Thursday, February 16, 2012

GLEE: a review of the TV series


            I enjoy the TV series GLEE.  Let me make that clear right away.  It's loaded with tokenism and it knows it.  The political correctness is like a flagpole stuck up, well, let's say it's stuck up.  In spite of these sins, it's a lot of fun.  It's relaxing, sometimes moving, always entertaining.  If I had to watch commercials with this show, it would suck.  My wife and I ordered the discs from Netflix.
            What a wonderful world it would be if we could sing our feelings to one another, if a song in the vast library of pop music could be taken from its envelope and seamlessly rhapsodized to our partner, our friend, support group, spouse...whomever.  That would be great.  And that's what GLEE does.  It's a variety show merged with a sit-drama.  It's a great big musical with a few scenes of spoken dialogue.  Important themes are explored in the plot: teen pregnancy, toleration for gays and weirdos, high school bullying, adolescent angst. The range is modest but positive.  GLEE gets us emotionally involved.  We get angry at the lies that hurt and deceive innocent (or ignorant) young people.  My wife and I wanted Quinn to fess up to who was the real father of her baby.  We wanted Terry to come clean to Will that she was NOT pregnant.  It's basic, simple story telling, but it's effective.   

            I've written, in my other reviews, of the so-called Fulcrum Character.  This is a supporting role without which the whole story would collapse.  In GLEE this role is carried by the effeminate gay character of Kurt Hummel.  The actor, Chris Colfer, landed this plum as his FIRST show biz role.  Talk about fate.  He's good, really good.  The story lines of GLEE would simply flatten without Kurt's presence.  Colfer carries the role with amazing authority.  If he weren't such a good actor, the gay stereotypes offered by the script writers would be off the charts.  He simply accepts his status as Victim with indifferent aplomb and leaves it behind, leaves it in the dumpster where the jocks toss him every morning.  In the REAL world, a Kurt Hummel would spend most of his time in the hospital E.R.  But this is GLEE, not the real world.
            GLEE, the TV series, shows the influence of another TV series, SCRUBS.  I'm so often reminded of SCRUBS by the incidental music, the 'tween scenes' bopping and percussion fills.  I'm also reminded of SCRUBS by the dialogue, especially that of the vindictive cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester.  Alas, GLEE is not SCRUBS.  Not even close.  And Sue Sylvester, no matter how gloatingly superior her rhetoric, no matter how repulsive and outright dirty MEAN she gets, is not Dr. Perry Cox.  Not by a long shot.
            Still, GLEE is a lot of fun.  When Rachel breaks up, or reconciles, for the twentieth time, with Finn, Jesse or whomever, she belts out a perfectly produced, professionally glossed song -and- dance number.  The Show Choir, the so-called "losers" dubbed New Directions, waits in the wings with supporting harmonies. It pops out from behind the curtains with a great band, sometimes even strings and horns.  The lighting gets inventive, the costumes are immaculate.  Brad the piano player is always available and the fantasy is complete.  This ain't no high school glee club.  We wouldn't sit still for a high school glee club unless it came from the School For The Performing Arts.  We wouldn't watch the performance of a show choir from a suburban midwestern town unless our kids were in it.    
            When the glitz of the music fades away, and we return to the plot, I find that my wife is crying along with Kurt Hummel, when his wonderfully supportive father lies in a coma, and the series' emotional content spikes in some not-quite-preachy way.
            If you've enjoyed this brief review, I may yet have more commentary on GLEE as a paradigm marker, or something like that.  Meanwhile, we're starting Disc One of Season Two.