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'Glee' Season One, Part Two - An Early Look

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 12th 2010 3:10PM
The cast of 'Glee;' they come back to FOX April 12
Hey, folks! Did you hear? 'Glee' is coming back on Tuesday! Wow, Fox really kept that comeback under wraps, didn't they? Gone for four months, they seem to be bringing the show back without a lot of fanfare.

Too bad sarcasm doesn't translate very well in electronic print, but, believe me, I was rolling my eyes the whole time I wrote the last paragraph. Between the interviews, the appearance on 'Oprah,' the performance at the White House, the Rolling Stone cover, the weird 9:28PM ET time slot after 'American Idol,' and pretty much everything else going on, you couldn't avoid the comeback of 'Glee' if you tried.

But is the show coming back in good shape? Fox sent out the next three episodes out for review, and the answer is: yes and no. It really depends on what your favorite part of the show is.

If you have become a "Gleek" because you enjoy the kids of McKinley High singing and dancing, I've got good news: the first three episodes are jam-packed with musical numbers. If you like the show because of the characters, plots or dialogue, I've got bad news: the first three episodes are jam-packed with musical numbers.

It seems that, during the break in filming, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk decided that if the musical numbers are the most popular part of the show, then how much better would the show be if there were five or six of them per episode? In the first three episodes back, it feels like there's been a major format shift in the show; concentrate on the music, and make the stories behind them somewhat less nutty.

I'm all for the second change; the soapiness of the first half of the season just didn't jibe well with the feel-good tone of the musical parts of the show. But I wonder if the over-reliance on the musical numbers is going to wear a lot of viewers down.

Scene from 'Glee' spring premiere - 'Hell-o'We return to McKinley right after New Directions won the sectionals; but there isn't a lot of time to celebrate because a) the regionals are coming up soon, b) the juggernaut of Vocal Adrenaline is tough to beat, and c) Sue Sylvester is back and is on the warpath. How does Sue get back into Principal Figgins' good graces after the cheating controversy that ended the show's first half? In a very Sue Sylvester way.

Meanwhile, all of the relationships that were established in the mid-season finale -- Will and Emma, Rachel and Finn, Quinn and Puck -- all will be examined and mixed up as the season goes along. We'll also get to see more of the group's second string; both Chris Colfer and Amber Reily (Kurt and Mercedes, respectively) will be featured prominently in the first group of episodes, and we'll hear more from Tina, Artie and the Cheerio twins as well.

Matthew Morrison and Indina Menzel in 'Glee' - 'Hell-o'Two interesting additions to the cast are Jonathan Groff as Jesse St. James, the male lead of Vocal Adrenaline, who takes and interest in Rachel, and Idina Menzel as the supergroup's hard-driving instructor, Shelby Corcoran. We see more of Jesse than we do of Shelby, but believe me, the two are connected in a very dark way.

The strongest of the three episodes is next week's Madonna tribute, entitled "The Power of Madonna." The plot device that shoehorns Madonna's discography into the proceedings is a little flimsy, but overall, it's the best combination of plot and music out of that first set.

But, even in this episode, the story screeches to a halt to go off in a fanciful musical direction, albeit a funny one: an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the 1990 'Vogue' video, starring Kurt, Mercedes and... Sue Sylvester as the Material Girl herself. Jane Lynch does a good job channeling Madge in the video -- she looks almost sexy -- but it also derails what was to that point a funny and well-written episode.

It's those flights of fancy that worry me. When I wrote two weeks ago that I was concerned that the show is in danger of falling hard and fast, one thing I didn't anticipate was that it would become self-indulgent on the musical side. I thought that the plots might get ridiculous, but I always figured Murphy and Falchuk had a handle on how music fits in the mix.

Now I'm not so sure. By the end of the third episode -- where Kristin Chenoweth comes back as April -- I was ready to see a music-free episode as a change of pace. For a show that relies on music so heavily, that's not a good sign.

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John Pluntze

"Glee" Another (successful NBC Series) "FAME" In the Making??????
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There were A LOT of naysayers/skeptics back in the 1980s, when NBC's "Fame" first premiered (in 1982) -- a decidedly PG-rated series based on a decidedly R-rated Alan Parker-directed film of the same name (a coiupe of whose cast members reprised their roles on the rather sanitized TV version, including the incredibly-talented Gene Anthony Ray and Debbie Allen).

The ratings for the show went up and down, cast members came and went, there were recurring reports of "strife on the set" (cast members and crew being routinely "overworked" and "overhyped" etc, etc), the show in "dire jeopardy" of being cancelled because it was "too expensive" or "not being a big enough ratings winner for NBC," etc, etc.

But in the end ... the show ran for a staggering five years and 119 episodes -- from 1982-'87 -- and many of us out there who happily and eagerly bought the "Fame" soundtrack albums and went to those often sold-out "Fame" (summer-hiatus) concerts in Los Angeles or Seattle or whereever still have verrrry fond memories of the show. In fact, some of us tuned into "Glee" last September primarily (or even solely) BECAUSE of that verrry fondly-remmbered hit 1980s NBC series that always seemed to be "on the brink of implosion."

Granted, some episodes of the TV show "Fame" were much better than others -- and some entire SEASONS were arguably much better than others (as they were for "St. Elsewhere," "Hill Street Blues," "Cheers," etc) -- but it was always a consistently entertaining and fun show to watch ... and I dare say that'll be true, also, of "Glee" in the coming months and years.

Type "Glee" into the search engine at http://www.sunvalleyonline.com to read any (or all four) of the articles I wrote recently about the "Glee" TV series -- and the often verrry inspiring effect it has had already on various students, teachers, retireers and others I got a chance to interview/talk with recently, right here in our Wood River Valley region of Idaho.

--John Pluntze
Ketchum, Idaho
WriteStuffIdaho@gmail.com

May 02 2010 at 8:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Key Rick

my concern's been that they started out with some actors a little too old to pass as high school students to begin with; not that they disintegrate into too many musical numbers. Thanks for the heads up, though, as knew Glee was a show too good to last too long

April 13 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wofgang

API ran a story where songs featured on Glee have a dramatic rise in sales on Itunes. One wonders if the producers are either under pressure to add more musical numbers to increase song sales or are cashing in on it.

April 12 2010 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Susan Schuchts

I totally disagree with you. There really can not be enough musical numbers- that's why this show is so popular. I am glad to hear that the outrageous soapiness will be diminished. Let the GLEE begin!

April 12 2010 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Susan Schuchts's comment
Joel Keller

That's why I say if you like the musical numbers, you'll like the first three episodes. I was turned off by their sheer number, not their quality.

April 12 2010 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kikstad

I was skeptical of Glee when I first heard about it, but it truly is an addictively fun show. Glad it's back.

-- Nick
from City of Kik
http://nickleshi.blogspot.com

April 12 2010 at 4:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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