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Posts Tagged ‘glee’

I grew up in a series of small towns, each one depressingly smaller than the last, until I hit a school in which my graduating class was a mere 27 people. It’s a town where everyone has to at least leave to go on with their education, but since the nearest community college was a half hour away ( I took my last two years of theater there under the tutelage of a now famous award-winning playwright and actor), most never escape beyond the three hour Saskatoon and Edmonton area from this town. I’m sure many kids I went to junior high with are still in the Calgary area as well, but at least Calgary has developed into a more cosmopolitan center. After all, I ended up back here.

I recognize much of the teen age angst of Glee because it was my teen-aged angst. I had grown up with parents that valued an education above all else. They didn’t care what kind of education, just get one. I’m sure my vast knowledge of popular culture wasn’t their first choice, but I’m sure they appreciate me having something I love in my life. But even in the confines of these small rural outposts, I could find what I needed to stave off the boredom and quench the thirst for French New Wave and the discography of the Clash I developed in my teenaged years. It was better than going out and getting drunk like many of my classmates did. I’m pretty convinced that’s why my classmates didn’t talk to me.

But growing up in small towns with a more progressive personal mindset often got me in trouble with my peers. I never sat idly by as they tossed around bigoted terms that growing up in a 99% white town in the middle of the Canadian Bible Belt, and my reputation as a Commie loon follows me to this day ( I kind of wear it with pride). Which is why I clearly identified with ” Preggers”. I knew many of the blonde pretty cheerleader types who ended up pregnant by the eleventh grade, usually after wine coolers or beer at a party. I knew the slightly femme guy in the back who had a fondness for sequins and introduced me to his father as his girlfriend, and then I’d sit and listen to his father beg me to convince his son to rejoin the hockey team, despite the fact the last time the poor guy was on the ice, he executed a perfect double axel in the middle of a power play. In hockey skates no less. I was one of the kids so obsessed with my creative life that I was deeply offended when I didn’t get the part, or the assignment, or the song.

Watching last nights Glee was at times, for me, emotionally wrenching. I clearly identify with Kurt in a profound way. Not the coming out as gay part, but trying so desperately to maintain a relationship with a parent who disapproves of your passions. I had my brothers and mom as a buffer between me and my father. Kurt, an only child of a working class single father, has nothing. The fact that Kurt feels compelled to lie is heartbreaking, but it is like that across the world for gay teens. Ryan Murphy said in a recent L.A. Times article that a little of his own life made its way into his characterization of Kurt, and I can see it in the tender way Murphy laid out Kurt’s scenes with his father, played by a surprisingly good Mike O’Malley. Chris Colfer, in his scenes tonight, was both hysterically funny, touchingly sad, and devastatingly true to life. When Kurt comes out to his father after joining the football team in a bid to cover up why he was dancing around in black sequined lycra, it’s a pure moment. More shocking and pure is his father’s reaction- it’s kind of hard to deny your son may be gay when he asks for a pair of sensible heels when he’s three. Or has a hope chest. Which is full of tiaras. O’Malley plays it as a matter of fact, not deeply profound or overly emotional. It is what it is. He’s not overjoyed about it, but he certainly isn’t going to erupt into a homophobic screed.

The Quinn-Finn-Puck story line was a little more Degrassi conventional. First, this show does a great job playing off of Cory Monteith’s naive portrayal of Finn. He’s blank, he’s clueless, but he knows what he is and he is trying to figure out how to make it out without being enormously gifted at things that are more obvious paths of freedom. He plays on a losing football team, and he doesn’t have the grades to make it on academic scholarships. But he knows enough to realize he must get out of Lima. Quinn, pretty and perky, on a championship cheerleading squad, probably would score some sort of athletic scholarship at the very least,  but the news of her pregnancy leaves her in the lurch. She can’t escape with a baby on her hip.  Her telling of the “conception” to Finn was ludicrous to us in the TV audience, but would it really seem ludicrous to Finn? Think of all the guys you went to high school with who still insist you can’t get a girl pregnant if you have sex standing up. It turns out, though, Quinn has been naughty. She got drunk, and feeling particularly fat that day, she slept with Puck. He is the real father of her baby. Puck, never having a real dad, wants to do the right thing by Quinn, but Quinn also realizes that Puck, despite his good intentions, is never going to escape being a “Lima Loser”. She sees Finn as her way out of this hell, and even he isn’t a guarantee.

Meanwhile, we have the corresponding “pregnancy” of Terri Schuster, who now has her sister in on the scheme. Terri is a woman so obsessed with keeping her man that she’s not taking the more reasonable track in this sad situation, instead forcing herself to create an elaborate lie with padding and all. The news of Quinn and Finn’s little predicament gives Terri an idea. There is a sense of the illogical here ( how did Terri get into Quinn’s car? Why don’t we ask the ref’s at that football game that didn’t hand out that delay of game penalty when the team does the ” Single Ladies” dance?), but Murphy always brings in the more soapy elements with a dash of humor. Quinn is bewildered by the woman handing her prenatal vitamins, but Terri is oblivious to Quinn’s wary demeanor.

