Monday, April 25, 2011

My issues with Glee

Kortney and I have watched every episode of Glee together.  I do not consider myself a Gleek however, and I would be willing to wager that she does not either...hold on ("KOOOOORTNEY???? ARE YOU A GLEEK???"   "NOOOOOOOOOO")  Yea, she definitely doesn't.  But, for some reason, we keep on watching it.  Obviously, the music is pretty good, sometimes, it is even amazing.  Sometimes, I love it, and once, ONLY once, was I actually brought to tears by the show.  For the most part however, I find Glee riddled with continuity problems, issues with their tone (its supposed to be a comedy right?), and really uncomfortable attempts at pushing the line.  So, despite Glee's positive aspects, this post is all about my issues with Glee.

1. Are they losers or not?

This is seriously my biggest beef with this show.  Half the time the Glee club is sitting around crying about how they are the joke of the school and are persecuted on every side by the jocks and the cheerleaders.  Then, they turn right around and remind us that half of them are football players and cheerleaders, including the quaterback and the head cheerleader.   Not exactly the typical outcasts.

Next, they talk constantly about how they are at the bottom of the high school pecking order and how even (insert interchangeable stereotypically nerdy club) looks down on them.  And then we see them perform at assemblies/pep rallies/football games where they either receive raucous standing ovations, unite a fractured student body through song and dance, or deliver a message so profound and powerful that every student's life is forever changed.  Lame clubs are clubs that lack exposure, The New Directions (name of the Glee club) has given us zero reasons to believe them when they complain about their loserdom except for the slushies that are constantly being thrown in their faces, which admittedly, is a comedic high-point of the show for me. 

Furthermore, for a lame, loser-filled, ignored club, they seem to have a TON of clout around McKinley High School.  First off, they have a band that is at their beck and call 100% of the time.  Sure the band is there for their daily rehearsals, but anytime that Finn and Rachel want to go practice a duet, the band is there ready to accompany them, if a wistful Rachel wanders through the auditorium that ubiquitous piano player is there to play anything, and play it perfectly.  So, apparently, the band doesn't think that TND is lame enough not to serve as their exclusive backing band.  Apparently its not even a requirement for a glee club to have a band since not a single other club that has competed with TND has had a band in any of the regional or sectional competitions.  Two more things that bother me about their permanent backing band that apparently has nothing else to do in the entire world than play music in the band room for the glee club: 1. Finn just has to play drums at the beginning of his songs.  The actor who plays Finn, Cory Monteith, is a drummer, and apparently this is enough of a reason for him to start of his songs on the drums, singing and playing, and then, once the energetic chorus kicks up and he is needed to start circling around whichever girl is singing with him, he tosses the sticks to the official drummer of the band (strangely, the beat itself doesn't stop) and the drummer happily takes Finn's spot and carries on with this song.  WHO IS THIS SELF-LOATHING, NO-CONFIDENCE, BACKSEAT-TAKING, PUSHOVER OF A DRUMMER???  Who would just be like "oh, so its not enough for you to sing you want to play on my drumset while you do it too?  OK, here are my sticks"  "yea, you know, I actually do have to practice this song with the band because I'm gonna be the one who plays the drums at the competition you so desperately want to win and this is in fact our designated practice time, and after all, don't you have choreography you should be working on instead of sitting on my stool and indulging your own sense of self-worth, oh just for the first verse?  Fine."  2. This is the greatest band of all time!!  They know every song, they can pick up on every cue, and most importantly, they have someone to play every single instrument on call.  "Oh, does Mercedes need a harp for this number?  No problem, I'll give Stacie a call, she's been chilling in the teacher's lounge all day just hoping for this to happen." "Oh did Mr. Schuester decide that this was big band week? Well, even though none of these songs are going to be in the competition and this is only serving to teach the twelve kids he is in charge of some very attenuated lesson about morals mixed with music history I better call in that favor with the brass section from the Ohio Philharmonic, now if only I had more than 60 seconds of notice beforehand, this would be so much easier."  Think I am exaggerating?  TND has not once, but TWICE, used an entire gospel choir to sing back-up vocals for Madonna and Aretha Franklin songs.  Once to an auditorium with six people in it (which was admittedly a fund-raiser) and once to an EMPTY AUDITORIUM, after school, as part of "something I've been working on" according to Finn.  This is all done as favors to a loser, do-nothing, ignored, and ridiculed club?  Sorry Glee, but that makes absolutely no sense.  Either be losers, or don't, but just remember that harpists have to lug their instruments around in big vans and are unlikely to do it for a bunch of whiny losers.

