee always had the best guest stars that ranged from musical artists to Broadway legends. Gwyneth Paltrow appeared for a recurring arc as a substitute teacher, Idina Menzel arrived as Rachel Berry’s biological mother while her Wicked co-star, Kristen Chenoweth played an old friend of Will Schuester. Other guest stars included Jeff Goldblum (who played one of Rachel’s gay fathers), Ricky Martin (a night-school Spanish teacher), Kate Hudson (a dance instructor at Rachel’s performing arts school), and Neil Patrick Harris (an old high school friend of Will Schuester).
10. And finally… Sue Sylvester
How can we go through a list of the reasons why Glee is the best show and not give Coach Sue Sylvester her own section? She was cruel and demeaning but her sharp tongue and sassy insults – all while wearing her signature tracksuits – made her the most hilarious villain to grace our screens. While she did have a sensitive side, it was her savagery towards students and adults alike that made us all laugh out loud or gasp with utter shock, and she never lost that streak for all six seasons.
Will there ever be another TV series like Glee? With the music, dance numbers, guest stars and Sue Sylvester? Maybe, but even then, it will never be at the level Glee was.