Saturday, October 24, 2009

Glee: The Report

So I finally found the time to write a post for this place and I was a bit torn because I'd actually been watching a lot of TV lately and I didn't know which show to write about. I thought I'd start with something new, even though it already has 8 episodes under its belt.

The rundown on Glee is this, the show hinges on firstly Will Schuester aka Mr. Schue who is a Spanish teacher and former high school stud and Glee club enthusiast. He has poofy hair, is married to the Devil (whose name is Terri and is currently faking a pregnancy), has a cringe-inducing tendency to rap and is having a flirty little thing with OCD-afflicted hygiene-obsessed school guidance counselor Emma (who doesn't even have a good trauma story to go along with her disorder, lame). Emma's engaged to Coach Tanaka in a horrible example of settling (and telling everyone you know you're settling - she refuses to tell her family and friends about their marriage) and chronic incompatibility.

Then of course the show has the kids in Glee Club who are typically, the outcasts. The star is Rachel Berry, this intense Tracy Flick character who's got a crazy set of pipes. She's got a huge heart-on for Finn, who is SO dumb, but so cute. He's also a little Schuester clone, because he thinks he's knocked up his girlfriend, cheerleader and president of the Celibacy Club Quinn Fabray (everyone on the show likes saying her full name) but actually she's up the duff with Finn's bff Puck's baby. Puck is total cougar-bait and a mohawked jerk but I love him. There are other kids in the Glee Club, obviously, but these are the main ones (more on that later).

So the show started as being about the club and how it's housing all these misfits and the struggle for Finn to join and how that clashes with his position as QB for the team. They try to play around with the whole school stereotypes thing. For the most part, it's pretty negligible (in my opinion) no matter how hard they push it. For one thing, the school team sucks! SO hard. I didn't go to American high school so I don't know how this works, but are you still popular as a jock if you are, in purely technical terms, losers? If I was part of a school with a team that sucked, I would not go about making those team players popular. Like, what would be the point?

Anyway, whatever, they're popular. The Glee kids, especially Rachel, are picked on and have no friends until they join the club and are forced to befriend each other. I'm being callous about it, but it's actually heartwarming how tight-knit and protective of each other they've become in the 8 episodes so far. So now they're friends and chummy, they can focus on SECTIONALS, the mythical pit stop on the road to REGIONALS, and winning those two things is obviously the answer to all of life's problems. Their practices aren't very realistic because they mostly just jam as if they haven't just gotten the music sheet (what do I know anyway, I can't even sing) and also Mr. Schuester raps. A lot. It's embarrassing.

But okay, the songs that they pick to sing are great! Some of my favourite Glee covers have been Rihanna's Take A Bow, Celine Dion's Taking Chances, Jazmine Sullivan's Bust Your Windows, a mash-up of Beyonce's Halo and Katrina & The Waves's Walking on Sunshine, just to name a few. It helps that the actors are mostly from music theatre or musical backgrounds, so they really bring it, vocally. Finn's a bit shaky and really can't dance (which is why I want Artie - who's in a wheelchair and in real life is part of a post-90's boyband - to have a miraculous recovery and take over as primo dancer) but he's usually a pretty good male lead. And they dance and wear matching costumes, it's great!

Now, I've kind of saved the BEST part of Glee because it is just pretty much the best reason to watch the show and that is Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester. Sue is coach for the Cheerios, an award-winning, high-maintenance cheerleading team that sucks up all the school money. They send their dry cleaning to Europe. So when Glee comes along and is all like "Please Principal, can I 'ave some more" she isn't pleased. Sue wears only track suits (except in the recent episode, where she wears a SICK maroon zoot suit, like a champion), is incredibly offensive, has her own segment on the local news (Sue's Corner) and is of questionable gender and sexuality ("I never wanted kids. Don't have the time, don't have the uterus.") She has the best lines, she's bad ass and the villain you root for. This clip is a little heavy on dramatic music, but it's got some great Sue bits (I love the random terror bit):

