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.


  • Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    "Reversals of Fortune" - Gossip Girl, episode 3.1

    I've come to the conclusion that GG doesn't really get going until the characters go back to school. There is something about the lazy days of summer, where the next party is only a few hours away and a butler is waiting to take your drink order, that limits the writers' imaginations and gives us a slow season premiere like last night's "Reversals of Fortune.

    Serena is just back from Europe and as usual the subject of intense tabloid coverage after a summer of partying. Jenny and Eric have managed to keep all the gossip away a distracted Rufus, who's thinking about actually having to parent since Lily is away taking care of her mother. As usual Dan is so thoroughly in his own head that everything going on with Serena comes as a surprise. I'm pretty much over the Dan and Serena relationship but I'm sure the writers aren't; on the other hand without Serena to drool over we'll be treated to a story arc in which Dan tries to become editor of the NYU literary magazine.

    In the season 2 finale we were treated to the "outing" of Dan as an guy with just as many skeletons and indiscretions as anyone else in the GG world. That theme is developed further this week when Dan lies to Vanessa about his use of a limo to meet up for a coffee date and then ignores her at a charity polo match. Let's be honest: Dan likes this life but he doesn't belong in it. Will that prove to be his downfall this season? Too early to tell, but perhaps he'll flourish in the more egalitarian world of NYU. The fact that Vanessa is now dating Dan and Serena's unknown half-brother Scott will clearly come up again, but for now let's just say that the GG casting department made a rare mistake. I can't imagine seeing the actor who plays Scott on the cover of Teen Vogue or singing with Cobra Starship.

    The website Gossip Girl Insider has dubbed the Blair/Chuck coupling "Chair," but I prefer "Bluck." One thing I'm sure of is that fall semester will see the end of Bluck's role-playing sex games, who can pick up models when you've got to study for an econ final? But seriously, Blair is as insecure as ever in the relationship. After all last season's ups and downs I think Chuck will be relatively stable for a time, and maybe that will allow Blair to actually discover she's good at something? We can dream....Jenny and Nate wandered around the fringes of this episode as did James Naughton as Nate's manipulative grandfather. Political intrigue seems to be on the menu for Nate this season, though perhaps Bree Buckley (great name for a conservative political family) is a con artist whose true agenda has yet to be revealed. Oh wait, they've already done that....

    And why did Serena traipse around Europe with Carter? Her father. Does anyone think this is the last we'll hear of him?


    TV on the Internet, Episode 19: The Emmys Can Only Disappoint You, so You Might as Well Learn That Now

    Our big time Emmy predictors -- Erik Dean Anderson of Awards Daily's forums and Big Ted of For Your Speculation -- return to once again crush our hopes of Chloe Sevigny winning on a write-in vote. (Both also post at Culturish.) We're going to be discussing which shows will win the Emmys this Sunday and which won't. After that, Libby and Todd take us through ten of the biggest shows on right now in just ten minutes. There's a stopwatch and everything! Please keep voting for us on iTunes! Your reviews and ratings have us climbing the ranks, and we will NOT BE STOPPED.

    We're available on iTunes, or you can check us out at Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle or the TV on the Internet libsyn page.

    And if you like the show, consider a donation by clicking on the PayPal link over at the right. Remember, you'll get your name on the air and could get to choose some show for us to review!

    Look after the jump for complete details.

    TV on the Internet, Episode 19: The Emmys Can Only Disappoint You, so You Might as Well Learn That Now

    Here's a direct link to the episode.

    Time codes follow. There are MAJOR SPOILERS for a variety of shows, so you may want to skip over a segment if you haven't watched the shows discussed therein.


    00:00.00-01:01.00: Music by Deer Tick and Emmy talk
    01:01.01-01:17.18: Todd and Libby check out ten shows in ten minutes and preview what's coming up in the fall season.


    Prepare for the Emmys here (

    This Week's Music:

    Born on Flag DayDeer Tick
    "Smith Hill" (mp3)
    from "Born on Flag Day"
    (Partisan Records)

    Buy at Rhapsody
    Buy at Napster
    Stream from Rhapsody
    Buy at Puretracks
    More On This Album

    Clips are from 30 Rock (episode: "The Funcooker," script by Donald Glover and Tom Ceraulo), The United States of Tara (episode: "Aftermath," script by Diablo Cody), Breaking Bad (episode: "Peekaboo," script by J. Roberts and Vince Gilligan), Brothers and Sisters (episode: "Missing," script by Nancy Won and Jason Wilborn), Lost (episode: "The Incident," script by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof) and Mad Men (episode: "The Fog," script by Kater Gordon).


    (We'll post 'em as you make 'em.)