Friday, September 18, 2009

On Glee

There should be a name for it. That feeling you get when a new series seems to stumble after a strong pilot. The episodes exhibit some of the characteristics that initially won you over, but something isn't right...and there's at least one head-slapping, "How could they?" moment that makes you wonder if the time you invested was wasted. I'm an advocate of giving promising new shows a chance to find their feet, but episodes 2 and 3 of Glee have got me worried.

Just to be clear, I still like the show very much and it deserves to be around for at least a season since whatever Fox comes up with to replace it would almost certainly be worse. But a few points concern me:

  • Glee should either be a musical or a show with music. - There are plenty of opportunities to come up with musical numbers as the New Directions Glee Club gets ready for its showdown with (the brilliantly named) Vocal Adrenalin at regionals. I've been far less impressed with the story-stopping songs that each character uses to describe their feelings. (In the pilot it was Will singing "Leaving On A Jet Plane" when it seemed his teaching career was over) Since the songs for the personal numbers are all well-known, does this mean that the characters can only express themselves in pop cliche? If everyone was singing all the time I might feel differently, but right now these songs feel like an attempt to create more iTunes content.

  • Glee should decide what's going on with Mr. Schuester - In the pilot Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) took over the Glee Club he was once a part of and by the end of the hour rediscovered his love of teaching and seemed to renew his feelings for his materialistic wife (Jessalyn Gilsig). This week Will decided he DIDN'T really want to run New Directions but instead wanted to sing R&B songs in a group with other teachers. Left on their own, the New Directions students reenact the tyrannical choreographer subplot from Bring It On. I think there's room in Glee for a story about Will's marriage and developing attraction to guidance counselor Emma (Jayma Mays), but trying to also develop a storyline about Will long-buried dreams of stardom means the kids might as well be background extras.

  • Glee needs to find a consistent tone - Emotional realism might be a little too much to expect from this series, but the teen characters seem to living in a recognizable world. I'm particularly enamored of budding Broadway star Rachel (Lea Michele) and just outed Kurt (Chris Colfer). The adults are a different story; cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is written so broadly she might as well be in a different show. Lynch is usually a welcome presence and her turn in Julie & Julia showed a subtler side; her performance in Glee is out of all proportion to the style and substance of the show. All the adult characters besides Will are portrayed as socially inept compulsives, and I think they're in danger of becoming tiresome.

    I have no plans to stop watching Glee; it's funny, observant, and usually comes from a place of genuine sweetness. The show's mannerisms can become traps. If you've fallen for the first three episodes too, then let's all hope that the storytelling wins out over bad habits.


    Jen said...

    I have to agree oh so very much with your obeservations. This last week's episode's inner monologue song "I'll bust the window out your car" was by far the most out there one of these yet. The other songs like this seemed to follow the characters back through their real life at least a little - even Rachel's was played off as a rehearsal with a sort of "in my head" angle, but this just turned into an excuse to have gyrating cheerleaders.

    And I have a real problem with the way they've built his wife. There is no redeeming quality about her, so there's no complexity to the conflict. Eventually he's going to find out she's been lying and leave her. We don't give a crap about the materialistic, mendacious witch. We just like sweet, too-quirky-but-what-are-you-gonna-do Emma... by default.

    And here's the thing that I think gets my goat the most out of this show: the music doesn't sound like a glee club. In the second episode, he presents them with brand new sheet music and they sing it perfectly and with a full rhythm section on the first read. The first episode gave me visions of exploring and highlighting the real talents of these actors. But now it all just looks like lip syncing to canned pop hits and - as you said - creating another iTunes download. At this point, I'm not sure I believe that any of these people can actually sing. (The Acafellas?) And that sort of robs the show of its soul for me.

    That said... I'm going to give it a few more chances. I want it to be good. I do.

    Moviezzz said...

    While I love the show, and almost hesitate saying anything negative about it, I have to agree.

    Especially with Mr. Schuester abandoning the club in this past episode. I realize that since Morrison is a Broadway star on his own, it gives him an opportunity to sing, it didn't feel consistent.

    But, I have no problem with the musical numbers. If the show were completely sung, I'd be fine with it. Glee club performances, or other numbers (I loved Lea Michele's "Take A Bow" from last week), I'm fine with those.

    One thing I am surprised with, the show has billed itself as being "family friendly", yet there have been some surprisingly risque jokes, even for FOX. Not that I'm offended, but I think it goes to your point about the show not knowing its tone.

    Todd said...

    Eh, I feel like a lot of the criticisms that can be leveled against this show are those of a show just figuring itself out. And it's an insanely complicated show, with lots of moving pieces. If these episodes were coming in the middle of the third season, say, it would be evidence of a show losing its way, but that they come early in the first season strikes me as something that was inevitably going to happen.

    Jason the TVaholic said...

    I would mostly agree, except about Jane Lynch. She's the only thing that I've consistently liked about each episode.

    My main problem with the show is as Jen mentioned above. It's that each musical performance just looks like a really bad lip-syncing job and it takes me out of the moment, cause it looks so fake.

    Overall, it's still one of the best new shows of the fall.

    Haha said...

    Absolutely agree completely. Glee is the girl/guy you wanted a full relationship with after a first AMAZING date, but it turns out she/he is completely different on the dates that come after. Was it just infatuation or was I wrong about the show? Last week's episode was a vast improvement, but it is still suffering in my eyes.