Gleeks singing same gaudy song, new verse

Fresh off its 19 Emmy nominations, "Glee" returned to William McKinley High School's hallways last month with its highly anticipated second season. After its first few showings, however, has "Glee" given fans reason to break out in song?

To recap, New Directions, the underappreciated and underfunded show choir, is trying to recover after a last-place performance in the regional competition. After having the summer to reevaluate, the club vows to make it to this year's national competition in New York City. Easier said than done, though; the club finds itself short of the 12 members it needs to compete when random background character Matt leaves school. Will Schuester, New Directions' coach, founder and one of the only teachers this school seems to have, looked to fill the vacancy in the season premiere episode, "Audition."

Meanwhile, Artie and Tina have broken up, and Finn and Rachel are dating. Quinn, after putting her baby up for adoption, is back in cheerleader form and is forcing her return to Queen Bee status. Puck, the father of Quinn's child, got a vasectomy. A bunch of new characters have been introduced including football player Sam, international student Sunshine Corazon and kindhearted football coach Shannon Bieste. Also, Santana has new boobs.

If all of that seems like a lot to take in, that's because it is. But never fear: episode two, "Britney/Brittany," was simpler. School counselor Emma Pillsbury's new boyfriend, a dentist named Carl, gives the Glee kids a lesson in oral hygiene which somehow results in most of them going for checkups and experiencing strange but inspiring Britney Spears hallucinations. Cue dumb blonde Glee member Brittany S. Pierce shaking it better than Spears herself in a jaw-dropping take on "I'm A Slave 4 U."

Season two appears to reprise all that's good about "Glee," and also all that's bad. The music has been phenomenal, with iPod-worthy renditions of songs including a killer take on Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." The comedy is spot-on, the emotions are perfectly played and cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, played by Emmy winner Jane Lynch, is still the greatest thing to grace airwaves.

Yet all of the things that have ever hampered "Glee" are still here: the inconsistency, the extreme mood changes from one episode to the next, the difficulties of balancing a large cast and the sometimes paper-thin plots.

"Glee" is still a tunefully unrealistic romp with a bunch of talented outcasts. Yes, everyone is a stereotype; yes, Rachel Berry is almost unbearably annoying and yes, auto-tune has been employed on occasion.

This may give fodder to people who think "Glee" is, in the words of in-show blogger Jacob, "nothing but a glorified karaoke club designed to make the inventors of auto-tune millions of dollars," and there's nothing in this season to convince them to quit hating and join the Gleeks in singing "Don't Stop Believin'."

"Glee" knows what these naysayers think and doesn't care. Like its fabulous character Kurt Hummel, "Glee" is self-aware but never self-conscious, cognizant that being different is the best thing it has going for itself.

"Glee" airs on FOX, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.