There is nothing Hollywood likes better than a theme party and last night TV's big wigs assembled the themeiest of launches, going back to the land of their primal fears, high school for the Glee premiere.
The bash was held at a mid-sized Culver City school, which for the night became the show's William McKinley High, rife with "Join Glee Club" and "Cheerios Rule" signs, re-creating the show's cheerleader vs. accapella singers rivalry. The staging of that division however, hit the roadblock of there being no obvious costume to signify accapella singing. Thus, hostile as it might have seemed to the show's characters , the premiere staff was clad entirely in cheer and football costumes, starting with a recreation of that most precious of scholastic traditions, the Cheerleader Car Wash, featuring mini-skirted Cheerios sponging down a Chevy Equinox SUV - the show's major sponsor.
Valiantly keeping with the theme, the show's first post-pilot episode was aired in the school gymnasium, causing the assembled Hollywood Power Elite, sitting on folding chairs and bleachers, to fight back the urge to let their neighbors know how much better this would have looked in their private screening rooms. Silently they chanted to themselves, "It's only a theme. It's only a theme."
Many power players struggled valiantly however to assert their sense of selves and turn the gym into an impromptu agency board room, working their Blackberries overtime to create a power mystique.
Crushing the hopes of all the struggling writers who had come spec scripts in hand, just before the episode rolled it was announced that Executive Producer Ryan Murphy was not with us; sadly he was in Rome shooting a film with Julia Roberts. Murphy's co-Executive Producer Dante Di Loreto took the mic to introduce the cast, thank the assembled executivery, and present a giant fake check to the charity Young Arts Association.
For those who loved the pilot, the episode which airs tonight shall not disappoint, with the comic musical crescendo set to Salt 'n Peppa's Push It particularly delighting. Hollywood premiere crowds are not the types to rise to their feet and shake that booty in their Hugo Boss, but the booty shakin' was much implied in the room nonetheless.
The premiere buffet presents the most significant hurdle any TV show or film must cross. The dilemma of how much to keep with the theme with the food has brought low many a mighty tentpole. On the one hand, you stick to close to the theme and you risk culinary disaster for the sake of effect. I've been to the premiere of a film set on an airplane where they kept so close to theme that they forced Hollywood's elite to dine on boxes of ham and cheese sandwiches and Pepperidge Farm crackers. Admirable as their consistency was, the decision likely doomed the film at the box office. On the other hand, walk away from the theme and your sense of showmanship is called into question.
Handed the high school theme, Glee if anything choose to err on the side of showmanship, but not without some compromises to culinary standards. As the buffet was set up in an actual high school cafeteria, they were handed first base in the setting, which they played through nicely by dressing the servers in hair nets and aprons, the food served from sneeze-guarded racks.
The food itself attempted some haute variations such as "mac and cheese with toasted breadcrumbs." However, when it came to the short rib dilemma, one could sense the caterers throwing up their hands at artistic consistency. The problem being that the entertainment establishment passed a law a few years back that you can not throw an industry event without serving short ribs. But how do you make short ribs seem like the short ribs you were served back in high school? It's an impossible dilemma. You don't. You can not. So in this case Glee brazenly marched away from the theme and offered braised short ribs with panca sauce. The result, it must be said, was a triumph; much artistic liberty can be forgiven for such a success. As it could with grilled asparagus spears with white balsamic glaze.
The dessert selection however, likely erred too far on the side of artistic consistency — creating a mock bake sale table with mock homemade cookies. Admirable choice, but really was there no way to work in a chocolate fountain?
In any event, overall the buffet speaks very well to Glee's prospects in the martketplace.
The cafeteria style dining no doubt caused many of the Hollywood elite present to flash back to the days when no one would let them sit at the table at lunchtime, and there were some nervously flashing eyes as people carried their trays through the crowd looking for a place to sit. The "which is the cool table" question was made no easier by Fox TV President Peter Rice's decision to remain on his feet throughout the night, setting himself up as Switzerland between the warring cliques rather than the BMOC. Producer Dante Di Loreto and the show's star Lea Michelle (shown above) followed suit, remaining on their feet.
Dinner consumed and this being a musical show, the non-power suit section of the crowd took to the dance floor, breaking into an admirably syncopated line dance to the beloved classic Baby's Got Back and making onlookers feel that perhaps life really could be like a musical.
Speaking on the sidelines, I chatted with Iqbal Theba the veteran character actor who landed the role of McKinley High's conniving principal after playing a role in Ryan Murphy's Nip/Tuck. Clearly thrilled by Glee's buzz, he told me his character was drawn from an uncle who "used to think he was a CEO. Even though he was not a CEO, in his confidence he had this way of manipulating everyone to do what he wanted."
Principal or no, eventually even Theba, the school's authority figure, could not resist the lure of the dance floor.
As the night wound down, it was indeed time to put a ring on it. Literally, sorta. As the Beyonce hit came on the PA, the show's Chris Coffler, and two of the show's Cheerios grabbed the spotlight on the dance floor, breaking into a complexly coreographed routine to the song. Many on the floor may have thought it was cheating to pull out a piece from the show, but the crowd cheered wildly and as we drifted out to the valet, much of the Hollywood Power Elite pondered what might have been if their own high school days had featured a lot more singing and dancing and a lot less of them getting beaten up by the cool kids.