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Fox's Glee gives it the old golly gee

Glee principals Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison and Cory Monteith.

Premiering: Tuesday, May 19th at 8 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jayma Mays, Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Mark Salling, Amber Riley, Dianna Agron
Produced by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Dante Di Loreto

This might seem like Simon Cowell dampening another double gush by fellow American Idol judges Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi.

For all of its on-air buildup -- including a super-gush by the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post -- Tuesday's "special preview" of Fox's Glee is merely good, not super-duper great.

It's High School Musical with a more adult motif, centering on a crushingly cute teacher determined to return his high school's post-pubescent Mickey Mouse Club to its former glory. Behind the camera is Ryan Murphy, who certainly isn't repeating himself. He's otherwise best known as the producer of FX's Nip/Tuck.

Watchable and at times even lovable, Glee deploys most of the standard cliches in moving toward its promised land. Glee Club maestro Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) of course can find nothing but a handful of outcasts to join his singin'/dancin' crusade. Then along comes closeted show-stopper Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), who's also the McKinley High football team's star quarterback.

His teammates of course think he's gone sissy on them. Particularly a thug named Puck (Mark Salling), who looks like a 25-year-old parolee from San Quentin. But by the end of Tuesday's opener, Finn has unshackled all inhibitions and is singin' up a storm with oft-taunted Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), who at the very least sees herself as the next Kristen Chenoweth.

Amid all of this, Glee's breakout character may be throaty cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). But alas, the actress playing her is billed only as a "guest star." They're going to have to remedy that.

Sylvester makes Glee's first impression while whipping her squad into shape as another school year begins.

"Ya think this is hard?" she barks. Try being water-boarded. That's hard."

Meanwhile, Will sees a Glee Club void when its previous director, Sandy Ryerson (another delish, scene-stealing performance by Dallasite Stephen Tobolowsky), leaves school and becomes a medicinal marijuana dealer.

You've probably already seen this scene a dozen or more times already during the Glee promotional blitz. It's the one where Will says, "I'd like to take over Glee Club." And principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) shoots back, "Would you like to captain the Titanic, too?"

Back home, Will has that sinking feeling. Terri Schuester (Jessalyn Gilsig), his wife of five years, is a shopaholic who wants him to get a real job. "It's not a bad thing to want things," he's told.

Will's true soulmate, who still pines for him, is fellow teacher Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays). But complications arise, which won't be divulged here even though you might see them coming.

Billed as a "musical comedy" in Fox press materials, Glee can be cute 'n' funny as well as sappy and predictable. Its musical selections Tuesday night include Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" (performed by Ohio's state champion glee club); Peter, Paul and Mary's "Leaving On a Jet Plane" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."

The latter pop anthem closes Glee, as it did with The Sopranos' controversial finale. But Glee's not going anywhere. It's already slotted on Fox's fall schedule, to be suitably paired with So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesday nights.

What Glee isn't -- thankfully -- is yet another "procedural" crime hour. It dares to be different, even if it's also hoping to ride the coattails of Disney's HSM.

By the end of Monday's first hour, the show's band of misfits already has become amazingly accomplished on stage. Their learning curve unaccountably flattens out in a hurry.

Glee itself falls appreciably short of amazing but does manage to tantalize. It has ample room to bloom, grow and get its groove on. Or as Will says in closing, "Good, guys. That's a 9. We need a 10."

For now, Glee itself is a 7.