Sep 25 2009

‘Glee’ Has Style, but Lacks Rhythm

Published by at 10:00 am under Reviews,Television

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I’m not exactly sure why I started watching Glee. I certainly don’t like singing, I don’t like dancing, and I most definitely didn’t like high school, so it would seem I’m barking up the wrong tree here. But alas, they put the series premiere on Hulu, and it was better than working, so here we are, four (five?) episodes in and now I’m ready to give my verdict.

Glee is an ambitious concept, given the extreme popularity of another high school based musical in recent years. But HSM has little to do with Glee, and I don’t think the audiences will overlap at all. In fact it’s not really, clear just WHO Glee is aimed toward, and frankly, I don’t think they really know either.

The premise is fairly simple. A high school teacher wants to relive his glory days in Glee by re-starting the team from scratch. He assembles a bunch of school misfits including a fat black girl, a handicapped kids, an emo asian girl, a flamboyantly gay kid, a wannabe superstar overachiever and a the jock who can secretly sing but is totally embarrassed about it. This is while he has to deal with a wife who’s A) psychotic and B) desperately wanting a baby. He flirts with the guidance counselor at school while trying to avoid a power hungry butch cheerleading coach.

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The problem with Glee is that it doesn’t really do anything new, and what it does do, it doesn’t do particularly well. The concept of a jock that is embarrassed to be a performer is nothing new (see the aforementioned High School Musical), but when the show has everyone in the school, jocks, teachers, coaches, all singing and dancing up a storm by the third episode, that doesn’t really hold much weight any more.

The same goes for an epic number of love triangles that are more annoying than cute. There’s Will, the Glee coach, and his flirtation with Emma the guidance counselor. It’s supposed to be all “Oh, that’s so wrong, he’s married with a baby on the way, even though they’re clearly meant for each other” but then the show loses us completely by having Will’s wife FAKE having a pregnancy for….I don’t even know why actually. When her doctor tells her that her symptoms are imagined, and she’s not actually pregnant, I can’t think of any logical reason a person would keep that charade up. You instantly lose any and all respect for the character, and will now proceed to hate every minute she’s on screen dealing with an idiotic fake pregnancy.

Glee isn’t too good with the whole “believable character” thing at all really. Jane Lynch is a great character actor, but her turn as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester is just plain dumb at times, as in the last episode she made the statement “Not many people take a pro-litter stance, but I won’t rest until each and every inch of this state is covered in garbage!” Is that even a joke? Just because it’s something that no sane person would ever say doesn’t automatically make it funny.

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But character problems aside, Glee isn’t all bad. The musical numbers really are quite enjoyable, as it’s something you hardly ever get to see in a network TV show (unless you watched that musical Scrubs episode). The problem is, the show doesn’t really know when to call it a day. It was hilarious to watch the gaytacular Kurt perform Single Ladies in a unitard in his basement, but during the episode, they went on to stage FOUR SEPARATE DANCE NUMBERS all set to that same song. I know licensing rights are hard to come by, but come on!

The cast is about evenly split in terms of talent. On the side of good are Chris Coffer’s fabulous Kurt, Lea Michele’s talented Rachel and Will himself, Matt Morrison, who does a good job keeping the cast together. On the side of evil are Cory Monteith’s Finn, who can’t even play a dumb jock convincingly, Lynch’s aforementioned insane Sue Sylvester , and Jayma Mays borderline schizophrenic Emma. Everyone else just sort of fades into the background.

In one word, the problem with Glee is the writing. There are some truly great lines to be found in the show, (“My name is Kurt Hummel, and I’ll be auditioning for the role of kicker!”), but the plotlines are a complete mess, we end up hating half of the characters or not believing they’re real people. I applaud the show for trying something different, but unless the show finds its rhythm, it’s probably going to be curtains for Glee.

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9 responses so far

  • IcemanD

    Great write up Paul. I’ve been watching this show since the premier and have to agree with you. On some levels the show is quite enjoyable but on many others it really isn’t.

    I did, however, find last nights episode to be actually quite funny.

    I’m really disappointed in Lynch’s character as well as this was the whole reason I started watching the show. She really just isn’t funny at all.

    My wife enjoys the show which means I likely keep watching it for now. But, I agree, the show really does need to hit it’s stride or it definitely won’t last.

  • Madison

    I actually like singing and dancing, so I may actually give this a shot now…

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    I’ll keep watching it until there’s something better that comes on Wednesdays. It got picked up for a full season. I think the show might benefit from being half an hour, but that’s just me.

  • http://hellohappyblog.blogspot.com Lisa

    I agree that there are a few unbelievable characters, but honestly I just love the gayness. It’s so stupidly funny I can easily ignore Finn, who is awful.

  • Bobby

    Awful review. The shows a comedic high school life satire with a bit of drama and youre criticizing it as a high school drama with a bit of comedy…

    I stopped reading at the terri faking preganncy part, but to answer you on that: Shes crazy. Here’s for your logical “reason”.

  • Bobby

    Damn you guys are crazy. Sue’s a scene stealer… I dont whats wrong with you…

  • Penny

    “Funny” isn’t an excuse for throwing logic or creativity out the window. Making a “satire” shouldn’t make for the flatness of plot and character this show displays. As The Abridged Shakespeare Company says: the tragedies are funnier than the comedies. You need some stakes before you can get laughs. Smashing their reality with pigeonholed characters and forced plot points kills that.
    I find the show boorish and condescending, with a few really good moments thrown in randomly.

    I agree, this is all on the writers.

  • Kaitlyn

    The characters are a bit exaggerated at times; NOBODY is as flamboyant as Kurt. But you know…That adds to the style somewhat. Sure, I get sick of Rachel’s diva-ness, and you are COMPLETELY right about Terri. It’s part of the show’s style, though, to be a complete unbelievable exaggeration. Even if it is, at times, annoying, there’s a certain charm about the show that’s hard to put your finger on.

    Also, even if they are totally exaggerated, high school is a lot like that in many ways. I mean, my life and Kurt’s line up EXTREMELY well (I am a lesbian, but I don’t relate to him JUST because we’re both gay). I know a girl who just had the same thing happen to her as Quinn, too. Terri’s phantom fetus and Jayma Mays (I can’t remember the character’s name…guidance counselor Will likes) germophobia are just really annoying, but past that, it all still works out. It’s meant to be cute and funny, so the flat-at-times characterization is fine.

    Besides, I’ve seen shows with characters written MUCH MUCH MUCH poorer than Glee’s

  • George

    Glee is very good and of course a very liberal for a fascist network like Fox. I watch the show from Europe and I think that´s the way america should be… more songs, more gay and of course less death penalty…

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