On “Glee” [UPDATED!]

Posted: September 16, 2009 in Braak, reviews
Tags: ,

Glee_logoFox has a TV show about kids in a glee club, it’s called “Glee.”  I have watched two episodes, and that makes me an expert in the subject.  So, as an exercise in my expertise, I shall discuss this show with you.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am probably, expertise or not, not the best person to write about this show, as I have both a tricky relationship with music and a slightly antagonistic relationship with high school, people in high school, and things that remind me of high school.

Nonetheless.  Onward.

I don’t much care for “Glee.”  I know it’s hot shit right now, and everyone seems to dig it, but…I don’t know.  I don’t know if I can quite put my finger on it.

Because I am certainly in favor of the message that it’s sending.  “Hey, music is great!  And it’s about inspiring joy in people, and if there’s anyone who needs some joy in their lives, it’s high school students.”  That’s great, I can get down with that.

matthew morrisonSo, maybe it’s that the teacher responsible for reinvigorating the glee club, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), is so unutterably smug about it.  It’s as though it’s not enough for him to provide something for his students that they might like, but it ALSO has to be the best thing in the school, and it ALSO has to win the competition, &c.  Of course, this is antithetical to the base premise of the show:  if the point of glee club is actually glee, you can’t win at that. Competitive glee club just seems like something kind of abhorrent, since all it will do is help one small group of kids feel really great about themselves, and all of the other kids forget about what the point of glee club is.

I think this is part of why I don’t feel the show is sustainable–Mr. Schuester’s smugness is something that a) the writers will ignore, and the misfit glee club will win regionals, and then get the money they need, and then in season two…then what?  Or b) the writers are planning to recognize, it will be resolved about halfway through the season leaving everyone to win the regionals without feeling guilty.  Or c) the writers are planning to recognize, and it’s going to be the Big Lesson of the episode where the misfit kids lose the regional competition.  They’ll have lost, but they’ll have learned that the real purpose of glee club blah blah blah.

C is the longest potential case scenario, and I don’t think it gives more than a season.  Next season they have to just try and win regionals again, but who cares?  We, the audience, have already learned that it’s not really important.  The important thing is that the misfits found a place where they fit in.

And speaking of those misfits.  Is it weird to anyone else that the glee club could, literally, be Rush Limbaugh’s personal nightmare of affirmative action?  There’s an Asian girl, a gay boy, a paraplegic boy, and a black girl.  It’s like that Burger King promotion that they did when I was a kid, when they had those little cartoon fuckers, and especially chose them to fit the widest possible demographic span.  Anyway, I don’t remember the “Glee” kids’ names, because they don’t have characters so much as character traits:  Asian girl stutters, gay boy really likes fancy clothes, wheelchair kid plays guitar in the jazz band, black girl is sassy and “urban.”  Oh, wait, the sassy urban black girl’s name is “Mercedes.”  Because that’s how black people name their kids, haha!  Whatever–the only two characters that we’re meant to care about are the two white, straight, not-in-wheelchair kids.

Those two kids, Finn and Rachel (Cory Monteith and Lea Michele), only serve to remind me of how pathological high school kids are.  Finn is especially stupid–really, Finn, you want to stay friends with the kids who had locked a guy in a wheelchair in a porta-potty and were about to flip it over?  For fuck’s sake, are you serious?  Your only response to their bullshit is some trite fucking speech about how you’ve finally found the thing in life that really makes you happy (singing, obviously, not flipping over porta-potties)?  But I guess that is how high school kids are(?).

rachel-berry-picRachel , at least, is pathological in a reasonable way.  She wants to be a singer, and is so deeply obsessed with it that she doesn’t care about anything else except fucking the other white kid in glee club.  She will be a performer on broadway, one day, good for her, but I can’t imagine being even remotely curious about her for one second longer than it takes to think, “Good Christ, get a fucking life.”

They are all good singers, anyway, which is good because there are music numbers in the show.  Like, in the first episode, they sing “Don’t Stop Believing,” which is by JOURNEY, zomg!  And in the second episode, some glee club kids at another school sing Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” holy shit!  “Rehab” isn’t a glee club song!  Maybe I should piss myself with awesome!

Anyway, yeah, music.  What’s interesting about the show is that it seems really like three different shows.  One is a neat, quirky drama about dysfunctional teachers–showcasing some of the actually interesting characters, like Iqbal Theba’s tightwad but good-natured principal, Patrick Gallagher’s pothead football-hating football coach, and Jane Lynch’s lunatic cheerleader coach.  That show is about their lives, how they struggle with budget cuts, how they deal with interoffice romances, how Will Schuester thinks he’s going to have a baby and have to become an accountant.

But the problem is, that show is only about a half hour long–probably because the writers, instead of delving into it at all, resolve everything in as glib a manner as possible.  For example:  Will Schuester’s wrteched materialistic harridan of a wife tells him she’s going to have a baby in the first episode.  In the second episode, we find out it’s a hysterical pregnancy, she isn’t really going to have a baby.  Shit, that’s FOUR EPISODES of a regular TV show.  You guys couldn’t spin that out a little?  What’s next, in three Will finds out she’s not pregnant, in four he leaves her, he takes a breather in five, and then in six he hooks up with the OCD guidance counseler?  Seriously, you guys don’t think there might be more to explore in some of this stuff?

But maybe the problem is not that the teachers’ story is glib, but that it needs to be glib so that they could cram the other two stories into the full hour.  Obviously, one part of the story is the actual singing part, and the trials and tribulations of making a competitive singing team at your school, and this one is kind of just as glib as the other:  in the first episode, Will starts a glee club, decides he has to leave the glee club so he can get a job as an accountant, and then COMES BACK TO THE GLEE CLUB.  While he is gone, the white, straight, not-in-a-wheelchair kid who didn’t want to be in glee club at first but NOW TOTALLY DOES decides to take charge, and get the club together for their big performance or whatever.

You do the choreography!  He says to the white girl.  You make the costumes!  He says to the black girl.  You get us a jazz band!  He says to the guy in the wheelchair.  Begging the question as to why they didn’t have any of this stuff taken care of earlier.  Seriously, there was no plan in place to make costumes?  This is the kind of miracle-pep talk that you expect in the third act, after the cheerleaders sabotage the bus or something, and all the costumes catch on fire.  But the third act of a TV show is the end of the season, not the end of the first episode–what the hell are we supposed to look forward to?

The third part of the story is what the kids are going through, and it’s just as boring and stupid as teenagers’ lives always are.  Oh, I like the boy, but he likes his celibate girlfriend!  Oh, there’s a rigid caste system in high school, and I can’t deviate from it!  Which got me thinking about caste-systems–how true is that, really?  I don’t remember there being a caste-system, per se, in high school, but I also only had about three friends, and no one in any of the groups liked me.  But I feel like I recall that there was a lot of overlap:  drama club kids on the student council, football kids on the school newspaper, I don’t know.  Who gives a crap, anyway?

The problem with writing for teenagers is this:  you either a) write them like adults, in which case it’s unbelievable and no one wants to watch it, or b) you write them like teenagers, in which case they’re a bunch of idiots and no one wants to watch it.  Or, at least, I don’t want to watch it.

These are my thoughts on “Glee.”  I am assuming that Holland, obsessive TV freak that he is, will watch more of it, and let me know if it gets any better.

UPDATE!  I’ve seen the third episode now.  The show is still stupid.

  1. Jeff Holland says:

    Here is my thought #1 on “Glee”: Holy shit, no thank you. There may be a target audience for this (I believe it’s “adults who have no problem loving ‘High School Musical’), but it is NOT me.

    Here is my thought #2 on “Glee”: From the promos, it struck me as “Boston Public” with singing kids. (Which led to a repeating loop of thought #1.)

    And finally, thought #3 on “Glee”: I had a hazy recollection that the “wheelchair kid” in the Burger King Kid’s Club was, in fact, named “Wheels.”
    God did I hate remembering that right:

    Is the wheelchair kid in “Glee” also called Wheels? Or is he named something more jazz-based. “Bebop-mobile”!

  2. braak says:

    Here’s the thing: I don’t fucking remember his name. Who cares what his name is? The only time anyone ever refers to him, it’s basically as “wheelchair kid.”

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    Don’t disrespect Bebop-mobile like that.

  4. Moff says:

    Well, I enjoyed the three-quarters of an episode I saw. But then, it is widely acknowledged that I am way more empathetic and bighearted than you guys.

  5. V.I.P. Referee says:

    The pilot was adorable! Giddy firecrackers of happy and stupid, but it did draw me in and I watched the entire episode–and I rarely do that.

    The odd thing: I forgot about it and haven’t tuned-in since. What does this mean? Is “Glee” the cotton candy or “pixie-sticks” of evening television; you down no-substance, air-spun sugar, have an hour of high-octane, spazzy energy and then…crash? Maybe you’ll have more cotton candy at the fair next year–but there’s no way you could down that stuff on a daily, even weekly basis? I don’t know. What I do know, is that a “caste system” didn’t exist in my school but damn, that glee club was like high-school drama and acapella cabaret, all over again. Intensity over substance; desire over dedication and follow-through. Everyone is passionate about everything because…they’re teenagers. And the instructors involved, hope to re-gain that kind of gleeful energy and optimism long since lost–energy resulting from over-hyped hormonal imbalances, limited life experience and total trust that the future will be completely AWESOME.

    So, this is what I resented most about “Glee”: Will Sheuster is totally going to cheat on his wife. No doubt. But how do you manipulate an audience into feeling sympathetic toward the silly cad? You paint him in pastels and represent his wife as the horror story of all twenty-something guy horrors: That the creative, fun wife you married at 25, will morph into a money-blowing, frumpy psycho by 35, who’d rather work on her quilted teddy-bears than romp around the house with you in laughter and passion. She’s also the emotional downer that long-time friends have reluctantly accepted “needs our support at this time in her life”. Basically, they don’t want anyone sorry to see her go. Just to ensure there’s no competition, the bait must be impeccably groomed and only the acceptable kind of crazy; “hey, she may be as neurotic as my wife, but I’ll bet she scrubs well under her nails—-and she actually wants me with an overwhelming, feral, animalic desire!”

    You know it’s true. And I would never watch “High School Musical”. It’s unacceptable to have 13-year olds with perfectly coiffed hair and veteran-style humor. I refuse to support that. They have to be presented as the awkward, whiny kids that we all were; in complete honesty.

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    Oh yeah? Well I teared up at the final episode of “The OC”! BEAT THAT!

  7. V.I.P. Referee says:

    I salute your incredible hipness, Mr. Holland.

  8. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Oh–that was sensitivity showing, not “hipness”. I’m sorry—you guys caught me totally off-guard with your tales of tender-hearted warmth.

  9. Amanda says:

    Of course I enjoy this show and I admit it’s for this completely superficial and selfish reason: that I get to see my favorite Broadway stars singing and dancing on TV right in my own living room. That’s it. That’s why I like it. And I recognize and admit to that wholly.

    Which is also why I am completely shocked that it’s going over so well. No shows that I have ever enjoyed with that selfish, quirky, uber creative side of myself have ever been successful: The Middleman and Pushing Daisies are perfect examples of this. So for the life of me I CANNOT understand why this show is taking off. I can look at it and know why I like it, but I can also look at it and realize that all the reasons *I* like it are the very reasons why my favorite shows have failed in the past. And added on top of my smug bewilderment are all of the things you outlined in this very thorough and spot-on critique.

    So all I can say is whatever the delusion is, I hope it continues on……

  10. braak says:

    @Amanda: I would say that I hope it DOESN’T continue on, except that seems excessively spiteful. It’s not like it’s hard for me to ignore a TV show I don’t like. Just as long as I don’t end up seeing it everywhere, all the time, whatever–people want to see some kids sing and dance around, great. Bee’s fucking knees, you know?

  11. V.I.P. Referee says:

    …and you’ve somehow integrated 20’s slang into the conversation, Braak? OMG you guys are AWESOME!

  12. Amanda says:

    Any time you incorporate 1920s slang into a conversation, you score 100 points with me!

  13. Josh says:

    @Amanda: You’re shocked it’s doing well? The components of this show:

    • Teen sexitude

    • Singing and dancing

    • Clever writing

    No, this is a no-brainer for a nation that loves Miley Cyrus and American Idol and Gossip Girl. And the tone is slanted toward fans of shows like Arrested Development. I can appreciate Braak and other people not liking it, maybe—but no one can argue it was weird this got greenlighted.

    @VIP: I’ll be awful surprised if he cheats, unless it comes with some terribly real consequences. TV at this level has gotten away from being that obvious.

  14. braak says:

    @Josh: No, I agree, I’m not at all surprised that this was greenlit, ESPECIALLY in light of how astonishingly successful High School Musical was. There is no question that Fox was thirsty for a similarly-marketable show.

    And I don’t even think it’s bad, exactly–certainly not for a network TV show–so I can see it being popular and so forth.

    As I may have mentioned earlier, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for me to conclude that everyone else is an idiot. Doesn’t even give me a second’s pause.

  15. Kay says:

    I agree with you too much. A friend recommended that I watch this show because it was “cute”. After watching the first three episodes (I still can’t figure out how I endured that), all I could think of was how terrible this show is. It goes beyond the bad acting, the sap, the basic, general sterotypes, or the *shudder* “musicalness” of it all. If the show was written for an adult audience, not only would it be an improvement, but it wouldn’t be any LESS believable than it already is! I never remember going to a high school where celibacy is cool, freaky competitive bitches are uncool, and gay guys who look like Kurt haven’t already come out.
    The thing that probably bothers me the most is how some characters in the show are treated as props, mainly Artie, the kid in the wheelchair. The character is dressed in unfashionable clothes, constantly pushed off stages or into walls, and mostly referred to as “the Cripple” (who, according to the coach of the Cheerleading squad only counts as “half a person” ). When has Artie gotten any major part in an episode? When has his opinion been valid. The same goes for the Asian girl who stutters. I also find it strange that the pedophile ex-teacher is dealt with in such a bi-polar way — the characters having a serious discussion about his inappropriate behavior one minute and saying “Lol, pedophile” the next.
    Ugh, I can tell you who the audience is for this show. They live in the dorm room down the hall, still watch the disney channel, and will put out after a few beers.

  16. Amanda says:

    @Kay: There’s only been three episodes so far, so I don’t really think you can say that Artie has never gotten a major part in an ep, nor has his opinion ever been valid, as if it’s been a long time or something- three episodes is really not much at all when you’re talking about a new series here, they’re still setting things up and exploring all the characters. Of course they’re going to focus on the “leads” first, but just like Mercedes had her ep last week, I’d be very surprised if all characters weren’t spotlighted at some point. And the cheerleader coach is villified! So of course she’s going to say horrible things!

    And for the record- there were SEVERAL clearly homosexual males in my High School Drama class that either claimed to have crushes on girls, had girls with crushes on them, or even had long-term girlfriends. And no, they did not come out until well into college.

    And I totally still watch the Disney channel. And go to Mickey’s Halloween party at Disney dressed as tinkerbell. Oh yea. 26 years old!

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