'Glee' isn't broken: A defense against the backlash
Recently, the Zap2it editorial collective decided it was high time to write up one of our TV Show Rehabs in which we offer up 12 Steps to Show Recovery. I was hesitant to participate for a few reasons, which I'll discuss below.
Thus, I was elected to defend "Glee," which isn't an easy task since I actually do have issues with the show. Believe me, there have been many times I've wanted to throw the clicker I was singing into at the TV screen. I just don't think the show deserves the amount of outrage and contempt from the backlash it's received.
Therefore, why "Glee" doesn't need a Rehab now:
I could have understood proposing a Rehab during the last half of the first season. Those back nine episodes were increasingly disjointed, overblown and painful. Frankly, I think Ryan Murphy and the "Glee" crew listened to the criticism then and have already addressed them. The Season 2 premiere was one of the strongest, funniest, most irreverent and cleverly written episodes. There have only been four new episodes (since the writing of this post) so far, and I've liked the majority of them. ( My episode grades: "Audition" A+, "Britney/Brittany" B-, "Grilled Cheesus" A-, "Duets" A)
[ UPDATE: Since originally writing this, "The Rocky Horror Glee Show" aired. Ugh. Grade level: C. But still, that's 4 out of 5 episodes I pretty much liked]
2) New characters
I admit I was skeptical about bringing in so many new people when we already had a huge ensemble cast, but Chord Overstreet's Sam is turning out to be a great addition. He can sing, isn't hard on the eyes and has some ridiculously wonderful quirks (c'mon, you smiled when he was speaking Na'vi and did his Matthew McConaughey impersonation, right?).
I love John Stamos' dentist Carl and Coach Bieste ( Dot Jones) as well since she fills a void left by Coach Tanaka who didn't quite fit into the "Glee" love triangle anymore. It also looks like they're going to be judicious about not over-using Sunshine Corazon ( Charice), which I appreciate. She's a showstopper, not a regular player, so I'm fine with her appearing with Vocal Adrenaline every now and then.
3) The core emotions/storytelling
Do you remember what you loved about "Glee" in the first place? When I think back to the early days of the first season, I was affectionately cursing Ryan Murphy's name because I was constantly getting sucked into the drama and crying each episode. Those Gleeks would reach through the screen and squeeze my heart with their hopeful underdog ways. How can you hate a puppy that can sing? You just can't.
Well, I was sniffling aplenty with Kurt's "I Want to Hold Your Hand" number and when he and Rachel teamed up for the "Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again" homage. "Glee" still gets to me in the good ways, even during the tribute episodes, which are my least favorite.
The "Britney/Brittany" episode, stuck in all its dream sequences, was completely removed from the McKinley High School experience ... except for Rachel's final number, "The Only Exception." That was my favorite part of the episode because it was simple, heartfelt and actually created dimension in the Rachel-Finn storytelling. Kudos to "Glee" for adding that it.
This is why I also think "Duets" is another great episode. It's the perfect blend of storytelling and musical. The "Sing!" number gives us more Mike Chang than we've seen previously, "Lucky" shows the budding chemistry between Sam and Quinn, and Kurt and Rachel's aforementioned "Happy" song is the bittersweet celebration of two misunderstood outsider personalities. I hope they explore this further.
[ UPDATE: Even without seeing the Nov. 9 episode, I find this new clip of Kurt watching Blaine sing so touching and triumphant. That is what I want out of my "Glee."]
4) Complexity and risk-taking
In developing the Rehab, the Zap2it staff was bickering among themselves as well, and this is not to say one person was right or not. It's just that "Glee" is a complicated show and means something to everyone. Storytelling, the musical performances and clever irreverence -- in that order -- are my top priorities for "Glee." I'd rather have Sue Sylvester look forlorn wearing pearls and getting stood up by Will than her spewing a badly written line just for the sake of hearing her speak. She's a broad character for sure, but adding those extra touches is insurance against making her a caricature.
Shipping is also low on my list of priorities, so frankly, I don't care if Will and Emma are together or Puck and Quinn or Finn and Rachel or Artie and Tina. Whether they fight or make out doesn't affect how I judge the show. I know some people care, but not so much for me. At this point, the only person's love life that I'd have an opinion on is Kurt's. I just want him to be happy. So if he gets to date, I hope that first boyfriend will be a good one.
A further explanation on what I mean by "complicated." I'm not comparing "Glee" to something like say, "Mad Men" or "Dexter." "Glee" isn't known for its subtlety or ambiguity, but it isn't easily classified either. It offers (albeit inconsistently) pathos, humor, big performances, small moments, social commentary, crass observations. This is all due to "Glee's" risk-taking. Yeah, adding an unrelated ballad to the Britney Spears episode is a hit or miss moment (a hit with me of course), but I applaud the show for trying counterintuitive and not resting on formulaic laurels.
So yes, "Glee" has its ups and downs, but I think it's worth it for being uniquely brave and creative.
5) Don't get swayed by the hype
"Glee" is a pop culture phenomenon, and its presence in the news, in our stores, in our lives is enough to make us sick of the show. As an entertainment site, Zap2it is admittedly part of that problem (I'm writing this, aren't I?). This oversaturation, however, is just a symptom of how passionately people feel about the show. We cover it simply because people do care, whether they're complaining or not.
But don't let "Glee's" ubiquity affect your take on the show. It is far, far from being perfect, but the anger and outrage about the show seems disproportionate to what it wants to do: Entertain you. There's this feeling perhaps that a show owning this much discussion has to be amazing. Not so. For some it is a life-changing experience, but for the rest of us, it's a 44-minute escape each week.
I feel that sometimes we want to be overly critical, irately so, when a hyped up movie or show doesn't meet our expectations. (Ask anyone who hated "Inception") Why is there this sense of betrayal? If there was no hype, we'd merely be disappointed. Instead, because of the hype, we feel cheated out of the joy everyone else if feeling.
So there you have it. I'm not blind to "Glee's" faults, but I'm digging what it's been doing this season with the character work and amazing performances. I still have fears about Gwyneth Paltrow coming on and the post-Super Bowl episode, but I'm willing to endure inconsistency for the sake of creativity and those heartache-y moments.
Are you a "Glee" lover or hater? Bring it.
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Photo credits: FOX