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Review: Glee - Wheels

by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 12th 2009 12:29AM
If you're a Glee fan already -- a Gleek -- this episode is going to hit you in the sweet spot. If you're not a Glee fan, do yourself a favor and go online and watch this one (when it's available). It's just that good.

It may be coincidental, but the focus was on the school and the music. And plenty of character development with Puck, Kurt, and especially Sue. There was no football, no Slushees, no Emma and definitely no Teri. It's looking like Glee is best when Mr. Schu's personal life is off camera. I haven't missed the Mrs. one bit. More after the jump.

With the sectionals coming, Will had a few ideas about what the judges were looking for ... a little less hip-hop, a little more Broadway. With that in mind, he pulled out "Defying Gravity," the big ballad from Wicked. Rachel was perfect for it, but Kurt stepped up and asked for a chance to compete. From that kernel came an entire show dealing with diversity.

Actually, it was more than that. There was also Artie. Mr. Schu's lesson for the kids, making them spend three hours a day in a wheelchair, was a bit obvious. But they got the message. The solo featuring Kevin McHale singing "Dancing With Myself" was inspired. He really pulled it off. He has a very good voice, and the wheelchair choreography was excellent. (How interesting that Ugly Betty used the same song in last week's episode. It worked well in both shows.)

Kurt's father doesn't get his son's homosexuality, but he loves him and wants to help him. He stood up for Kurt, and in turn, Kurt gave back to his Dad. Their relationship has become one of the most healthy parent-child connections on TV. Neither character has it all together, but together they represent familial love at its best.

The "Defying Gravity" diva-off was done in an interesting way, intercutting Rachael and Kurt. Kurt claimed that he blew the high F on purpose, but I thought Rachel was better at the number. She just has the big Broadway belt in her voice, like a Barbra Streisand or a Patti Lupone or Idina Menzel (who won the Tony for singing it in Wicked on Broadway).

The diversity theme bled into open auditions for the Cheerios. Will suspected that Sue's selection of Becky, a young girl with Down's Syndrome, was part of some scheme. Sue responded to Will's suspicions with the line, "You don't know me at all," setting up the most poignant scene in the show. Sue visited her older sister, Jean, at a nursing home. When Sue read Little Red Riding Hood to her, I welled up with tears and had a lump in my throat. There is much more to Sue Sylvester than the hyper-competitive coach with delusions of grandeur.

It's hard to feel sympathetic about Quinn because she's so hard and deceitful. But she's not wrong to expect the father of her baby to take responsibility for the medical expenses; she's just wrong to continue to lie to Finn about him being the dad. Clearly, Noah wants to step up and be the "man."

In the end, Becky became a Cheerio -- and was glad to be treated like any other cheerleader being pushed by Coach Sylvester -- Rachel got the solo, Kurt got a little closer to his Dad, and New Directions pulled off a great rendition of "Proud Mary" with the entire group dancing in wheelchairs. And they even got the bus to go to sectionals as a team. Woo-hoo!

Superb episode; the kind that wins awards.

Other points of interest

-- Artie wound up in the wheelchair after a car accident. His penis, unlike his legs, works just fine.

-- Tina has been faking her stutter. The truth may set you free, but Artie lost all interest in dating her. He couldn't accept that she lied about a handicap so glibly. He thought they had a connection because they were both impaired.

-- On the other hand, it was pretty twisted that Finn had to pretend to be in a wheelchair to get a job.

-- You think anyone will figure out what Noah's secret ingredient was for the baked goods? Probably not.

-- So many great lines; I challenge you readers to share some of your favorites in the comments! Here's mine from tonight:
Sue explaining to Jacob why Quinn had to be removed from the Cheerios: "If I have a pregnant girl doing a handspring into a double layout, the judges aren't going to be admiring her impeccable form, they're going to be wondering if the centrifugal force is going to make the baby's head start crowning ... Oh, and by the way, all this is off the record. Probably should have told you that earlier."

[Check out clips and episodes of Glee at SlashControl.]

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Tony DIMeo

I just tried watching this show for the first time could not get through the first 10 minutes nothing made me laugh

January 18 2010 at 1:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope this show sticks around for a long, long time, because it's one of the few that really got me this fall. I absolutely love every bit of it, it's amazing! I can't believe that I wasn't even going to give it a try. I'm so happy I did :)

December 23 2009 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

By the way, here is a list of the principal cast of "Glee."


November 16 2009 at 7:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Will's comment

Sarah Palin? Now that's just low.

