'Glee' Season One, Part Two - An Early Look
by Joel Keller, posted Apr 12th 2010 3:10PM
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.
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.
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.