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Why Glee has become glum

Glee is back for its sophomore year with a new football coach, two new ear and eye-catching students, and an identity crisis for big man on campus Finn.

There's also something of an identity crisis for the hit series as trouble comes fast and furious for the McKinley High glee club and its members in this season's debut episode, which aired on TV3 earlier this week, there's barely room for the buoyancy that infused Glee last season.

"Let's show them how down we are," says club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), challenging his students to stage a number that will persuade others to join the club branded as a way station for losers.


Instead, the new series itself verges on being a downer.

Will goes to the dark side with cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, Rachel's self-absorption becomes ickier and, most unsettling of all, a molestation accusation is played, literally, with a wink.

But there's still joy to be had in the series that was nominated for a best comedy Emmy Award, losing last month to Modern Family, as the glee clubbers make the most of Empire State of Mind and Lea Michele, as Broadway-bound belter Rachel, owns (no surprise) What I Did for Love.

There's also the introduction of two fresh-faced students with singing chops: an exchange student with a big smile and bigger voice (played by teenage pop star Charice, whose fan club includes Oprah Winfrey); and a golden-boy athlete (Chord Overstreet of iCarly, with cuteness of Justin Bieber dimensions).

Can they help McKinley's New Directions, which last year fell short at the regional competition, make it to the nationals in New York and defeat arch rival Vocal Adrenaline? Maybe.

The other McKinley newcomer is a female gridiron coach with a winning record, who quickly proves a formidable rival for Sue (Emmy-winner Jane Lynch), chief of the Cheerios.

Coach Shannon Beiste (which is apparently pronounced "beast" because "it's French," she helpfully explains) wants the school budget to put football ahead of cheerleading.

That won't do for Sue, who enlists Will in a plot to undermine Beiste (an effective Dot Marie Jones).

A "female football coach is like a male nurse: sin against nature," snarls Sue. Coach Beiste doesn't quite have the hang of trash talk, telling Sue, "You're all coffee and no omelette."

Quarterback-singer Finn (Cory Monteith) becomes an inadvertent victim of the faculty clash and has to cope with the fallout while nurturing his reignited romance with Rachel.

Finn's former love, Quinn (Dianna Agron) is back in pre-pregnancy form and ready to reclaim her spot as Cheerios queen bee.

Santana (Naya Rivera), meanwhile, is finding that the quest for physical perfection comes at a price. In its first year, Glee neatly combined music, edgy humour and coming-of-age poignancy.

As long as pain doesn't eclipse the show's charm, Glee viewers will have something to sing about as the season unfolds.

The new series of Glee is on TV3 on Wednesdays at 8pm