I did not ignore your links to the LA times & Judgmental Observer articles, I had been familiar with both of them before I became engaged in this debate; my comment about hater-ism and not paying attention was also directed at them.

You seem to have overlooked all but two of my points. You admitted previously that you've only seen 3-4 episodes. Like I've written, only 9 have aired and of the 12 cast members listed on the link you've provided 10 have had episodes in which they receive a larger portion of the spotlight. Amber and Jenna have yet to have "their" episodes and judging by the trend thus far, greater depth of character development for Mercedes and Tina should be forthcoming. I also do not understand how one storyline involving Mercedes's misguided affection for Kurt somehow rules out any future romance with a "hunky, straight black guy who would return her affections". Isn't romantic mismatching/mistakes one of the central themes of the show?

I agree that Mercedes does seem to have a greater vocal range than Rachel, however Rachel seems to have more "Broadway-style" chops and when you compare them as performers it's really apples and oranges. They are both tremendous talents. To dismiss Mercedes's two solo songs thus far as being "b.s" is exactly that. "Bust the Windows" is the longest solo (arguably the most elaborate) in the entire series thus far, and no other character on the show has even had more than one solo, including Rachel (unless you count "Taking Chances" for which she only sings the last chorus). I would love to see more of Mercedes on the show and I fully expect to as the show progresses.

Would it be good storytelling to reveal every strand of every storyline for every character in the first episode? I don't think so. You used the example of 'Fame' to show how a TV show can be ethnically diverse yet you seem to overlook the fact that 'Fame' has already had its run and gotten to tell all of its stories, while Glee is just getting started. How do you know so much about where the series is going before it gets there?

Speaking of 'Fame', where exactly did that show take place? As I recall it was in an urban city environment where you would be right to expect a very ethnically and culturally diverse population. Therefor the cast of that particular series reflected this fact. As I wrote before, 'Glee' takes place in a mid-western suburb, not typically the best example of a diverse locale, yet the producers have still clearly made an effort to represent a multitude of ethnic backgrounds within the ensemble. Would it surprise you to see an all white high-school glee club in a mid-western suburb in real-life? It makes sense that Caucasians would outnumber African-Americans or Asians or any ethnic minority in this particular setting.

Since there are more white characters on the show than any one particular ethnic group, you are correct in perceiving more screen time being allotted to white characters, but this is only true when you examine the screen time allotted to white characters as a group. It does not hold up when looking at each character individually. Your estimation that only .05 percent of screen time is devoted to minority characters is way off. Dialogue in group scenarios is generally spread pretty evenly between the actors, as is coverage of their reactions from scene to scene. Montage sequences also usually include coverage of each character, regardless of race.

As for your point about the marketing of the show, who was front and center to sing the national anthem at the World Series this year? Not Leah Michele but Amber Riley! Amber Riley lead that song and the rest of the cast sang back-up (buncha worthless snowflakes!).

I'm still trying to grasp why Lea Michele's white skin color is so offensive to you. It seems as if the thing you care about most is what color the characters aren't. What about my point on the validity of Finn/Rachel's star-crossed relationship? Would that story only be acceptable to you if one or both characters were not white? How is that anything but racist?

I'm not one of these anti-affirmative action "racism-deniers." I recognize that racism is still a very significant issue in this country and it continues to be a rampant problem on all levels of media and society in both America and abroad. However, just because a show has more white characters than characters of other ethnic backgrounds does not make said show racially biased, nor does that make the non-white characters "tokens". Does the context or the way characters relate to each other and the general spirit of the show mean nothing to you? Are you unable to look beyond your arbitrary, pseudo-mathematical deconstruction of the show and see an

November 17 2009 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tim, all of those characters you mention (the principal, the football coach) are MINOR characters on this show; the actors who portray them are not, to my knowledge, even listed with the regular cast in the opening credits but rather as guest stars. And even so, when the "stars of 'Glee'" are paraded around on TV shows, they only bring out Matthew Morrison and the kids in the club, who are the REAL stars of the show, not the people who play school staff (Morrison and Jane Lynch excepted). And the so-called "major stories" for these minor characters with these "majorly intensive dialogue" scenes you point out took up how much screen time per episode? And are those actors being put on the covers of magazines as the "up-and-coming" stars of the show like Lea Michele and Cory Monteith? You're tripping over yourself to prove me wrong and again only proving my point: of the actors (including Amber and Jenny) who are listed as the MAIN stars of the show, only the WHITE ones are given any prominence on this series. (And you apparently chose to ignore my links in a previous post showing that I am not the only one who has begun to take notice of this.)

And spare me the argument about Rachel and her Jewishness. If that one component of her character is the only thing that matters and not the color of her skin, then why didn't the producers hire a black Jewish actress to play the part? Hmm??? Yes, they do exist and I'm certain more than a few of them are talented singer/actresses who could easily have played this role as well or better than Ms. Michele, but I doubt their dark skin would have gotten them past the door at the audition. (It's apparently the law in Hollywood that you can only have one token black per series.) And for the record, many Jews refer to themselves as white (a fact even joked about on an old episode of "Northern Exposure"), so you and your ilk will have to come up with a new argument to try to skirt around the fact that for all intents and purposes, Rachel is as white as snow.

And last but not least, spare me the b.s. about Mercedes and her one solo song every 3 or 4 episodes, all the while her character is downgraded virtually every week as not being nearly as talented as Rachel, which anyone with ears knows is total crap (Amber Riley could sing circles around Lea Michele). And as far as her crush on Kurt, that was even MORE offensive than anything else they've done with her character thus far -- apparently, the fat black girl can't be given a REAL romance with a hunky, straight black guy who would return her affection; the best she can do is to be written into a dead-end attraction with someone who clearly would never return her affections (because again, only one black per series, please).

So seriously, Tim, you're gonna have to try harder. As it stands, your arguments are as hollow as Sarah Palin's resume.

November 16 2009 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Chuck, Jewish or not, she's still white and that's all that matters to the producers of this show when deciding who to focus on and who to ignore. And how exactly does her religious background change the reality that the actors on the show who are given 98.5% of the screen time and major storylines are also white?

The argument holds up.

November 16 2009 at 11:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Will's comment

You seem a bit overzealous and misguided in your opinions. You asked why the Finn/Rachel relationship is so important? Simple:Finn's the captain of the Football team and Rachel is the drama geek. In this school, which happens to be in a fictional mid-western suburb (don't expect to find too much diversity there in real life) football and drama/glee are two different castes. It's like Romeo + Juliet in that the two lovers are from clashing institutions.

Also, how are Jews not minorities? As someone said before, Rachel is Jewish and the show has even commented on her typically "Jewish features" with her referencing Barbara Streisand's resistance of pressures on her to have plastic surgery on her nose.

Are you forgetting about Principal Figgins? Clearly of Indian decent and he was given a multi-episode story arch involving blackmail and given many dialogue-intensive scenes and hilarious scenes with Sue Sylvester and Mr. Shuester. He is also a minority character in a position of authority, not jockeying a Quik-E-Mart or driving a cab.

Are you forgetting about the football coach? This character has been given ample screen time and multi-episode story arcs and a love interest, yet he looks to be of some mixed decent (Caucasian/Asian?). At any rate he doesn't appear "typically white".

Are you overlooking Mercedes's crush on Kurt or her rendition of "Bust the Windows"? Or her take on "Hate on me"? (An episode in which Sue Sylvester tried to divide the Glee club using race/ethnicity as her weapon.) Artie's contributions on "Somebody to Love" or "It's my life/Confessions" and everything between him and Tina from the most recent episode can be used to refute your points. The "Dancing with Myself" number represented a new high point in the show for me.

Also, Glee has only aired 9 episodes! It is still in the process of rolling out the long term stories for each character in the ensemble. The show is similar to Lost in that it shuffles and shifts its focus from one character to the next from week to week. There are at least 12 characters in the main ensemble (I can think of 14). With only 9 episodes having aired, do the math, there's still at least 3 episodes before you can really expect to have seen all the characters given their due diligence. And even then the season will only be roughly halfway finished!

The producers are more concerned with telling a good story that is fun and entertaining than worrying about what ethnicity the actors are. The writers clearly love all of their characters as they always give everyone something to do or say, even though it is always necessary for certain characters to move to the background.

It isn't possible to give everyone the spotlight all of the time. That's where some of the drama in the show has come from and as the series progresses I think we will find that one of the show's greatest strengths will be it's ability to shift and shuffle the spotlight in the name of a good story.

All the accusations of racism stink of outside baggage and hater-ism, not to mention the subtle whiff of not-paying-attention.

November 16 2009 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First, Puck did put some pot in the cupcakes, just not very much.

Second, the studies of the effects of marijuana on pregnancy indicate that, whatever impacts it may have, it would take prolonged and repeated use to have any effect on a fetus.

"Some studies suggest that use of marijuana during pregnancy may slow fetal growth and slightly decrease the length of pregnancy (possibly increasing the risk of premature birth). These effects are seen mainly in women who use marijuana regularly (six or more times a week) (2).

There have been a limited number of studies following marijuana-exposed babies through childhood. Some did not find any increased risk of learning or behavioral problems. However, others found that children who were exposed to marijuana before birth are more likely to have subtle problems that affect their ability to pay attention (2, 3). Exposed children do not appear to have a decrease in IQ."

Third, this episode had me tearing up several times. Kudos! Have been listening to the Kurt/Rachel rendition of Defying Gravity over and over again this afternoon. While I agree that Rachel has the traditional broadway pipes to nail the number, the poignancy and sweetness of Kurt's rendition won me over. The lyrics are so apropos for a teenage boy wrestling with the coming out process in high school.

November 15 2009 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Puck didnt put pot in the cupcakes. Puck sold some pot to the other students so they would all get the munchies and buy the already made cupcakes. How did no one else notice that.

November 14 2009 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With all due respect, CC, I totally disagree. All of the kids in the glee club are supposed to be the main focus of the show (along with their teacher, played by Matthew Morrison), not just 2 or 3 of them, though you would not know that to watch it. (And all are listed alphabetically in the opening credits each week, which is normally the case for actors playing the principal roles in an ensemble series.) But in your effort to discredit my point, you end up making it anyway when you say "blame the producers for not making one of the lead characters a minority" -- i.e., blame the producers for casting actors of color as tokens and pushing them into the background so that the white actors can have the spotlight every week. (Mercedes is only a "minor" character compared to Rachel because the writers/producers never bother to write a real, multi-arc storyline for her. Even the L.A. Times, in its review of the show, noted "Chris Colfer, who plays the gay character, gets some great scenes in an upcoming episode, but in the three I've seen, Kevin McHale (wheelchair), Amber Riley (black) and Jenna Ushkowitz (Asian) have stayed mostly in the background, which can start to look like tokenism.") And frankly, color aside, what is supposed to be so interesting about Rachel and Finn anyway? What makes their characters so utterly fascinating that this show has to be about them every single week?

The template for "Glee" should have been the TV series version of "Fame" from the '80s, which also had a large cast (16 if I remember correctly), a beautiful, talented, multi-colored cast in which EVERYONE was given equal storylines and screen time from one week to the next. The producers of that show did not, as you say, "cast the minorities in the minor roles" (which, again, is mere tokenism) and let the pretty white kids have the spotlight all to themselves week after week the way "Glee" does.

I'm not advocating pushing the white kids on the show aside for Mercedes and Tina (or the straight ones aside for Kurt). I'm just saying with a cast this talented, the producers could be more inclusive and give everyone their due. They just clearly choose not to.



November 13 2009 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Will's comment

We can agree to disagree. Glee may be an ensemble (and I would say it is) but that from my perspective, there still are leads and minor characters. The Office is an ensemble but there are still leads and minor characters in that.

The actors are listed in alphabetical order (except for guest actors, including those playing Santana, Brittany, Mike and Matt) but the actor playing Terri is listed along with the regulars. Would you really consider her character to be part of the ensemble? Or did they just give all the regulars equal billing, regardless of the character's role?

My point about "blame the producers" is that I've read many criticisms (here and elsewhere) about how the minorities are being pushed into the corner - because they are minorities. I still feel that the characters are pushed out of sight because of the character themselves - not because of the color of the actor playing the role. Not sure if I'm making the distinction clear...

I'm a minority (in that I'm not white/Caucasian, though in California - that is a minority) - and frankly I don't care about what ethnicity or race the actor is. I'm watching shows for the stories. Do we want to learn more about Tina? Sure - and I'm guessing we will see an episode that will feature her. Same with Mercedes.

I just don't agree that there is something inherently wrong about Rachel or Finn getting more screen time and more lines than the other characters... but that's just my opinion.

And to the commenters who mentioned that pregnant Quinn was eating pot cupcakes - I didn't see her eating any cupcakes. She did have frosting on her fingers (from handling the cupcakes) but it was Santana who was eating the cupcake. I'm assuming Puck put the pot in the cupcake and not in the frosting. (Although it's Puck, so who knows).

November 13 2009 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your argument doesn't hold up--Rachel is not white, she's Jewish.

November 16 2009 at 6:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim McCleese

By accident I caught most of this episode of this show for the first time. I can see why everybody liked it. If they (episodes) are like this I'm going to give this show another look.

November 12 2009 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, that was a great episode. My wife had sworn off the show but I told her she HAD to see last night's episode. One note for the writers: keep the verb 'blow' out of Curt's vocabulary. No one wants to hear Curt blew anything! :)

November 12 2009 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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