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'Glee' cast and creators meet the Gleeks

"Glee" is the kind of show network executives dream about while their wives are cold-creaming their faces every night.

The Fox musical dramedy is catnip for obsessives. People who will tattoo the letters G-L-E-E on their upper lip. People who will rush up to one of the show's cast members when they spot him on the street and beg him to sign their newborn baby.

Network suits love obsessives (except, of course, when they're on the receiving end of death threats because they've just canceled "Jericho"). Obsessives watch every episode. And they buy stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. In the case of "Glee" obsessives -- "Gleeks" as they like to call themselves while putting their index finger and thumbs up to their foreheads in a big "L" -- "buying stuff" most recently meant tickets to an upcoming "Glee" concert tour, one Los Angeles performance of which sold out in minutes.

About 2,000 Gleeks shelled out good money to sit in the presence of the show's actors, creators and executive producers for one precious night last weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif. at PaleyFest, which is a sort of Comic-Con for The Rest of Us.

The room was quivering with anticipation, like the start of a major sale at H&M, as people climbed into their seats and began to chatter about the show while they waited for the night's activities to begin:

"Oh My God -- remember Amber Riley's dress!?" one Gleek-ette said excitedly to a friend seated behind her. (Amber Riley is an "American Idol" audition rejectee from seasons past who's been cast to play Mercedes, the token non-skinny chick, on "Glee.")

"OMG you wore the same dress!" the friend responds.

"Oh great -- the biggest girl on the show is wearing MY dress!" the first girl argues.

"I love Mercedes!" insists her friend.

"It's like if somebody told you Gabby Sidibe wore your dress!" the first girl complains.

The conversation in the theater continues on this high plane until Craig Hitchcock, Los Angeles executive director of the bi-coast Paley Center for Media, walks out on stage to tell them they are the largest crowd in PaleyFest's 27-year history. The jammed hall begins to whoop and huzzah.

In fairness, this is the fest's first year at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, which, we're told, holds more people than previous venues. Still, we wonder how the "Glee" audience could be larger than the audience that had showed up a few days earlier for "Lost" night, because Hitchcock had told "Lost" fans the hall was sold out, making THEM the biggest audience of this year's festival. How could this crowd be larger unless the Paley Center had allowed Gleek overflow to watch the 14th episode and panel discussion that followed on the closed circuit TVs in the lobby. Oh wait, they did!

When they're told the world has seen the show through Episode No. 13 but they are about to see Episode No. 14, the Gleeks begin to make this massive high-pitched sound. It's like being trapped on one of those all-bird islands on an Animal Planet documentary.

Episode No. 14 is screened: Virginal germaphobe teacher Emma Pillsbury turns out to be an actual virgin. Oh yeah - Spoiler Alert. And, steel yourselves for the next chapter in Sarah Palin's symbiotic You Publicize Me/I Publicize You relationship with the Fox "Hollywood" network.

When the episode is over, cast members are brought out on stage, minus star Lea Michele, but including Matthew Morrison, who plays optimistic teacher/Glee Club leader Will Schuester, and Jane Lynch, who plays scheming cheerleader coach Sue Sylvester. Also brought out are the executive producers, and co-creators, including Ryan Murphy of "Nip/Tuck" fame. Murphy's the guy who made this show happen when he pitched it during a What Do You Want to Do Next? meeting with Fox suits, with whom he had just signed a development deal. Murphy does most of the talking for the rest of the night.

Speaking of Buying Stuff, "when we do a song on the show, the original always returns to the charts," Murphy says. That's in addition to all the downloading of the covers of those songs by "Glee" cast members. This explains why virtually no singer or music group turns down their request to cover their tunes.

Except Coldplay -- and Bryan Adams.

Go figure.

Morrison -- who appears to have pulled out the entire contents of his closet while deciding what to wear for the occasion and, failing to make up his mind, worn one of everything, including a white dress shirt, black skinny tie, black knit cap, and some 60's-refugee jacket that ties at the waist and has epaulets -- complains about the "ridiculous" hours involved in shooting an episode. Imagine his surprise when Murphy says he, Morrison, is going to appear in that upcoming "Glee" tour in some capacity. Morrison makes a crack about how the show keeps repeating the same storyline: OMG somebody else wants to shut the glee club down! -- including Neil Patrick Harris, who plays a school board members in the upcoming, Joss Whedon-directed episode. Ooh snap!

Murphy wants Gleeks to know the show was "born out of my childhood" and Kurt (played by Chris Colfer) is actual him when he was an out and proud teenager, though, in the 70's, Murphy notes, his role models were largely confined to Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. Murphy wants Kurt to be a role model for gay teens today. "I'm not interested in that kid being gay-bashed. I'm not interested in seeing him be picked on," Murphy says.

The healing appeal of the show extends to all current high school misfits, as well as sufferers from ongoing post-high-school traumatic syndrome, Murphy explains. Besides Kurt, there's Artie, a rocker in a wheelchair, played by Kevin McHale (gasp moment when he walks out on stage), and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), an Asian chick who stutters. Murphy's comment plays well in the room, which seems to have entirely forgotten the scene in Episode No. 14 about an "Old Maid's Club" at the school, at which we were supposed to laugh because the girls were all, well, fat and ugly -- or skinny and ugly.

Madonna "in many ways has been the soundtrack of my life," Murphy continues with no regard for how Madonna might feel about having 2,000 people told she's so old she was performing when he was a child. But anyway, he's giving her a whole tribute episode, so it's okay, right! It is going to include covers of 10 Madonna tunes and Jane Lynch performing Madonna's "Vogue" music video, frame for frame.

E! Online gossip blogger Marc Malkin, who is "Glee" night's appointed moderator, wonders if a show that can get away with lines like "That gag reflex will come in handy some day" has trouble getting ANYTHING past the Fox Decency Police. Turns out, the writers were surprised when a Sue Sylvester line, "Shut your mouth before I rape it" got the green light, given that they'd only put it into a script as a joke because they knew the censors would whack it. Oddly, the producers wound up taking it out themselves. Fox's Standards staffers are "not the bad guys," show co-creator Ian Brennan tells the crowd. "America's the bad guys." Of course he's referring to non-Gleek Americans.

Malkin wonders how often people come up to Murphy and start to sing and dance, in hopes of getting on the show.

Pretty much every day," Murphy says, resignedly. But then he talks about a Web site they're launching in which people can post video of themselves singing and dancing, and he tells Malkin they plan to pull three to four of the best and cast those lucky Gleeks in the show next year. Very "American Idol" stuff. (BTW, Murphy says he's had to rebuff the advances of many a former Idolette trying to get a gig on the show.)

Two hours of adulation later, the couple thousand Gleeks jump out of their seats and rush the stage in hopes of getting cast members to write their names on things, which they will then treasure like talismans against loserdom -- or sell on eBay.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  March 16, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Comments

I tried to get Glee tickets for their Radio City Music Hall shows and it was sold out instantly. I am a sad gleek.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 16, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Matthew Morrison comes off as a bit of an ungrateful prima donna in this description ... what's the story there? I imagine there are a lot of people who would be *incredibly* grateful to be on a HUGE hit show like that.

Posted by: mccxxiii | March 16, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

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