Friday, November 27, 2009

Reassessing Glee

Since Glee’s hiatus (because of the World Series) and return, I’ve been reflecting on the show and my initial thoughts on it. I loved the premiere episode, but I’ve found the following shows to be somewhat uneven. Some are really good (“Preggers” and “Showmance”) and some seem like filler at best (even guest stars Victor Garber, Josh Groban, and Debra Monk couldn’t save “Acafellas”). So where does all of this leave us and the show? Here is my rundown of the show’s best and worst features, in no particular order.

The Best:
  • The kids really are the best part of the show, and I really like how the characters are starting to develop. This is particularly true in the case of Quinn and Puck. Initially, it seemed like they were going to be the resident villains, but they have become more three-dimensional characters. Quinn’s struggle to deal with her baby drama has helped her move beyond the cheerleader queen persona found in the first episode, and Puck’s decision to join the glee club (and remain with it after the football coach gives a harsh but mercifully short ultimatum to the singing jocks) shows that he is more than a cougar-chasing teen. Now if only the rest of the characters (besides Rachel and Finn) could get more air time…
  • In the same vein, the show doesn’t shy away from making the characters very flawed. Even though many of the characters seem like they are pretty good people, they all say and do some horrible things.
  • The songs and performances are usually pretty good (if incredibly overproduced). My favorites so far include: “Sweet Caroline,” which Puck used to try and impress Rachel, Rachel’s version of “Take a Bow,” the mashup songs, both “It’s My Life/ Confessions” and “Halo/ Walking on Sunshine”
  • The guest stars have been great (so far). The list of cameos is impressive, but I doubt that Glee will become like Will & Grace or Friends in throwing on random guest stars at will. The stars that have appeared have been interesting characters, and Ryan Murphy seems to love taking actors known for their singing chops (see Josh Groban, Debra Monk, and Victor Garber) and not have them sing, which is actually kind of refreshing.
  • The show’s sly sense of humor and wit help elevate even the weaker episodes into something that is entertaining if not great. While Sue Sylvester probably gets the best lines out of anyone, Kurt and Artie also have some good moments.
  • Heather Morris, who plays functionally illiterate cheerleader Brittney, also deserves special mention for excellent comic timing. She does a lot with the minimal screen time that she gets. Plus she is an awesome dancer, which shouldn’t be surprising since she used to be a backup dancer for Beyonce.
Needs Improvement:
  • The show seems to try and divide the focus between the students and the adults. It would be much better if the adults were on the sidelines more, especially since the adults are pretty unsympathetic. While the students can do horrible things, at the very least we can partially excuse their behavior because they are supposed to be teenagers. The adults, on the other hand, have no real excuse beyond being crazy and stupid. Terry and her sister Kendra are complete shrews, Will is clueless and self-centered, and the other adults tend to be variations of stupid or utterly inappropriate.
  • Since the show has returned from hiatus, we are finally getting a chance to see students (besides Finn and Rachel) get more airtime, but the show still feels more focused on Finn and Rachel than anyone else (besides Will). It isn’t that I dislike either character; Finn is goofy and dim, but he has a good heart, and Rachel (and her portrayer, Lea Michele) is very talented. However, I would love to see the other characters fleshed out more. Even the show that was supposed to revolve around Artie (“Wheels”) didn’t really let us get a better sense of that character.
  • Enough with the baby/ pregnancy storylines. Quinn’s pregnancy is at least somewhat tolerable, but Terry’s fake pregnancy is excruciating, mostly because Terry seems like like a total bitch. The fake baby storyline also emphasizes Will’s utter idiocy and makes it very hard to sympathize with the character.
While I do have my quibbles with the show, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Now if only those damn pregnancy storylines would go away (and maybe take Terry and Kendra with them).