Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

"Glee" Needs More Scenes Like This

The final scene from the first-half-season finale of Glee.

Like a lot of my friends (in real life and on the Twitter-sphere), it seems that the 2nd half of the first season of Glee has been more disappointing than exciting. I still enjoy the show, make time to watch it if I'm not working on Tuesday nights, or watch it on Hulu the next day. But the recent episodes haven't been as good as they could have (and should have) been.

The scene above is great for a number of reasons, many of which have been lacking recently:

  • Group number: there have been a lot of solo or small group numbers lately. While there can't be large group numbers all of the time, those have been the most entertaining. The Cheerios dance numbers this season were exciting, and the choir singing Dream a Little Dream was moving. Keep in mind that this is a show choir, not a show solo, duet or trio. The above scene is a group number with everyone singing and dancing and having a fun time doing it, which transfers to the audience's entertainment level
  • Storyline: Glee has been panned for eliminating and forgetting about plotlines, many of which we want to know more about (Quinn's pregnancy? What happened to Mr Schuster's wife? Rachel finding and losing her mother in only 2 episodes? Where's Emma?). The Finn/Kurt storyline, with their parents, is getting a little tired. We don't get much from the rest of the cast. The above scene continues the Shu/Emma storyline, before ditching it. It shows the students' appreciation for Shu.
  • Good music: There has been a lot written about producer Ryan Murphy & his ability to pick music that fits with the storyline. I'll agree that a lot of songs have been used very well; the problem is that some songs are so obscure that they're forgotten about immediately (Jesse's Girl, Beth) or they become a dark spot of the episode. The Madonna episode felt very forced (partly due to the music, partly due to the plot); the Lady Gaga episode had moments of the same (why did they wear their costumes all week? Is Poker Face - a great arrangement/performance of that song - really the song you'd want to sing to say goodbye to your new-found mother?)
  • No guest stars: The inclusion of special guests usually signals the end of a tv show trying to get ratings to hang on. Glee did this very early in the series. Granted, a lot of the guest stars have done a good job (Idina Menzel & Neil Patrick Harris). It's great to see lesser-known performers such as Idina get a bigger spotlight, outside of the Broadway crowd, and it's nice to see people not thought of as singers perform, such as Neil Patrick Harris. But I feel like they're starting to rely on guest stars to make the episode, instead of the strong cast, writing, and performing.

Yes, this is the season finale and it's going to be more dramatic. Not every episode can leave the audience hanging like this does, and elicit the same emotions. But it can come close to it, or at least try.

Glee recently got signed-on for a third season. I hope they continue to do well, because I'm an avowed fan of the show and I don't want to see it fail. A few other things that might help:

  • Avoid "theme" episodes, like the Madonna episode. The plot was forced and fake, and some of the songs were weak. There are rumors about a Britney Spears episode; I hope they are false. Use some of her music, but forcing an entire episode around her music will most likely fail.
  • Include more showtunes: they've done a good job of revitalizing some older, lesser-known showtunes, and giving great arrangements of others (Defying Gravity, I Dreamed a Dream, Don't Rain on My Parade, etc.). There are a lot of songs from Broadway musicals that can still be mined.
  • Less commercialization: Releasing the songs on iTunes every week is great. Making CDs is good, too, because some people still buy them. The tour? I'm not so sure. I could have seen them in Chicago this past week, but opted out - I didn't want my impression of the show ruined. I know there's a lot of studio work that goes on, and I'm ok with that; I can suspend the disbelief. What I didn't want to see was the Glee characters on tour, pretending that they're in high school playing big arenas. Part of the reason the songs work (when they do) is how they're placed in the episode. The Boy is Mine doesn't work quite so well in an arena stage.
  • Dreams: one of the things about this show is that it gives a lot of strength to the underdog, whether it be the choir as a whole, to Kurt, or in other ways. Keep this a part of the show. The students want to go places, and are using the choir as an avenue. Taking it away risks turning it into something more like The Hills or some other self-righteous show rather than a show about small-town teens with modesty and larger-than-life ambitions.
  • Better set-ups: Lately the episodes have followed this plan: 1) Something dramatic happens. 2) Mr Schuster finds out about it and is upset. 3) He decides to base his lesson plans around this moral. 4) The students perform songs along that theme. 5) Everyone is happy at the end. While I'm able to suspend some belief during this show, having a teacher do that every single week is far-fetched, and it's getting old to see. I'm starting to wonder what Shu does in his prep period and free time - it's obviously not spent writing lesson plans. Think of some better set-ups so the first 15 minutes of the show aren't as pained as they have been.

Ryan Murphy has a big thing on his hands, but it could easily be ruined. I'll keep watching avidly every week to hope that he keeps the show as great as it was and as it could be.

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