September 12, 2009

new show review: glee

Many saw the pilot preview of Glee last May - smart move by FOX because the show generated quite a bit of buzz over the summer. The second episode finally arrived last week. Are they following through on the hype? Here are my thoughts on the first two episodes...

Before I start, I'm fully aware that this show makes me write like a 16-year-old.

Will Schuester is the optimistic teacher (Matthew Morrison of Broadway fame), who attempts to save McKinley High's glee club from obscurity with a group of underdog aspiring performers (they had me at underdog). While most of the young actors are newcomers, you'll recognize Jayma Mays, playing germaphobe teacher and glee club (Will) supporter Emma Pillsbury, from movies and guest spots on shows like Ugly Betty, and the classic Jane Lynch, playing the scary scheming cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, from movies like 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models, and this summer's Julie & Julia.

The pilot begins with Will asking for the glee club director job and trying to scrape together funds, support from the principal, and more students. Among the existing club members, we have Rachel (Lea Michelle), a self-proclaimed rising star, singing the classic cliche "On My Own" from Les Mis at their first audition. I laughed out loud at the gold star sticker she uses every time she signs her name. She has supportive stage dads and a self-promoting MySpace page. She's completely over-the-top and possibly the devil, but everyone at school is mean to her, so of course I love her.

The other original members include Kurt (Chris Colfer) the high fashion soprano, Mercedes (Amber Riley) the diva power voice, Artie (Kevin McHale) the geeky rock and roll guitarist, and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) the awkward punk rocker.

Will's efforts to find some cool kids to the glee club lead him to Finn (Cory Monteith) the quarterback rocking "I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" in the boys locker room showers. Will then bribes Finn into the glee club by planting a teacher's weed bag in his locker. We learn that Finn has a childhood music dream and agrees to join the club at the risk of violent retaliation from his sociopath football teammates and his Jesus freak mean girl head cheerleader girlfriend Quinn.

In short, things fall apart when Will is forced to quit his job after the news that his verbally abusive, money hungry wife Terri is pregnant (I could do with less of this side story). Finn subsequently quits until he has a moment of inspiration (and an unfortunate teen movie melodrama speech) in front of his football team.

The whole thing comes together in the end when the kids pull together a practice performance of "Don't Stop Believing" and (with the help of Emma the lovestruck guidance counselor) win Will back. Swoon.

At this point, the show might sound either ridiculous like some kind of warped teen drama. It's neither. The tone is hard to explain, but the execution is hilarious and genuine. The kids need some acting practice, but so far, I'm hooked.

In the second episode "Showmance", we learn from scary Sue (cheerleading coach) that Will needs 6 more students in the glee club to qualify for regionals this year - principal will pull their funding unless they place at this competition. Sue is after the funding, and she's not afraid to bully Will for it.
Finn's jesus freak mean girlfriend Quinn is pressuring him to quit because she doesn't want to be his "big gay beard", Rachel gets another slushy to the face while her crush on Finn grows, and the kids need to perform at the Friday pep rally to recruit more members. Unfortunately, Will chooses a disco number "Freak Out" as the performance piece.

Giving into the kids' demands, he brings them a more modern piece to work on for future shows - Kanye's "Gold Digger" - but they're still not thrilled about the disco number. Ok, I've heard mixed comments about the obvious lip synching during the show. Although we know these actors provide the vocals, it's nearly impossible to have them singing live on tape, so the lip synching is inevitable. I'm going to chose not to nitpick and enjoy the music.

In the end, the kids rebel against Will and perform a sexy version of "Push It" which is slightly painful to watch. The crowd's reception was great, but Sue and the principal (fueled by parental complaints) strongly disapprove (Sue suggests the kids be put into foster care) and deliver new Puritanic restrictions to future music selections. Will is none to pleased with the kids.

The pep rally does attract new tryouts though, which include Quinn and two other cheerleaders, who are actually pretty talented (evil). Sue supports their participation, so she can use them as spies. In a stroke of irony, Quinn wins the solo over Rachel because her song meets the principal's approved list of songs. This is all after poor Rachel gets kissed and ditched by an apologetic Finn during a private rehearsal turned traumatic teenage boy moment.

The B plots give us more of Will's horrible wife. I'm really having a hard time tolerating her. More kids, less Teri. We find out that she actually isn't pregnant, but not before Will ends up taking a night time janitorial staff to afford the grand foyer upgrade for Teri's dream cookie cutter house. Teri chooses not to tell Will there is no baby, but lets him quit the janitor job. Meanwhile, Emma is starting to give up on her crush and agrees to go out with Ken, the football coach.
Overall, I liked the second episode. Not quite as strong as the pilot, but definitely enough to keep me hooked. Next week is "Preggers" on Wednesday at 9:00.


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