On the TV screen in Cassie Nelson's basement, "Glee" cast member Lea Michele breaks into the opening strains of "Gives You Hell" by the All American Rejects.

"I love this song," said one of the nine members of Lincoln East High School's show choir, Express, which gathered at Nelson's house to watch the Fox comedy's spring premiere.

It wasn't long before the teens in the room began singing along to the chorus:

"When you see my face

Hope it gives you hell

Hope it gives you hell ..."

They can't help themselves. It's what they do.

Well, to a point.

"We can't bust out in harmony the way they do (on ‘Glee')," East senior Mike Foley said. "We have to learn the harmonies."

The freshman comedy on Fox returned from a four-month hiatus Tuesday, and nobody is happier about it than the East High show choir kids.

A group of them became fans after watching the show's first 13 episodes together during winter break after the episodes were released on DVD in late December.

"They love it," East's choral director Dottie Smith said. "They come in every day and talk to me about it."

"Glee" was created by Ryan Murphy ("Nip/Tuck"), Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, with the pilot episode whetting appetites last May.

The comedy is about a high school glee club made up of a diverse group of students. The series features cast members singing covers of well-known songs.

The first season premiered Sept. 9, with a rerun of the pilot. Fox picked it up for a full season 12 days later. In January, it won the Golden Globe for best TV series, musical or comedy.

"Glee's" ratings had been modest, averaging 7.9 million weekly viewers through its first 13 episodes. However, Tuesday night's episode drew the show's biggest audience yet of 13.7 million viewers. The show's success has mainly come through its music, with more than 2 million digital sales to date.

"It's definitely a unique program that speaks to the kids," Smith said. "I thought when it first came out, they would think it would be lame and not buy into it. (The show) is obviously speaking their language. It's making them think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that's what we do.'"

The teens in East's show choir say they enjoy "Glee" because they identify with the TV ensemble.

East's 38-member choir, like the one at fictional William McKinley High, is a diverse group made up of cheerleaders, athletes and other students with varied interests.

In addition, Express is beginning to come into its own during its fourth year of existence. The students admitted they weren't very good when they started.

But this year, at the Grand Island Invitational in February, Express beat friendly rival Resonance, Lincoln Southwest's show choir, which is considered the best in Lincoln and perhaps one of the best in state. The choir members compared it to McKinley's New Directions upsetting rival Vocal Adrenaline on "Glee."

"It was just amazing," Smith said.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffkorbelik.

Q & A with East High's Express

Nine members of East High School's 38-member show choir, Express, gathered Tuesday to watch the spring premiere of Fox's hit comedy "Glee." Here are their responses to these questions about the show:

1. Which is your favorite "Glee" character and why?

2. How is the show choir at East like the one featured in "Glee"?

3. If you could mash-up two songs, what would they be and why? (Not all students answered this question.)

Ty Wahl, junior (dance captain)

1. Finn would have to be my favorite character because of his character's backstory. He was the jock who figures out his singing and dancing talents, and my story is very similar. I love sports and I love show choir, so it is hard to do both.

2. When I first joined our show choir my freshman year, we were like the "Glee" group in the first episodes. But as my experience grows, we are getting so much better, and we are challenging the top groups.

3. "Love Story" by Taylor Swift and "Love Lockdown" by Kanye. Perfect!

Ethan Walsh, sophomore

1. Artie! He is one of the most talented, and he is in a wheelchair. It shows that anyone can do anything if they really want to.

2. There are actually very few similarities. We do both sing and dance, but you have to audition to be in varsity show choir. We compete a lot more and it is more competitive.

Cassie Nelson, senior (dance captain)

1. I just really like Rachel. Lea Michele is just fantastic.

2. When Express first started, we were pretty much terrible, but we've put a lot of work into it and gotten a lot better. We also have a lot of variety in our group as far as people. We have cheerleaders, football players, band kids. ... We all get along really well.

Brittany Gondringer, sophomore

1. Kurt, of course! He's clever. I like that. And he has an amazing voice.

2. Well, there's a lot of breaking out in random song, but it usually sounds better on "Glee!"

3. If I could take all the "Glee" songs and mix them up into one awesome, amazing mashed-up thing, I would! But honestly, I have no clue.

Mike Foley, senior

1. Mr. Schuester, mostly because I want to do just that when I grow up. I'm going to be a music ed major at UNL, and so, hopefully, I will be able to be a great leader soon. Although Lea Michele's voice is fantastic.

2. We grew as a group exponentially. When I was a new sophomore in the group, we were almost comically bad. But as the past three years have gone by, we've become a legitimate group and begun to make finals on our own right. We also have a LOT of couples, like a majority of the group. We're also as dedicated to our choir as they are on the show.

3. The Killers' "Human" and Darude's "Sandstorm" for something to dance to. In terms of a vocal piece, I'd go with Michael Buble's "Cry Me a River" and Coldplay's "Viva La Vida."

Eric Fawl, junior

1. Mr. Schu, because he has a great fashion sense. Also because he's the most talented.

2. We sing and dance. ... We sucked when we first started, and we're still a work-in-progress, but we're moving up the ranks.

3. "Teddy Bear" and "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley.

Aaron Zart, junior

1. Mr. Schu!!! He is the most talented and also because of his smile ... just kidding ... because he sings well.

2. We sing and dance, and we have improved a TON since the beginning of the year. We also come from different walks of life (i.e. athletes, musicians, speechies, cheerleaders, etc.).

3. "The Nicest Kids in Town" and "(It's) Hairspray" from "Hairspray" because they are great songs and really fun to sing and dance.

Caitlin Phelps, junior

1. Mercedes! She's got soul!

2. The social life is similar, but, of course, "Glee's" drama is a little much. We're all pretty close-knit. The variety of people in our group is amazing, just like "Glee."

3. Every "Glee" song!

Alli Morton, senior

1. Kurt!! He's so confident and is completely himself. Plus, he has a beautiful soprano voice. Totally lovable in a guy!

2. It's not. We both sing and dance, but that's pretty much it. We don't learn songs or new choreography every week. The fact that it's so different is why we love it!