So, to sum up. The reasons I love the show are:
  1. The Glee kids. Each and every one of them is a special, precious snowflake (except those two nameless football players nobody cares about). Despite them being pegged into neat high school stereotype boxes they're real characters and I am genuinely invested in how Quinn deals with her pregnancy, whether Puck and his secret heart will get emotionally vulnerable, whether Finn and Rachel can ever be together. The other slightly second-tier kids are great too and the show has dealt with them like when they dedicated a whole episode to one of the characters Kurt coming out to his dad and owning up to his identity. But they definitely need more stage time - singing and character wise.
  2. The songs! Example, Glee covering Queen's Somebody To Love:

  3. Sue Sylvester.
The things I need this show to work on:
  1. The stupid adults. Some of them are straight up vile, like Terri Schuester and her alcoholic, moronic sister (props to the actresses for doing their job well) and some of them have the pallor of corpses and also I think lack a little consistency, like Ken Tanaka who has gone from a sort-of-sweet man who guilted an unwilling woman into marrying him to a jealous, possessive, pathetic half-man who needs to grow a pair. Emma I loved in the beginning, but her part in the whole marriage debacle is wearing down my goodwill for her. Also, her serious obsession with Will, which he doesn't discourage. GROW UP, EVERYONE OVER THE AGE OF 18 ON GLEE. Also, again, Will's rapping. He did the Thong Song. THE THONG SONG. And Emma basically wet herself with excitement. That is not how adults are supposed to act!
  2. The unevenness in how each character is weighted. We have enough material to write short novels on the lives of Rachel, Quinn and Finn. At this point, I'm starting to get tired. I want more Mercedes, more Artie, more Kurt, a little more development for the Asian Stutterer whose name I can't even remember, maybe some names for the faceless dudes and more songs where more people get to sing. Also, more Puck even though the 8th episode was about him, just because I like him.
I'm looking forward to the rest of Glee and to a more thorough episode-by-episode examination for the rest of the season (which will hopefully be shorter than this thing, boy howdy). Before I sign off, I'd just like to add that Gabe Liedman has a really funny recap up of the 8th episode on Videogum so check that out.

-- Syar


Jon said...

Jane Lynch brings it every single episode. She is without a doubt, the high point.

You make an excellent point about the football team. If they suck so much, there's no way they would get that kind of support. The Cheerios I get, but not the football team. Winning always matters.

It's funny though, at the end of every episode, I always wish there had been more singing. This past episode, I was totally waiting for the mashup of those two songs. I see why they didn't do it, but damn it, don't tease us!!

The plots are a little heavy with certain characters but that is always the risk you run with such a large cast.

By the way, who ARE those other kids?!? The Asian kid can dance, but I don't want to encourage stereotypes. I don't even know their names. I don't think anyone does. (Ok, IMDB tells me his character is named Mike Chang. I'm certain that's the only place this generic name has been noted.)

Syar said...

Nobody and I mean nobody has ever called him anything other than the Asian kid. When him and other kid came through the door having chosen Glee over football it was like "That's great. Who are you again?" Sad. I mean, I wouldn't mind a few voiceovers from those two, like maybe in an episode about what the other kids think about the reigning king and queen bees. I know Chris Colfer (Kurt) will be singing with Rachel next ep (FINALLY) so at least that's good.

I always wish there was more singing too. And the little impromptu jam/practices they have never seem to cut it. I always get excited when they actually go the musical route and have characters sing while doing something normal like when Quinn sang what Google tells me is that Rod Stewart song.

Seriously hoping for a conclusion to this god-awful Emma/Ken horridness.

Jen said...

I am a full-fledged Gleek. I adore the show because after each one, I just feel happy. I can't say that for any other show. And it's only going to get better music-wise, as Madonna's granted the show permission to use her catalogue, so there'll be an all-Material Girl episode, and my hero Joss Whedon will direct an episode (the musical "Buffy" ep he created was phenomenal).

As someone who did attend an American high school whose football team was horrible, I can assure you that it doesn't matter if your team sucks. Football and cheerleading equal popularity. Though, I'm not buying the Celibacy Club being cool. This isn't 1950.

I must say, I think the "Asian dance guy No. 1" is adorable. Mike Chang (thanks, Jon) has some moves. But he came out of nowhere and has yet to utter a line that isn't a lyric.

