Glee - Season One
The pilot episode of Glee was so fast-paced and explosive that it completely overcame its misdirected marketing campaign and excited viewers of the prospect of yet another hour of must-watch television. But, in the four months that viewers had to forget that Glee ever existed, how is the show supposed to re-vamp interest? Also, with the pilot covering several weeks (months?) and introducing such black-and-white set-ups for future conflicts, how will it sustain itself?
The action picks up right where it left off with a little in-show recap. While the pilot moved along epically, the show now slows the pace by focusing on details in a much shorter time-period of present action and more on character development.
The show continues the threads from the pilot. We see that Sue, the cheerleading instructor (the scene-stealing Jane Lynch), is still out to bring the glee club to its destruction. Rachel (Lea Michele) is still enamored with Finn (Cory Monteith) who is still going out with his prudish and popular girlfriend, Quinn (Dianna Argon). Emma (the doe-eyed Jayma Mays) is still enamored with Will (Matthew Morrison), our star, who is married to Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) who is pregnant. Other minor threads are touched on as well, and, like any good television show, each relationship and thread is inched along that much more, turning up the tension while giving the audience sparse moments of relief. Of course, Ryan Murphy’s impeccable directing helps monumentally, even though he can’t resist giving us one Nip/Tuck-esque unbelievable plot twist.
A variety of issues are explored as well. There is a short discussion about bulimia where Rachel laments, “I just don’t have a gag reflex.” Emma replies, “One day when you’re older that will turn out to be a gift.” Unrequited love (of course) is another issue as is the absurdity of abstinence programs in schools (take that, Bush!). Most memorably, the episode uses the motif of premature ejaculation mainly for comic effect, but also as a metaphor for some of the characters’ situations or actions, or perhaps even for the show itself.
The climax of the show is, of course, a musical number. The glee club performs Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” to a rapt assembly while dancing in a freakishly sexually explicit manner. The performance is fresher and more memorable than the cover of Journey’s overplayed “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the pilot and features the vocals of the disabled Artie (Kevin McHale).
The creators of Glee never looked back after the pilot, and although there is the tiniest amount of re-hashing, the second episode is just as clever, just as heart-warming, and just as entertaining. Still with the package are the dark undertones, the crass humor, and the brief glimpses of the soul-crushing reality that is high school. Along with jump cuts, the dialogue is a perfect delivery system for quality jokes that raise the show above dramedy to terrific comedy with a tangible emotional core. Better still, some of the lines are truly laugh-out-loud funny. Speaking of skirts, Matt (Dijon Talton) says “Santana Lopez bent over in hers yesterday and I swear to God I could see her ovaries.”
Although the idea of incorporating musical numbers into episodic television shows is not a new one (especially for cartoon series like The Simpsons, et al.), Glee pulls it off with such smooth expertise that even the most musical theater-phobic person will feel at-ease. Glee accomplishes this by sticking to popular, modern, yet seldom-covered songs, so each performance is a type of revelation.
That being said, Kanye’s Gold Digger falls flat, though not for the talents of the performers, rather because the production sounds too over-dubbed and the song itself is not the best one to cover. In addition, after the song there is the awkward scene where everybody laughs, harkening back to the old great musicals like Singing in the Rain and Mary Poppins.
Another problem stems from the fact that even though the characters are supposed to be satirical versions of high school (or high school TV show) archetypes, so far they haven’t emerged as more than what they are trying make fun of. Of course, given that the show is flooded with so many recurring characters, there will be plenty of time to explore each. It is important to let any show with such potential get on its feet before tearing it apart.
So, of Glee we sing, and so should you. Glee is a terrific new series that is living up to and improving on the promises made in the pilot. Even now, we would be surprised if a show of this caliber and critical reception were not renewed for second season. So get on the school bus before it’s passed the stop and you’re stuck, singing a lonely song to yourself.
Starring: Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Jayma Mays
Created By: Ryan Murphy, Brad Fulchuck, Ian Brennan
Airing: Wednesdays 9pm EST
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