The ” D” story of Sue’s continued revenge on Will was probably the most laugh out loud funny in the episode. Sue’s minor celebrity gets her a slot on the local news, where she advocates caning and littering. But she’s told she is only as good as her last championship, and the affiliate boss knows her Cheerios are defecting to Glee. So Sue, in her own special Machiavellian way, gets Sandy Ryerson back on staff. He is in charge of all the arts programs, including Glee. ( Note: Figgins, played by Iqbal Theba, played a memorable villain of the week in the first season of Chuck. He played a guy nicknamed ” Wookie” by Chuck. And when you see that Mumbai Airlines video, you can kind of see why. Now imagine him without a shirt. Yeah, now you see it). They design a plan to steal away an increasingly frustrated Rachel, who loses her shit over not getting the solo ” Tonight”. Will is trying to teach her a valuable and much needed lesson- that Glee is a team, and all members of that team need a moment to shine. This is proven by Tina’s sweetly compelling performance of ” Tonight”, and Will pointing out that with greater confidence, her stuttering is diminishing. Rachel then tries out for this version of ” Cabaret” Ryerson is putting on. If there is one truly crushing moment in the episode, it’s the fact Lea Michele’s gorgeous version of ” Taking Chances” is only a mere twenty seconds of screen time.  Rachel and Will later confront each other about their perceptions and their goals. When Will still refuses to hand over ” Tonight”, still giving Tina a moment to shine, Rachel impulsively quits Glee. Meanwhile, Will’s work with the football team to help loosen them up ( leading to that fabulous dance on the football field), and garners him three more Glee club members. He’s now got eleven.

Last night’s episode was the first truly great episode since the pilot, and I certainly hope it’s the blueprint for the rest of the series.  Murphy’s previous high school show, Popular, had moments of complete camp and whimsy at first, but ended up becoming completely ridiculous a lot of the time ( it’s still genius, but it’s massively flawed genius). This show could go off in a million different directions. But this is what I have noticed:

  • The show is a musical, but not every episode is going to be heavy on the musical numbers. I think this helps it from turning into a version of Fame- The Later Years.
  • It’s got a massive ensemble cast, and there are lesser characters, like the Cheerios and Footballers who help make up the show choir, that will get a bit of screen time without having much else to do. But if Murphy remembers to keep focus on one kid a show, it will get better.
  • The pacing was better on this episode, and it will continue to get better. Anyone familiar with Murphy’s previous shows knows he is a guy who fits a lot into episodes, and sometimes the timelines don’t add up. But he does somehow make it work.
  • The cast is winning, but I am beginning to think where the writers are taking Rachel is dangerous territory. I know she’s supposed to be a self absorbed spoiled brat, but she was at least likable. I found her disturbingly unlikable this week. I know it was a set up for next week’s episode, but be careful.

Quoteworthy:

“All you need is some limed corpses beneath the floorboards.” – Sue to Sandy at his very creepy house.

Grade- A-

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Glee Episode 1-3 ” Acafellas”

The beginning of every new series is going to be rough. The chances of choppy waters increase when said show is ambitious and epic  like Glee is. That is not to say that “Acafellas” was bad. On the contrary, it was a delight in many ways. But after the genius of the pilot and the solid second episode last week, I was slightly disappointed with this week’s Gleeful outing.

The show has the potential to collapse under its massive ensemble cast- there are at least twelve significant roles on this show. That is a lot of people to try and work in to a show, complete with individual story lines and moments to shine. And this episode ended up feeling overstuffed and under developed simultaneously.

The valid question off the top, asked by Cheerleader Quinn, was whether Will had even tried to fulfil his performing dreams. After shop teacher Henri returns from his cough syrup induced thumb amputating shop accident, a sad round of ” He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” with Will, Ken, Sheets and Things’ Howard, Henri, and Sandy ” Stay 50 Feet Away From Children” Ryerson leads will to form an a cappella group, launching into a really fun version of Montell Jordan’s 90s classic ” This Is How We Do It”. This plays into Will’s B story, where he bonds with his dad ( the fabulousity that is Victor Garber- alas, no song), who admits his failings with ease. Fathers on television are routinely maligned, often absent and mean. It’s nice to see a father-son relationship that is rather warm and friendly.

The other story of the episode, the Glee kids hiring that annoying prick Dakota Stanley, honestly didn’t go anywhere. I get that they were trying to create a bit of tension between Finn and Rachel, and allowing Quinn and her minions try to disrupt Glee quietly, but it just felt… ugh. With no Glee performances this week, the show felt kind of empty.

The one thing that did work well this episode was the “C” story between Mercedes ( Amber Riley, so fantastic on ” Bust The Windows”) and Kurt ( Chris Colfer, a TV star in the making). Mercedes instincts were right on the money, but she allowed insecuirty and fear ( and a couple of ne’er-do-well Cheerios) to get her hopes up about Kurt, who was being a supportive friend. Ryan Murphy said in an interview that he wanted Kurt’s coming out to echo his own, so the one real moment of the entire episode was Kurt tentative telling to Mercedes, followed by a tear and an acknowledgement that he really wasn’t as brave as Mercedes wanted him to be.

Overall, there were some good moments, but over all, the cluttered, scattered tone left me wanting( and too much Terri- I really dislike her). Rumor has it next week is going to be a hum dinger of an episode, focused on Colfer’s delightful Kurt. I certainly hope all the love I’m hearing is legit, and not just a bunch of TV critics trying to sell me snake oil.

 Quoteworthy:

” I have no thumbs!” Henri, in a game of one ups-manship

” The parents discovered we’re feeding their kids prison food”.- Figgins

” Josh Groban likes a blousy alcoholic.”- Josh Groban, cementing my belief he’s a singing comedian.

” Is cliche a bad thing?”- Finn

” I’m going to ask you to smell your armpits.”- Sue to the Cheerios

” If you blow this for me I’ll shove my arm so far down your throat you will be able to taste my arm pit hair.”- Ken to Puck.

” I told Figgins we’d end up with a bunch of pansies if we didn’t get some hot wood in their hands.”- Sandy

Grade- C

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I could go on and on about the technical flaws I saw on last nights episode ( the musical numbers were way to polished and the AV was out of sync), but I’m not. No. Because I am in love with this show.

The fact I love this show should be no surprise to anyone, as I am also deeply in love with Ryan Murphy’s previous high school dramedy Popular  (Mary Cherry forever!). Glee in many ways hits similar tones comically and dramatically as this late 90s cult classic, and the struggles the students face are also similar. The slightly awkward, overly ambitious girl crushes on the cool jock boy who dates the pretty blonde cheerleader. There are kids with speech impediments and disabilities, and they aren’t all a size two. Murphy creates a real high school feeling. Then he throws on show stopping musical numbers.

Now, the audio of ” Gold Digger” is amazing, but it was hampered last night by poor mixing and editing.  In fact, that was an issue with all the musical numbers last night. If this show is going to work over the long haul, they have to fix it. Off sync is distracting.  And the “Push It” number was amazingly cringe worthy and hilarious at the same time. I watched it mouth agape and sniggering the entire time. That was right on the edge of appropriate and Murphy probably knows it ( the man also created Nip/Tuck, which has been crossing that line for years).

But there were some really great moments in the episode- Will and Emma’s chalk dust on the nose, Finn and Rachel bonding over their mutual love of music, Finn making the angels cry with that popping balloon, Rachel’s speech on teenage sexuality that made her a hero to a certain faction of horny teenage boys, every moment Jane Lynch and Jayma Mays were on screen, and the realization that Quinn and the Cheerios can kind of sing. As the Cheerios go in to spy for Sue Sylvester, expect high jinks to ensue.

The flaws,  though, have the potential to be too distracting. I like Jessalyn Gilsig a lot as an actor, but her character Terri is shrill and shrewish. I honestly wanted to punch her at various moments ( though I did snicker when she pointed out the children’s bedroom as the room for ” their daughter or gay son”). The Cheerios are still way into Mean Girls territory and have yet to be really fleshed out as characters. The same thing can be said about the jocks. There are those sync issues and they need to dirty up the vocal tracks as well ( last night was a little too polished and studio for my liking- only ” Take A Bow” came close to any real emotional connection, aside from Jayma Mays’ Emma sobbing through ” All By Myself” in her car).

Then there are the highs. The appealing youngsters are delightful as the ” island of misfit toys”, as Sue called them. Matthew Morrison ( Tony nominee for Light In The Piazza and the original Link in Hairspray)  is charming as Will, who only seems to come really alive when he’s at the school, doing Glee and interacting with the students. The incomparable Jane Lynch is clearly delighting in playing the vindictive, spoiled, entitled cheerleading coach, who gets the school to pay for European dry cleaners and for some reason has seen an elementary school production of Hair. There is sharp humor and commentary about relationships, the high school caste system, and the general malaise of education systems in North America.

After the completely charming pilot, this was a good follow up episode.

Pilot received an A from me. ” Showmance” gets a solid B+.

Quoteworthy!

Rachel: I guess I don’t have a gag reflex.

Emma: Years from now you’ll find that a blessing.

***

Coach Tanaka: I’m a minority so they can’t fire me, I’ll always be able to provide for you.

***

Kurt: Wait! One day you will all work for me.

Other things of note:

  • Figures guys would join the Celibacy Club to try and bed their chaste girlfriends.
  • Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, is going to get a big episode coming up that Ryan Murphy has said is based on his own high school experience. If you know anything about Ryan Murphy, you can probably figure it out.
  • I tend to hate cheerleaders in TV world. These ones take the cake.
  • Quinn and Finn. I hate cutesy couples with rhyming names.
  • Amber Reilly has a voice and a half!
  • I do not remember the disco revivial of 1993. Anyone else?

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