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March 10, 2011 / Nick

Glee (TV Series)


In case you’ve been living in the proverbial (and, quite likely, overpopulated and unsanitary) cave, you can’t have avoided hearing about the smash-hit US teen musical comedy drama Glee. Its breakout success led to an almost unprecedented move by the Fox network to greenlight a third series before the first had even reached its conclusion. But does it or doesn’t it leave an armchair critic not used to genre-mashing television with a feeling of Glee (Hahaha! See what I did there?)?

The Best and Worst of Glee

Good:- The song selections
What’s most satisfying about Glee is that it leaves no popular music stone unturned. The episodes usually pivot around the connections between the plot and the lyrics of greats like Bacharach, Lennon & McCartney and erm…Cee-Lo.

Bad:- The song selections
On the other hand, taking the much-loved music of genius artists and making it into yet another hokey Alvin & The Chipmunks style rendition while the cast stomp around stage and wave their arms like people walking into cobwebs is in danger of becoming a tired formula.
The ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ cover was not only guilty of causing somone at Channel 5 to make a horrific Sunday night cash-in showcase, but also doused the already towering inferno of attention directed at that particular 30-year-old song with about a cubic mile of kerosene and guaranteed that we’ll all face at least 10 more years of karaoke torment at its hands.
No matter how much I ever come round to liking this show, the bad song selections will always mean that I’d prefer to watch about a third of it whizzing by under the fast-forward symbol.

Good:- Sue SylvesterJane Lynch plays the spiky but furtively soft-centred Sue to perfection. The cheerleading coach who is constantly at odds with the glee club does make me wonder whether I like her because she gets all the best catty one-liners and is, rarely for an older character in a teen show, so multi-faceted she can’t ever truly be second-guessed, or because I maybe empathise with her wanting to destroy them chirpy gleesters.

Bad:- Will SchuesterGlee is an ensemble show, so there is no lead character. And every ensemble show needs a character with a strong moral compass. Unfortunately, Mr Schuester’s moral compass seems to spin wildly out of control week by week. There’s a dangerously fine line between being the wise, sensible straight-man character (see Michael Bluth in Arrested Development or Fiona Gallagher in series 1 and 2 of Shameless) and the sanctimonious and patronising arse (see Jack Shephard in Lost or Monica Geller at various points in Friends). Schuester preaches about tolerance and being nice, but attempts to bully the new sports coach, Ms Beiste, on her first day. He bangs the drum about honour and respect, but considers cheating on his presumed to be pregnant wife with his engaged to be married work colleague. Plus any time he raps I want the world to swallow me whole.

Good:- The flexi-cast
They don’t say as much as the main ones, but they’re good to have around for convenient plot-driven larks.

Bad:- RachelPlease. Stop screaming in my face.

Good:- Brittany’s straight faceJust magical

Bad:- Weird cameraworkMaybe I’m nitpicking but it’s annoying how it switches from the normal steady single camera stuff to random moments of docusoap-like wobble. It’s like they’ve let the work experience cover for Jarred on Camera 2 while he’s on paternity leave. Pick one and stick to it.

Bad:- Glee singles and albums
It’s a TV show, not a music act. Glee has no place on my radio or in the pop music charts. Now if the year is 2001 and you’re S Club 7, we could talk…

Good:- Closing credit music
What a lovely little tune to end the show on.

The crux of the issue with Glee is that it’s just too big. Instead of filling me with agony and ecstasy and all the emotions in between (as I suspect the writers intended with this out-and-out comedy drama), I just sit wondering why, despite all the brilliant ingredients, I didn’t find a certain part funny, or why a certain character leaves me completely cold, or whether it’s doing earnest or doing irony or doing irony-of-irony.
It annoys me because so many people do, but I just don’t always ‘get’ Glee.

Review: Occasional glimmers of brilliance but not enough to disguise frustrating flaws.
6/10

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