Freshman TV shows rarely have a dance card as full as Glee‘s. First, the singing-and-strutting cast of Fox’s high school-choir comedy were invited to perform at the Oct. 10 Human Rights Campaign dinner attended by President Obama. Later this month, they’ll be crooning the national anthem at game 3 of the World Series. Even more impressive, they were asked to share the bill with the biggest name of them all: Santa Claus. Macy’s wanted the cast to do a little number on their own float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade…but NBC, which airs the iconic parade, quickly rescinded the offer, not wanting to promote another network’s hit series. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, NBC is now readying an a cappella reality series, The Sing-Off, for December.) Sadly, the cast won’t get a chance to glide through Manhattan belting out their hit cover version of Journey’s ”Don’t Stop Believin’,” but they will get to act out their disappointment in an upcoming episode this season, in which the glee club is denied a spring festival float by sneering cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).
The good news is, those Glee kids don’t need no stinkin’ parades — even without a fancy float, the snarky, theatrical series is a cult phenomenon on its way to becoming a national obsession. The comedy is currently averaging a steady 8 million viewers a week, and the people watching are enviably young: Five million of its viewers are in the desirable 18-49 demo. (It’s little wonder that in September, Fox made Glee the first new fall series to be given a full 22-episode pickup.) Meanwhile, fans are staying engaged even after the episodes are over by downloading the cast’s newest cover tunes. More than 1.7 million Glee songs have been sold since May, and that’s after only seven episodes. (At press time, five songs from the show had made the iTunes top 10.) ”I thought it would be a huge project, but I didn’t know it would be this big,” says Rob Stringer, chairman of Columbia/Epic, Glee‘s label. ”The public appetite for this music is incredibly intense.” Adds the comedy’s co-creator Ryan Murphy, ”It seems to have transcended just being a television show to moving into other cultural areas.”
The number of die-hard Glee fans — or ”Gleeks,” as they call themselves — is bound to grow early next year, when episodes will follow American Idol. The young cast of newcomers is already beginning to see the effects of Glee mania. ”I was at Disneyland yesterday — big mistake,” says Chris Colfer, who plays gay fashionista Kurt. ”I might as well have walked around with a target on my shirt, because those are our fans. I stopped and took pictures probably 40 times in between rides. This one lady got a picture of me on the Tower of Terror and had me sign it.”