Speaking of singing, Will's rapping isn't great, but there's something about him tackling Kanye and Montell Jordan that gets me pumped. Maybe it's because they are party-starters?

Syar said...

Oh man, thanks for reminding me about JOSS WHEDON DIRECTING!!! Once More With Feeling is only my favourite thing ever. So exciting. I'm not a huge Madonna fan, but as Gabe Liedman says Glee is best when it doesn't show self-awareness of what year they're in - as in, they do great with old songs and I have to agree.

I was actually quite into Will doing Kanye. And I downloaded Bust a Move because damn that song is great. But is that his schtick? I mean, Acafellas was pretty painful after a bit. I don't know if I'm going to like it as much if he keeps doing it every episode (and doing songs like THE THONG SONG).

I'm with you on the Celibacy Club. That whole balloons thing looked like a potential lawsuit maker. So suss!

cadiz12 said...

my major beef is with schue being a spanish teacher and not pronouncing Ojala properly in the pilot. Hello? they teach us that one in level ONE, people. other than that, i freaking love the show. i think they might have heard about that one, because they don't really show him in class so much anymore. which is fine, because the guy can do practically anything else really well.

sue sylvester being nice that one episode was like those weird Tom & Jerry episodes where the cat and mouse were actually friends. refreshing, but very off-putting. sue flipping rocks.

i'm totally with you guys about there needing to be more singing. seriously. however, i have absolutely no problem with mr. schue rapping and (sorry syar) the acafellas episode appealed SO MUCH to the dork inside of me. That Color Me Badd song ALONE made that my favorite episode so far. Maybe that just betrays my age, i guess.

i totally agree with your points about the adults on that show needing to grow up. the Thong Song bit was pretty cringeworthy and i think there should be an episode featuring backstories on all the other kids (the first few seasons of LOST manage to pull off featuring a new person every week...)

this is a great way for people to be exposed to different kinds of music, and younger people to learn about the oldies but goodies. MADONNA! (oh and Color Me Badd).

I love this show.

Nadia said...

Syar, I think it's hilarious how bothered you are by Schue's rapping. An extension of your thing of being easily embarassed on other people's behalf when you think they're doing something humiliating, maybe? :) In my opinion, he's not half-bad, and mostly I find it just super endearing.

As for the immediate fluency of their singing, I agree that it's not very realistic, but it's also not as unrealistic as you seem to think. If you're in glee club, I'm assuming you have a basic background in music, and as such, you should be able to read notes. It's the first thing I learnt in music lessons, anyway. Still, some people can sight-read better than others, so I suppose the Glee kids are all on the extreme end of that spectrum. Anyway, I'm not one to quibble over this. I'd rather see them polished than practicing!

Syar said...

Cadiz and Nadia: I may be influenced by Gabe L's opinions on Schue Rap, but I can't under any circumstances watch that Thong Song bit ever. Nadia is probably right about it being an extension of my vicarious embarassment, because CRINGE CRINGE CRINGE UNTIL I BREAK MY FACE.

Re: Lost, valid point! I feel like they tip the scales a lot in these early episodes with wanting to feature the kids and wanting to straightaway deal with establishing plot lines. I don't know, I think we as an audience can deal with not hearing about the Schuester's crappy marriage or the Finn/Quinn baby or the Finn/Rachel/Quinn triangle. I mean, I thought Puck's backstory was semi-interesting, but I'm biased. I like Kurt's little episode too, even though I could not buy that that was his dad, and I thought they played Single Ladies TOO MANY times.

It def is exposing me to all sorts of music I normally wouldn't listen to, and I'm very lazy music wise, so I think that's a good sign for the young whippersnappers watching the show.

And lastly, the note-reading thing. I'm totally fine with them being able to read music (even Finn, though? Him and his hurr-durr self? Oh Finn I love you) and I acknowledge my nitpickiness over this necessary bit of TV magic. I mean, if I were to write Glee, it would probably have 3 extra hours of realistic details thrown in and it would be so dull.

Syar said...

*not hearing about those things so much. I am not implying they do away with those things abruptly, with no explanation.