BBC America’s The Choir is like a real-life Glee

Tonight, BBC America begins airing The Choir, a compilation of three seasons of a series that aired from 2006 to 2009 on the BBC long before Glee came along. Each is about choirmaster Gareth Malone’s attempts to form a choir from people who don’t sing: first a high school, then an all-boys school, then a small town. BBC America will air the three series back-to-back over 13 episodes on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.

On NPR’s Monkey See, Linda Holmes explains how Gareth managed to get “Grouchy, angry, tired, cynical TV critics who had just survived Conan Gets Fired Week” to sing “Barbara Ann.” (I missed that, alas, as I was interviewing the non-animal stars of animal-themed shows.) And that, Linda writes, gets to the heart of the show, while some reviewers, like The New York Times’ Gina Bellafante, “misses its point entirely” because “the entire point of the show is that you do not have to be a great singer, or a potential solo singer, to love singing in a choir.”

The result of that attitude and approach is a series that’s a lot of fun and has some consequence. If you can get past the British-ness of the series–and I don’t mean that pejoratively, but shows from the UK have a decidedly different tone, aesthetic, and pace than US series, and that sometimes makes them hard for me to fully sink myself into–it’s well worth the 13 hours.

Watch this preview and see what I mean:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.