This season’s most unexpected success story, Glee is snarky, theatrical, totally addictive — and 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. “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 (Nip/Tuck), “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.” Says co-creator Brad Falchuk, “I keep getting e-mails and phone calls and running into people at parties just telling me the show makes them feel happy.”
For more on Glee — including scoop on upcoming episodes, a spotlight on the hilarious Jane Lynch (Coach Sue), and an inside look at Glee’s budding musical empire—pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, October 23.