Review: GLEE

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

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  • bws

    It’s one of only 3 or 4 new shows on my watch list this fall but I’m a little reserved in my excitement. Most of the funny comes from the adults in the pilot and I’m concerned that the kids will just be around to sing and have “young adult type problems.” What all this means is that I don’t know if the show will have enough plot to keep me interested. Fun, yes. Campy, yes. And I hope it goes well – it gives a Fox a fun night tied to SYTCD.

  • Ace

    Continuing to agree with bws seemingly about everything, I’ll also be watching Glee tonight. I hope that they keep the plot moving and don’t make it all about the music numbers b/c that could get lame quickly. Pairing it with SYTYCD seems like the perfect fit!

  • bws

    Ohhh… I forgot the second “Y” in the SYTYCD acronym. Which I always struggle to type. Hmmmm… “ThinkDance” is maybe better? Just “Dance”? Cause that other dancing show could be “Dancing” or DWTS which rolls off the keyboard more easily. Decisions, decisions…

    I believe TVA has seen eps 2 and 3 of Glee and most of the season is already in the can. So I’ll trust him for a few weeks. I do wonder if the show will feel like an “after school special” if they ever have a serious moment, though.

    Ace, you and I agree on everything. That’s just good TV science.

  • John

    Like the concept, like most of the show. Too many silly characters. Don’t need the whiny wife. Don’t need the principal. Let’s tell stories about the students and their problems becoming and succeeding at GLEE club.

  • grumpyoldman

    The principal character is sooo racist, and the lead male can’t sing…
    But I love the lead female singer, and the eyes of the female teacher.

  • I like the biting humor of Glee and the songs are really great. I just feel so bad for the teacher. His wife is crazy.