The Big Leap Can Finally Deliver The Perfect Glee Replacement

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The Big Leap Can Finally Deliver The Perfect Glee Replacement

With its great soundtrack and underdog vibe, Fox’s new dramedy The Big Leap is the perfect Glee replacement for the streaming era. Here’s why.

Fox’s new hour-long dramedy The Big Leap can finally deliver the perfect Glee replacement for the streaming era. Set in present-day Detroit, The Big Leap features embattled reality show producer, Nick Blackburn (played by Scandal and Felicity star Scott Foley) looking for a second chance after his previous reality show famously went down in flames. Saddled by the network with a cheesy, reality show dance competition that he is sure will fail, the hot-headed Blackburn rediscovers his passion for his job during the casting process.

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When Glee first hit the airwaves in 2009 it was an instant smash. Featuring the perfect mix of clever writing and directing, perky, fresh-faced newcomers like Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Naya Rivera and Chris Colfer — not to mention seasoned TV and Broadway vets like Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison — and covers of pop-rock classics by bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon, Glee became a pop-culture juggernaut. A critical and commercial hit from the pilot onward, Glee was also a bright, shiny light on the TV horizon for audiences looking for something hopeful and uplifting in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession.

Just like Glee, The Big Leap also happens to be hugely timely, which makes it the perfect show for pandemic-weary audiences as it’s fun and energetic. The Big Leap’s heartfelt, upbeat tone and energy set it apart from the pack as the heir apparent to the late, great musical-comedy TV series, which ran for six seasons before ending in 2015. While Foley’s Nick Blackburn skews a bit darker and more pessimistic than Matthew Morrison’s kindly Will Schuester, watching him come alive again while putting together the cast for his show-within-a-show sparks warm memories of Mr. Schuester returning McKinley High’s glee club to its former glory, despite the odds.

Like all great musicals, Glee used the songs the characters sang to convey their rich and often complicated inner lives, even in guest star cameos, such as Neil Patrick Harris’ cover of “Dream On.” The Big Leap does the same thing through dance. And while the show has a large ensemble cast with juicy subplots for everyone from the reality show’s fiery former ballerina/host Monica Sullivan (played by Galavant’s Mallory Jansen) to Blackburn’s long-suffering assistant Alan (Tim Lyons), the heart of The Big Leap, as with Glee, are the performers. Meet The Parents’ Teri Polo plays a frustrated middle-aged mom/former ballet dancer in an unhappy marriage, former SNL regular Jon Rudnitsky plays unemployed, recently-divorced factory worker, Mike Devries, and newcomer, Simone Recasner practically pops off the screen as single mom Gabby Taylor. The fact that all three of them are looking for a second chance as a dancer by competing on the show — not unlike the way the Glee kids looked for validation and a sense of belonging by singing together in the club — renders their missions all the more compelling, especially for fans of classic underdog-makes-good shows like Glee.

In the end, though, the thing that really makes The Big Leap this generation’s Glee is the show’s breezy, fast-paced storytelling. In Glee’s Emmy award-winning (and arguably best) first season, Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy and company used the ingenious ticking clock plot device of regionals to propel the story forward at a breakneck pace. The Big Leap incorporates that same energy into the first cut auditions, the team dance rehearsals, and the initial casting process for the reality show’s performance of Swan Lake. But The Big Leap’s reality show conceit has an additional leg up on Glee because Blackburn’s camera crews are able to follow the characters everywhere they go. It’s too early to tell if the show will be TV’s next pop-culture phenomenon, but by retooling many of the elements that made Glee such an enjoyable ride, The Big Leap is definitely a worthy Glee replacement.

Tomás Romero is an award-winning writer-producer from Los Angeles. He has written screenplays for Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Telemundo and MTV. He also writes about movies, future travel tech, inflight entertainment and Hollywood for a host of print and digital media outlets worldwide. Romero’s wry, darkly satirical poetry collections, Does This Mask Make Me Look Fat? And Other Poems From The Lockdown and PTA DAD: Foul-Mouthed Poetry & Prose From A Real-Life PTA Dad are available now on Amazon. Follow Romero on Twitter at: @TNRomero and Instagram at: @TNRomerowriter

When Glee first hit the airwaves in 2009 it was an instant smash. Featuring the perfect mix of clever writing and directing, perky, fresh-faced newcomers like Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Naya Rivera and Chris Colfer — not to mention seasoned TV and Broadway vets like Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison — and covers of pop-rock classics by bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon, Glee became a pop-culture juggernaut. A critical and commercial hit from the pilot onward, Glee was also a bright, shiny light on the TV horizon for audiences looking for something hopeful and uplifting in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession.

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