On Tuesday nights at 9, there is only one place to find Half Hollow Hills High School East ninth-grader Kayla Kauffman - in front of a television watching "Glee." "I run to the couch and sit down," Kauffman says. "I make everyone be quiet so I can hear it."
The show about a high school glee club in Ohio has become a pop-culture phenomenon. It was developed for high schoolers, but tweens and parents have also fallen in love with the racy story lines, teachable moments and flamboyant musical numbers. Tuesday brings the season finale, when New Directions faces off against rival high school glee club Vocal Adrenaline.
Kayla won't be alone on the couch - across Long Island, the TVs of rabid fans, who call themselves "Gleeks," will be tuned to Fox.
For the uninitiated, a quick synopsis: The fledgling show choir at William McKinley High School gets a boost when the football team's quarterback, Finn, is coerced to sing, confusing the school's popularity hierarchy by fraternizing with the geeks.
Plot lines include lots of bullying of glee members by the jocks - Artie, who is in a wheelchair, is locked in a portable toilet; Kurt, who is openly gay, is slammed against the lockers as if he's a human football (Finn frequently comes to the rescue).
The head cheerleader gets pregnant and decides to have the baby and put it up for adoption; the cheerleading coach is a hilarious witch with a wicked tongue who slips a date rape drug into the principal's drink and then blackmails him with photos when he gets in her way. The lead female glee student, Rachel, has two gay dads and is looking for her mom - who turns out to be the coach of Vocal Adrenaline. Do you follow?
All of the drama is punctuated by musical numbers performed throughout each hourlong episode, which have featured renditions of songs from Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Madonna to Queen, Journey and Burt Bacharach.
The main lesson of the show: It's OK to be a nerd in high school. "Accept who you are. You don't have to change, just so everyone likes you," says Kayla Kauffman, 15.
"I like that it's about a group of teenagers who come together, no matter who they are, and participate in glee," says Michael Esposito, 15, a freshman at West Babylon High School. "It has something that really doesn't happen in life - but should happen." It's also made people more aware of how much fun kids have in the performing arts, he says. Esposito is in choir and jazz choir at his school.
"It gives them validation that what I'm doing can be fun, and maybe now it can be cool," says Barbra Bresin, director of the "On Center Stage Theatre" camp at the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack.
There are some controversial - yet teachable - moments.
Alanna Smith, 11, of Commack, started watching "Glee" after her mom read that the episode was going to feature Kurt and Rachel performing the song "Defying Gravity" from the Broadway musical "Wicked." Alanna loved that show, so mother and daughter watched that episode together. Now, they're both addicted. "My mom watches with me every week," Alanna says.
"I am totally hooked," mother Lisa agrees. "It's given us something to watch together."
While the shows feature contemporary music, they also feature music for the older generation - a recent show featured Lady Gaga and also Kiss. "I grew up with Kiss," says Smith, who is 44. "I love the song 'Beth.' "
However, Smith is sometimes unnerved by her fifth-grader seeing all the show's content. "There's a story line about teenage pregnancy that I don't love her observing," Smith says. "But it gives us an opportunity to talk about things."
Megan Keane, 12, of Farmingdale watched the "Madonna episode" - in which three characters contemplate losing their virginity - with her mom. Awkward? "It wasn't that bad," the seventh-grader says. "I was just like, 'Oh, God.' "
"The show's content addresses issues this audience is too young for," mother Catie says. She thinks Megan can handle the content but warns other parents to try to watch along with their younger children.
Kayla Kauffman says she often is rooting for the characters to do the right thing, such as when Rachel thought about having sex with Jesse but ultimately decided she wasn't ready. "I was kind of screaming at the TV, 'Don't do this! This is a bad decision!' " Kauffman says. "And then I was happy that they made the right choice."
Fans say they're already looking forward to next season. They'd like to see more about how Artie got paralyzed and about how Kurt's mother died. And maybe there'll be a bigger role for Tina, the goth character with the blue streaks in her long, black hair played by Jenna Ushkowitz. Ushkowitz is a Long Island girl - she was born in Seoul, South Korea, adopted and raised in East Meadow. She is a 2004 graduate of Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville.