Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Defense of Glee

Caution: The following blog contains Glee Season 3 plot spoilers.

Much ink and TV time has been spent discussing the Season 2 downfall of Glee.  And many an ultimatum has been thrown around ("If things don't get better, I'm going to stop DVRing Glee!", etc.).  OK, we are now a mere 2 episodes into the new season - a season that creator Ryan Murphy and others have promised would highlight the main characters, and have more focused plot lines.  In other words, Glee 3.0 will try to be more like Glee 1.0, which assumes that Glee 2.0 was all that bad.

The truth, for me at least, is that season 2 was a little uneven.  And it has some of the very best moments of the entire series so far.  Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones).  Sue (Jane Lynch) nurturing Becky (Lauren Potter).  Bullies (Max Adler) dealt with.  Every scene with Brittany (Heather Morris).  Every second Chord Overstreet was on screen.  Artie (Kevin McHale) getting to walk for Christmas.  The Dalton Academy Warblers.  "Thriller."  Gwyneth PaltrowDarren Criss.  The return of Finn (Corey Montieth) and Rachel (Lea Michele).  The amazing identify yourself (the t-shirt episode) episode.  And there were some things I could have done without.  Rocky Horror (I don't really care for the show).  Carol Burnett and Sue marrying herself (WTF?).  John Stamos (great guy, lousy encroaching character).  The positives far outweigh the negative for me.

Chord Overstreet as Sam

"Born This Way" (The tee-shirt episode)


Still, one can understand the "sophomore slump."  Season 2 means it isn't new any more.  The surprises - which often cover the flaws - are fewer.  And writers are damned if they do, damned if they don't.  Trying to change characters can be dangerous.  Too much trying to advance the plots in new directions can be deadly.  And yet, not changing characters and making them grow can be just as deadly.  And if the plots get too repetitive, God help the show.

So, over the past couple of weeks, I've been reading the comments left by people after articles about each of the two first episodes of Season 3 and have looked over the chief complaints about Season 2.  I've narrowed it down to their four main comments about last season and a couple of their thoughts about season three (already)!

1.  There is too much Rachel/Kurt and not enough of the others! 

OK.  There is a lot of Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer).  But you go with your strong suit.  They are just that: the most talented, the most complicated, the most broken.  All of that adds up to the most compelling characters.  BUT... let's not forget the transformation of Puck (Mark Salling) into a decent, if challenging, guy.  The emergence of Artie... Two girlfriends!  The football team!  Losing his virginity!  Just about every male solo in New Directions numbers.  Not bad.  How about the "Asian Invasion"?  Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) is a dancing machine and too sexy for a high school kid... and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) backing up everyone - not just on stage, but she's the go-to girl for advice and unity.  The emergence of Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany as full, multi-dimensional characters.  Quinn's journey from pregnant teen to top of the high school heap, and her downfall... two interesting supporting characters in Lauren (Ashley Fink) and Sam... two down to earth adults with a major plot line - Kurt's dad and Finn's mom (Mike O'Malley and Romy Rosemont) ...  All of that and still too much Rachel and Kurt?  Hmmmm....

Quinn and Santana

Tina and Mike
2.  More Finn!  More Blaine! 

Let's go back to number one first.  More Finn and More Blaine by necessity means More Rachel and More Kurt.  You can't have your cake and eat it, too...  Finn figured prominently in most of the story lines last season, and Kurt wouldn't have grown without Blaine.  And, gay or straight, isn't it nice that there are two couples who are stable AND interesting (Mike/Tina and Kurt/Blaine).  It is hard to think of any plot that didn't involve one or both of these great guys.

3.  Too much singing and dancing! 

Um, it is about a glee club.  Singing and dancing are what they do.  And you knew going into it that it was also a musical comedy, so characters will burst into non-glee club numbers, too.  Sub-complaint: too many show tunes.  I think it is pretty 50-50.  But... (see below)

4.  The show is not realistic! 

Um, it is about a glee club. Singing and dancing are what they do. And you knew going into it that it was also a musical comedy, so characters will burst into non-glee club numbers, too. 

Not to mention that TV is not supposed to be entirely realistic.  If you want real life watch the National Geographic channel.  For me, Glee is a one hour break from the bad news on TV, the Internet and Twitter, from the lousy government, global economic woes, earthquakes, hurricanes and war.  But, even given the musical numbers, there is a certain grounding to the show that is very much based on reality.  Have you been in a public high school recently?  It is more like Glee than not like Glee

And that age old complaint: things get tied up in one or two episodes.  Not true.  But even so, each individual episode wraps up all neat and tidy, true enough.  It is TV, folks.  We need closure before the next show starts!  Not real?  Well, each episode clearly takes place over several days, but is cut to fit in 44 minutes.  And in reality, a lot of high school issues come and go in one school day.  Have you forgotten that?  Still, if CSI can get a DNA test result in 15 minutes instead of a week or more and we can accept that, why can't we believe that a group of kids can spend all day in class, practice sports and cheerleading, and still light, costume and choreograph multiple production numbers a week?  I wish real life worked like that.  I tell you, my job would be so much more fun if me and the other cubicle dwellers dropped our wireless keyboards and burst into a full dance number to "The Brotherhood of Man"!

And the two biggest complaints so far about Season 3?  Here they are:

Coach Beiste, Artie and Emma
 1.  Why West Side Story? 

Well, why not?  It is a show the general public at least recognizes and can draw parallels from.  The cast is ideal for that show.  It is a show high schools can actually do.  (My favorite comment at Rolling Stone asked why they couldn't do something more modern like American Idiot or Rock of Ages?  Well, that would certainly blur the line between show tunes and pop songs.  But can we talk content?  As cool as it would be, the story of American Idiot would never be approved (not to mention all of the language and situational cuts that would have to be made) by a school.  And they have already done most of "the score" of Rock of Ages.  Plus, do we really need to see Mercedes as a madame or Quinn having dirty men's room sex with Puck or another gay character for Kurt to play?  You can't have it both ways...

Rachel and Finn

Kurt and Blaine
2.  There hasn't been enough singing and dancing/where has Finn been? 

Wait... before there was too much singing and dancing?  Now "15 minutes between songs is unbearable?"  How else can we focus on plots that don't concern Rachel directly?  And Finn's lack of being "in front" also allows others to take up some screen time... like Artie, Coach Beiste, Emma and Mike Chang?  Not to mention Mercedes' new boyfriend, Rachel's dad's, Mike's parents, Emma's parents...

Coach Beiste and Mr. Hummel

Will and Emma
It has been exactly 88 minutes into the new season.  We have 20 more episodes to see where everyone ends up.  And with Kurt, Finn and Rachel graduating, I'll bet toward the end, we will see more not less of them.  Still, today's news of the hiring of a new actor who will actively pursue Blaine should make things interesting even if it does mean more Kurt.  And let's not forget The Glee Project winners who will figure into major story lines concerning Brittany, Santana and Puck will take up a lot of screen time, too.  Add more Idina Menzel, a juicy plot for Matthew Morrison, and hopefully an interesting end to the Sue-runs-for-office plot, and I think the outlook is terrific.

One thing:  I really miss the slushies...

I'll bet, too, that no matter what, some people won't be happy.  Too much Sue, not enough Sue.  Too much Rachel, not enough Rachel.  Too much singing, not enough singing.  To you, I say stop watching Glee, or at least stop complaining about it.  If you are taking time to complain, then, one, you care enough about it to express an opinion, and, two, you are still watching it!

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