Lastly, when the Glee club is not bemoaning their loserdom, they are plotting on how to claw their way to the top of the social food chain.  Apparently Finn and Quinn are up for prom king and queen.  These aren't losers.  Sam is constantly threatening Finn that it may be time for someone new at the top.  Uh...the top of the bottom?  or what?  So, Finn is the most popular kid in school now?  Wait, now if Sam and Quinn get together, they'll become the new power couple?  These are not the machinations of regular losers.  These are the kind of things that the popular kids plot about according to network television (I was never a popular kid but I don't remember seeing any rankings published in my high school newspaper telling me who I was supposed to bow down to either).  Glee talks about popularity like its a Billboard music chart, and with a little bit of luck, they might move up a couple notches.  Those are not your concerns if you really are losers, so, Glee, that is by far my biggest issue with you.

2. Does anybody remember what they were doing two episodes ago?

For me, continuity is a big must for a TV show, and Glee lacks this in abundance.  Ever since it moved away from its efforts to have a story arc that lasted for more than two episodes (remember all that pregnancy drama?) and shifted into its new theme-of-the-week format, nothing anyone does seems to have any lasting effect.

In one episode we see an unlikely bond between Puck and Artie, the next episode, they don't share a single word, and two episodes later, Puck is making fun of him like the good old days.  Rachel swears off boys to focus on her stardom, and...she wants Finn again.  Emma is neurotic, now Carl has fixed her and she is fine doing a hands-on rendition of Toucha Toucha Toucha Me with Will, oh now she's neurotic again.  These characters never grow.  Its like the writers only created them with one attribute and if they ever learned to overcome that one defining flaw of theirs, the show would lose all relevance.

I don't know if this bothered anyone else, but I was so refreshed at Glee's boldness in shutting the door on the Will-Emma thing by marrying her off to Carl.  It seems to me like every TV show with the exception of 30 Rock that established at one point a will-they-won't-they dynamic/tension between two characters could never, no matter how high the odds were stacked against them, keep them from getting together eventually.  Jim and Pam (it wasn't so obvious back in Season 2), Michael Scott and Holly (they dragged that one out for a looooong time), Sidney Bristow and Michael Vaughn, April and Andy, etc. etc.  So when Emma married Carl, I applauded Glee for finally doing something bold and different.  Will would simply have to realize that his actions had caused him to lose Emma forever, which is what happens in REAL LIFE! Now, I'm expected to buy into the idea that Emma and Carl went four months without consummating the marriage, have now annulled the marriage, and Emma is back on the market for Will.  Puh-lease.  That is the worst story I have ever ever heard of.  I though The Office was cold in the way they wrote AJ out of the picture to clear the way for Michael, but this just takes the cake.

The Warblers are the worst example of this ever, and until recently didn't even acknowledge it.  How dare Blaine tell Kurt that the reason the Warblers all wear matching suits is because none of them are supposed to stand-out and then have the audacity to sing the only solos in every single performance.  Even when Kurt pointed this out to him (finally) the solution was "Duet then?  You and me?"

3.  What happened to the music?

First off, enough with the single artist tribute episodes.  I will admit, the power of Madonna episode was brilliant and is still my favorite episode to date.  Glee had been on a mid-season hiatus and had just wrapped up the disastrous fake-pregnancy subplot and came back strong with memorable number after memorable number.  But now, they are just grasping at straws trying to recreate that magic.  I can just see creators sitting around "OK, I know we're all thinking it, I'm just gonna say it, when are we doing a Ke$ha episode?" (kill me now)  There was a very lackluster Britney Spears episode, and an absolutely horrendous Lady Gaga tribute episode ("Its great to know you're my real mother Idina Menzel, and I understand that you feel like its too late for you to take an active part in my life, but before you go, would you just sing a mother-daughter duet with me?  You will?  Great.  I was thinking Poker Face might be nice.")

Even when Glee doesn't limit its choices to a single artist's music catalogue, recently it has limited itself each week to a specific genre: Funk, neglected artists, guilty pleasures, etc.  What this has done is made it so that the songs no longer forward the plot anymore.  In the first few episodes, without any restraints on its song choice, the show could burst into song and dance at any moment, often just in the imaginations of the singer ("I bust the windows out your car" by Mercedes would be a good example).  The words and tone of that song furthered the plot.  Now, the song choices are all disjointed.  The Warblers wanted to up their game in the episode "Sexy" and decided they needed to sing a decidedly sexy song to the girls of their sister school.  Their choice? "Animal" by Neon Trees.  A great song not universally known for being sexy.  Was that meant to be ironic?  Enter Holly Holiday to help two confused girls explore their sexual feelings through songs, what to sing?  "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac.  Obvious choice right?

