Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Last night's Glee: Substitute

Here's my review of Glee. On a side note, I'm learning when I write these reviews how hard it is to resist finding out someone else's opinion on the show right after you watch it. Fortunately I managed to stay entirely away from any message boards or sites until I formed an entirely original opinion on the show. For all I know, every other person who watched the show thought the exact opposite of me and that's the fun of it:

One good thing about Glee being erratic is you never know what to expect. The show might go in directions that are entirely self-defeating and stupid because the writer’s have done that before. This week, the shit really hit the fan. Over the course of the episode, Terri was back in Will’s life, Will was fired, Sue had taken over as principal, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Holly Holiday was going to take over the Glee Club. You can’t accuse Glee of being predictable if at least one of these changes didn’t get reset to the status quo by episode’s end (who knows if that’s the last we see of Terri).

On the major changes to happen this week: Sue taking over for Figgins is at least where we are at episode’s end. I have no way of knowing how long this will last, but it obviously can’t or shouldn’t. Aside from Iqbal Theba being one of the better
actors on the show, the current power structure with Figgins-Will-Sue is far more effective than Will being at the mercy of Sue.

On Terri’s return: If I’m not mistaken, the general consensus last year was that Terri’s craziness was too much, even for Glee. I never felt she was particularly out of tune with some of the show’s other characters (see Rachel, Sue), but I love the new Terri and I can’t see the Terri haters of old legitimately not liking this new development. Which brings me to the point that it was a mistake for both Will and the show’s writers (if Will’s emphatic refusal is to be believed) to have Terri leave so soon. On-again off-again romantic pairings are what drama is all about.

As for the main plot, Gwyneth Paltrow was a perfect guest star. Yes, it was stunt casting. She´s an Oscar winner but she also added a lot and fit the tone perfectly. Most importantly, it was so apparent how much fun she was having that it became contagious. Gwyneth’s exaggerated caricature of a fun-loving Dead-Poets-Society-wannabe substitute was the perfect foil to exaggerated caricature of a bitter teacher Sue Sylvester and especially exaggerated prima donna Rachel. When Holly Holliday responded to Leah Michelle’s threat of going to the nurse, with “You suck!” that was the best moment of the show.

The premise that Holliday served as a genuine foil, on the other hand, to Will was a little bit harder to buy. The acting certainly sold it: Gwyneth Paltrow got “more real” (to quote Clone High) in her heart-to-heart moments with Will. I don’t remember Will being that much of a taskmaster as the flashbacks made him out to be, but since it was acknowledged at episode’s end in a realistic way, I don’t mind this at all. In fact, it ended in a happier place than I expected with Holliday at least getting her job back. Paltrow is probably too busy a movie star to make too many returns, but I at least liked that in the fictional universe, good things happened to good people.

With Glee the endings do not make or break the episodes. My (possibly outlandish) theory is that things generally get melodramatic and fantasical in the middle third of the episode and if the characters can shrug the drama off and become more realistic at episode’s end, it feels to the audience like we’ve been taken into and out of a fantasy and back to real life again. Musicals are all about fantasy so this kind of mirrors our TV viewing experience.

Other random notes:
-Do not know how to spell Prima Donna...the spell checker told me it was two words
-Harry Shum Jr. as Michael Chang is nicely coming around. It is very clear that he has more of a dancing background than the others and the duet was gold. Whether it was better than Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's version when he hosted SNL is a tough call.
-The Leah Michelle/Gwyneth Paltrow duet didn't really feel necessary. I've already forgot it.
-The writers are usually careful not to portray Will as a womanizer. He has had flings and relationships and gains points by admitting that some of the things he's done (i.e. Vocal Adrenaline Coach Idina Menzel, trying to romance Emma with the Rocky Horror Show) were mistakes. He also has used caution and discretion (i.e. Emma, April Rhodes). Tonight's episode was definitely a step backwards in that direction. The writing room should keep Will away from ill-fated romance for a while lest he lose more good guy points with the audience.
-Santana is regularly getting the best lines in the episode these days.

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