The Populist: Ryan Murphy

After six years overseeing Nip/Tuck, his relentlessly dark plastic surgery series, is it any wonder Ryan Murphy turned 180 degrees with Glee? His edgy, uplifting musical program about a misfit-filled high school show choir isn’t just popular, it’s part of the zeitgeist.

Fox had such faith in Murphy’s vision it premiered the pilot episode directly after American Idol’s final round of performances last May, four months earlier than planned. That confidence paid off, with Glee receiving glowing reviews and its songs millions of downloads on iTunes.

The inspiration came from Murphy’s own youthful stint in a less flashy show choir. “It was 16 of us in sad-looking tuxedos and acetate dresses singing Christmas songs. But the world has changed since then,” Murphy told NPR. “When we started writing this, we would go into YouTube, and…look at…these extravaganzas, and they are literally like Broadway-level shows.”

Gay viewers have particularly responded to the unconventional Kurt. “You’ve seen the gay character that gets kicked out of the house or is beaten up,” Murphy told the Los Angeles Times. “You haven’t seen the gay character that is teased a little bit but wins and triumphs.”

Tags: People