Furthermore, to serve their week-by-week theme, Glee has started performing songs that they obviously want to include in the episode's list of songs, but doesn't apparently want to commit to all the way.  How about just a verse and a chorus?  This, to me, is horrible.  In the early Glee days, they picked a song and they sang the whole thing, and they made it work.  "Now, Kurt wants to try and be manly, how about a low-voiced, slow performance of 'Little Pink Houses'?  You're right this would take forever, make that one verse.  Really Will?  You're gonna try doing 'Ice Ice Baby'?  Bet you $10 bucks you can't pull it off.  Oh you didn't tell me you weren't going to do the last two verses.  No girls wearing less than bikinis for you?  Suit yourself."  My feelings are, if you don't want to sing the whole song, leave it alone.  Don't introduce it into the show and do a half-baked, wimpy job of it.  In your misguided attempt to include more and more numbers, you are only going to dilute the power and appeal of your musical numbers.

While we're on this, at first, when Glee wanted to do some elaborate scene, it was mostly as a dream sequence or in the character's collective imaginations.  Now, the excuses they come up with for these elaborate show stopping numbers are more and more far fetched and ludicrous.  For good examples of these see "The Rocky Horror Glee Show" in which the Glee club, IN ONE WEEK, decides to put on the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the school, gets it banned for its inappropriate content, and then decides to perform it anyway, to themselves.  Who in their right minds would agree to that.  Probably the creators of a show that wants to see their characters dressed up as the iconic freaks of the original.  Then we have the Glee clubbers volunteering to do remakes of classic music videos like Vogue and Physical?  Really?  Daily rehearsals and take home assignments isn't enough of a commitment to the club?  You want to go and pointlessly create a "multimedia presentation" to honor Madonna.  Ridiculous.  

  4. Tone down the messages.

With the start of Season 2 came a huge increase in the number of "message episodes" where the creators obviously had a point to get their viewers to see.  Although these did exist in Season 1, they were no more overt than the average teen sitcom.  But man, Season 2 has been rife with episodes dealing with religion, sexuality, homosexuality, and the like.  Diana Argon once gave an interview where she said the show was great because it was able to talk about these sensitive issues without preaching.  Well, you might want to look up the definition of preaching again.  My goodness, "Grilled Cheesus" was the schlockiest, most awkward exploration of religion I have ever witnessed on TV.  It was almost enough to stop watching Glee.  And Kurt coming out of the closet and dealing with that is one thing (please keep that to a maximum of 25% of an episode from now on) but now this whole Britney/Santana nonsense is so unbelievable and far-fetched that I hope they never bring it up again.  The show needs to be about the music first, the comedy second, and the "issues" third.  It's really slimy to lure in young viewers with the promise of another High School Musical and then bombard them with a textbook liberal social agenda.

5. I shouldn't have to shake my head in disbelief 10 times per episode.

This is not as big a deal because I get that its a TV show, but come on, I did musical theater in high school and we were a very competitive school.  And guess what, we did not switch gears week to week to learn lessons, we picked out what we were going to do for the competitions and we worked on them constantly.  We did not abandon everything we had prepared backstage at the competition because "we're better on the fly anyway".  Come on.

My friend watched the Glee episode after the Super Bowl and later wrote on Facebook "Glee, you had your chance to win me over last night, and you failed miserably."  I never asked him about it but I imagine it is because he played football throughout high school and the episode centered around the tension between the Glee club and the football team escalating to the point where all the football players quit the team and the Glee club girls took their place until the amazing half-time musical number when the football players are so overcome with the music that they storm the field to dance with everyone else.  I can imagine him watching that episode and feeling like the depiction of high school football was so warped that it was as good as offensive.  ("They only have seven players on the field!! They couldn't even run a play if they wanted to!" admittedly I don't know enough about football to have found any concrete objections with the episode other than the ludicrous premise to begin with).  That is how I feel as an entertainer every time I watch a competition episode ("Wait, they changed their set list minutes before going on stage, how are they all doing the same choreography?  They're not even looking at each other.  And the band?  They know the songs to play?  Do they have every song memorized or something?

6.That's it.  Good job on the original songs.  They were pretty good.  You've got some good things going Glee, but no other show I regularly watch is even close to as frustrating.

Best Regards,
Peter Kern


  1. Hmmmm. I'm confused by your 30 Rock reference. Are we talking about Liz and Dennis or Liz and Carole?

  2. Liz and Jack. Right up until the middle of season 3 they were trying to make us believe that they might get together someday. I think we are all grateful that they decided to go the "unlikely friendship" route.

  3. technically, Liz and Jack did get married. So, really, that's a pretty bad example.

  4. That's a great point James. I guess not even 30 Rock could escape its fate.