Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'll sing along with "Glee"

Quick thoughts on the premiere of last night's FOX show, Glee.

Despite the fact that I had to watch the last few minutes of the climactic, and spectacularly entertaining, showstopper "Don't Stop Believin'" on Hulu today (thanks AGAIN, incompetent fucking Idol producers - we're thisclose to breaking up), the pilot for Glee was a definite winner in my book, and will take its place on the hallowed TiVo season pass list when it returns in the fall.

When Glee was in tune:
  • The show was, for the most part, wonderfully cast. Matthew Morrison was fine as the wistful Glee club coordinator Wil Schuester, Jane Lynch brought her consistent funny, and the underused Jayma Mays shined her doe-eyed appeal as an OCD fellow teacher with an inappropriate crush on our married central figure. But the huge revelation for me was broadway vet Lea Michele as Glee club superstar Rachel Berry, a singing, dancing Tracy Flick with a raging ego and powerhouse pipes. Her narcissism was funny, and somewhat endearing, because DAMN she can sing, and it helps to have her consistently taken down a peg (the smoothie to the face was rewatched about 5 times here). We also had Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned?!) enjoying some medical maryjane, and future episodes promise Victor Garber and Kristin Chenowith, among others.
  • Fantastic musical numbers. Both of last night's numbers, "Rehab" and "Don't Stop Believin'" were performed and shot well. Also, equally important, is that the songs are familiar. I read an interview with producer Ryan Murphy where he indicated that this will be the norm for the show, and that all the songs chosen for the club (and rival clubs) to perform will be tunes that have made their way into the public consciousness. Also, a problem that many folks have with musicals is when characters break the "script" and just start singing. I'm okay with that, if I know what I'm in for (Grease, Chicago, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Moulin Rouge), or if there's an interesting plot device to make it so (Buffy's "Once More With Feeling"). We didn't see that last night, so it will be interesting to see if the numbers are kept within the confines of the Glee club performances.
  • The little touches, like eschewing musical cues for choral beats, especially between scenes.
  • The dialogue and initial characterizations were pretty funny. Murphy can write some amusing and subversive stuff. For example, take this "greatest hits" of his creation Mary Cherry from Murphy's previous high school show, Popular:

Any chance of Leslie Grossman showing up on Glee? We can only hope.

When Glee wasn't in tune:
  • Was it just me, or was the singing ability of the star jock not "all that?" I mean, he wasn't horrible or anything, but for someone who was supposed to be a backbone or savior of the group, he couldn't hold his own with Rachel, who just blew him off the stage.
  • I love Jessalyn Gilsig, and she was pitch perfect as batshit crazy Gina Russo on on Murphy's other show, Nip/Tuck. But her shrill harpy of a wife on Glee doesn't engender much sympathy, and I'm not sure the format and confines of the show will allow her to be as enjoyably nuts as she was on the former program. After 43 minutes, I wanted Wil to cut her throat and leave her in the "crafts closet," and go have a perfectly de-crusted PB&J with the sweet, adorable germophobic teacher.
  • Between the movies and TV, haven't we mined every possible storyline from high school? I'm sure we can find an interesting way to tread on familiar ground with these characters, but it's definitely a concern.
  • Speaking of concerns, Ryan Murphy's track record is also a bit spotty. I loved the first few seasons of Nip/Tuck, but that show went completely off the rails the older it got, despite the heavy lifting of a talented cast.
Still, Glee was a a welcome wind of something completely different, and I'll be around in the fall to see where they take it. A solid B+ start.

Until then, enjoy it while you can:


  1. I love this show so much that I want to make sweet, sweet love to it. Honestly, I haven't felt this way about a show after just one episode since I saw my first episode of Buffy.

    I agree with most of your assessment, and I have some good news for you. I read an article that said the musical numbers will occur only in performances and rehearsals so that it's more authentic. The exception will be numbers that take place in daydreams and the like. Still, people won't just burst into song in the hallways. Murphy has been insistent that Glee isn't a musical, and I think he'll stick to that.

    Lea Michele was an absolute revelation. I'm the first to agree that Cory Monteith's voice isn't near so strong as Michele's. But his voice is untrained and raw yet still lovely and with an impressive range. That untrained, raw talent makes sense for the character, as Rachel has apparently been training her entire life and Finn just... sings in the shower for fun. I hope the strength and power of Monteith's voice will improve over the course of the series as the actor gets more training, which seems like a natural progression for the character. That said, I think Rachel will always blow everybody away.

    I instantly disliked Gilsig's character, but of course we were supposed to. And while I know this sounds weird, she becomes more tolerable each time I watch it. (And I believe the number of viewings for me is now up to 17. Yeah, I've got it bad.) I'm guessing she's supposed to be something of a Cordelia: a bitch who becomes more likable as the series progresses. (I'm talking Buffy season one Cordy.) Besides, Gilsig managed at least one laugh-out-loud line with her delivery of "... and a glue gun that works!"

    I've never seen anything by Ryan Murphy before, although several people have insisted that I MUST watch Popular. (And I'm inclined to agree after watching a few clips on YouTube.) But lots of people seem to agree with your assessment that Murphy lets things get too ridiculous. So while it might be blasphemous to say, I'm going to hope that Fox will keep an eye on things and reign him in if things start getting too fantastical. Maybe they'll leave Whedon and Dollhouse alone this fall and help Murphy keep Glee in line.

    Just 96 more days to go!

  2. Excellent point about the jock's voice (particularly as it relates to his character) compared to Rachel's. Plot-wise, of course she's going to blow everyone away.

    Gilsig can do "bitch" all day long. You say you haven't seen Murphy's other show, Nip/Tuck, which is awesome the first few seasons. On that, she played a caustic nympho, and I adored her character there. And of course, who doesn't love bitchy Cordy? I think it's different when it comes to wives/mothers, as the circumstances and dynamics of the relationship feel more confined. Buffy and gang could always walk away or ignore Cordy, Harmony and the others. Poor Glee director is TRAPPED! with her. But we'll see. As long as I laugh, I can forgive most anything.

    Also, I read somewhere that this summer, to keep interest stoked in Glee, FOX is going to be releasing cast songs on iTunes (you bet your ass I downloaded "Don't Stop" like everyone else) and other teasers on the web. Looking forward to the fall on this one!