“Glee” Mid-Season Review: Another Opinion

12/10/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Eva Medoff

“Glee,” Fox’s high school drama and show tunes extravaganza, started off in such a hailstorm of pop sweetness, it was like guzzling a pixie stick. Pithy, culturally relevant dialogue? Check. Top 40 tunes mixed with theater classics? Check. Large ensemble cast, so we never get bored? Check. It was like a dumbed down “Freaks and Geeks,” with less emotional depth, and more musical performances. It introduced us to the likes of motor-mouthed Lea Michele as showstopper Rachel Berry and Jane Lynch as the nonsensical, scheming cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. And then, somehow, it started to trip over its own feet. Plot lines appeared and then disappeared. Characters became muddled and repetitive. The songs went from brilliant to boring. “Glee” had lost the mixture of wit and low brow entertainment that made it a star--and no one seemed to notice.

Why is that, you may ask? I would argue that the “Gleeks,” as Glee fans are known, were too busy wallowing in the sunshiney rays of media attention that had showered on the show and made it an outright phenomenon. Now everyone was watching, and we had to convince everyone it was still just as good.

No matter that a song as good as “Don’t Stop Believin’” hadn’t appeared in weeks. “Glee” songs were sending a fire up the iTunes charts--even if that very song, from the first episode, long remained the most popular. No matter that love affairs, like Rachel and Puck, or Artie and Tina, appeared within one episode and were never brought up again--as if the characters themselves only had a vague memory about the sweet nothings they once whispered into each others’ ears.

Each episode exists within a capsule, unrelated to those before or after it. The joy at the beginning of the show was watching these characters unfold and increase in complexity, while imagining how their relationships would do the same. Yet halfway through the first season, they act like somewhat familiar acquaintances who occasionally put on displays of “team unity” to remind the audience exactly what kind of values this show is peddling.

If you aren’t aware, those are honesty, compassion, acceptance and including everyone, regardless of race, class or disability. Noble ambitions, for sure--but entirely unbelievable when at the end of one episode, the characters harmoniously sing “True Colors” together, and at the beginning of the next, they bemoan Rachel as an annoying, selfish fame-seeker who they all can’t stand.

Most of the characters remain shells, simple caricatures that haven’t been fleshed out since the pilot. Kurt (Chris Colfer), the signature gay character with an interesting relationship with his father, is one of the lucky ones, although his character still has a ways to go. Surprisingly, one of the most developed characters is Quinn (Dianna Agron), who originally appeared as heart throb Finn’s “cliché of a blonde girlfriend,” as Rachel put it in an early episode. As the school’s social queen and head cheerleader, there didn’t seem like much going on there--until Quinn became pregnant. Not only that--her boyfriend Finn wasn’t the father--thus adding adultery and sexual promiscuity to the list of sins the head of the “Abstinence Club” committed. Despite all this, Quinn turns out to be surprisingly human and occasionally mature and compassionate. If only the other characters were as fortunate to get so many layers.

And then there’s Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), the Glee club advisor, and his wife, Terry (Jessalyn Gilsig). Terry pretends she’s pregnant in order to keep her husband, and wears a fake baby bump under her shirt for months. Terry is a pathetic sociopath, and it’s mind-boggling to imagine how responsible Will ever ended up with her in the first place. (Terry also devised a sick plot to secretly adopt Quinn’s baby and pass it off as her own.) Add in Emma Pillsbury (the excellent Jayma Mays--obsessive compulsive disorder never looked so sweet), the school’s guidance counselor and Will’s obviously rightful love, and you have the makings of the most frustrating love triangle on television. It was exasperating to watch these buffoons meander about as their mistakes were practically written on their foreheads. Mercifully, the writers put us out of our misery, with last night’s “Sectionals.” Which brings me to this thought: "Glee" may be getting better.

It probably sounds like I hate this show and would throw a party if it was canceled, but the truth is that I love it—and that’s why I have hope. The past two episodes premiered some better songs (Van Halen’s “Jump” and the Rolling Stone’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) and mopped up some these ridiculous storylines. When it ended on Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” and a bit of fairytale, brilliant plot action, I was swept away in a cloud of pop elation. That’s not too say the episode didn’t have its hitches (did we really have to see Rachel apologize to Quinn again about helping Finn for her own selfish reasons? That exact conversation has already happened!), but it did position things properly for the show’s return.

Oh, yes. “Glee” isn’t coming back until April. Some say it’s to make room for “American Idol,” some say it’s to finish filming the next installment--I say it’s a bit of clever, torturous marketing designed to leave us wanting more just when the show got good again. I guess I’ll let all these thoughts of sloppy plotlines and robot characters hibernate for a bit--and we’ll see how they turn out come spring.

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