Glee, E4
Material Girl, BBC1

A new US sitcom gleefully pokes fun at 'High School Musical' clichés, and the Brits fall flat in the fashion world

At the end of last year, I would have been perfectly happy if I had never had to endure someone emoting their way through a power ballad or shimmying off their sequins on the small screen again.

If The X Factor, Strictly, Britain's Got Talent et al demonstrate anything beyond the bloody-mindedness of the British and the folly of men who wax their hands, it's that singing and dancing, two of the oldest forms of human entertainment, can make ludicrously dull telly.

Stripped of any real context and performed by people you couldn't care less about, even a pitch-perfect rendition of an old favourite or the most accomplished samba routine can leave one cold, if not comatose.

So as news of an all-singing, all-dancing TV comedy set in an American high school began to snowball into predictions of the next pop-culture phenomenon, I feared I was going to find myself, once again, missing the gene that would allow me to participate in the fun.

Relief, then, after the first episode of Glee, to find I'm human (or at least vaguely in accordance with the majority of E4 viewers) after all. The basic plot is thus: good-guy teacher Mr Schuester resurrects his school's musical performance club (known as "glee" clubs in the US) with the help of a variety of fat/gay/disabled/ swotty misfits and an all-American jock who just happens to have a heart – and vocal cords – of gold under his football sweater.

Nul points for noting that it's far from original and replete with stereotypes; the writers know they are treading on clichés and are out to have some serious sport. From the ball-breaking female cheerleading coach who knocks back protein shakes while delivering one-liners worthy of Dirty Harry, to Schuester's charmless, Martha-Stewart-on-Prozac wife, it's unashamed caricature, with each scene as highly choreographed as the dance routines. This, for example, is a world where bullies courteously allow their victim to remove his box-fresh Marc Jacobs jacket before manhandling him into a rubbish bin.

Such slick stylisation might begin to cloy were it not for a punchy script that's often very funny and casually provocative. Disability, ethnicity and homosexuality provide pretexts for punch lines, and although it seems obvious that these gags are intended to ridicule the prejudices of the moronic or outright lunatic characters who deliver them, it's still a bold tack that takes an anodyne tweeny format into adult terrain.

Ironically, thanks to their essential function in the plot, the song and dance numbers slip into the action seamlessly – no spontaneous outbursts of canteen choreography so far anyway – and feel like one of the least contrived element in the show. It's very Broadway, with its big voices, wide eyes and white teeth, but since I can't remember the last time I had some decent comedy served up coherently alongside some crowd-pleasing musical numbers, I was happy to sit back and enjoy the jazz hands.

If Glee grabs its stereotypes and gives them a big, bone-crushing bear hug, Material Girl, the BBC's new fashion-world drama, lacks the courage even to shake hands with the stock characters it promised to deal with.

The first episode found young designer Ali putting the finishing touches to what was supposed to be a fabulous high-end collection backstage at a Paris fashion show. Sadly, it looked more like the latest Ann Summers range had exploded all over the catwalk and the credibility of the show spiralled downwards from there on.

The problem with the costumes (The Apprentice has better-dressed casts) is one of many. Worse is the uneven tone – Dervla Kirwan, who went high camp with her arch bitch performance, clearly didn't get the memo that told the rest of the cast they should play it straight to the point where they seemed to be boring themselves.

The whole thing is accessorised with some crudely sketched moral dilemmas ("Is fashion more important than being a good person?"), lots of clunky name-dropping and a female Iraq veteran with Hollyoaks body whose post-traumatic stress appeared to be solved by a skimpy orange dress.

The fashion industry may be many things, lots of them worthy of a send-up, but it is rarely dull and never worthy so it's baffling that Material Girl managed to be both. An independent report published earlier this week suggests that the Beeb should spend less time and money chasing 16- to 35-year-olds and focus on quality broadcasting. If confirmation were needed, this series is it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone