By: Aleks Chan
My original trepidation with GLEE was that while the pilot was marvellously executed – showcasing its wry sense of humor (reminiscent of Alexander Payne’s Election), game covers of modern pop songs, and a stellar cast – the characters were broadly drawn and somewhat stereotypical.
If the show is going to work as a serious portrayal of a high school show choir group and satirize it at the same time, it’s going to need – hell, demand – characters more sophisticated than worn high school archetypes (the jocks, the cheerleaders, the closeted gay kids and loud, diva-like black girls).
After screening two more episodes, there are definite signs that creator Ryan Murphy (NIP/TUCK) will be fleshing out the cast of ‘New Directions’ and its supporting characters, slowly but surely. Episode 3, for instance, focuses primarily on Kurt (Chris Colfer), who helps the football team’s losing streak by teaching them the choreography to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”
And while it focuses primarily on the kids’ plights, the very real adult challenges aren’t far: Spanish teacher-cum-glee-club-director Will (Matthew Morrison, boldly able to perform a broadcast-friendly version of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” with unchallengeable gusto) is struggling to make ends meet, his wife (the wonderfully histrionic Jessalyn Gilsig) pregnant and begging for a dream house only obtainable through a subprime mortgage.
GLEE is never heavy, never weighed down by Big Issues – it plays up its idiosyncrasies for fun (Will in voiceover: “My father always said you become a man when you buy your first house. I’m not sure what he meant by that, since he burned ours down once during a drunken fight with mom.”), and it keep things bobbing along at nice, cheery pace, cracking a giant, demented smile.
Jane Lynch’s pearly grin though, is a performance to behold. As cheerleading coach and glee club arch nemesis Sue Sylvester, she renders every line with caustic bite, ripping through the scene with the best bits of dialogue that if left in different hands, could have seem overtly snide. Sue is pro-littering (“I will not rest until every inch of our fair state is covered in garbage. It’s why I pay taxes. It keeps garbage men earning a living…so they can afford tacos for their family.”), but Lynch does delivers it with such candour, you don’t immediately dismiss the idea.
By the promotional blitz may have gotten to you, and I’d imagine how you could see it as Fox setting the show up for failure, never quite living up to expectations. (It’s like watching the Best Picture winner after it wins the Oscar – a little disappointing.) But I’ll take a page from Sue and tell you to ceasefire on the apprehension and give GLEE and it’s goofy, sardonic, and heartening self a chance, because there’s a good possibility you’ll wind up loving it. Grade: A