When Glee launched in the UK in January, I reviewed the pilot and was pretty impressed by it, especially its ability to summarise all the emotions of a storyline in one 2-minute number. Since then I’ve had a chance to watch a whole season. So how did the other 21 episodes compare to its first? Did it manage to live up to its potential?
(Spoilers for Glee Season 1 ahead)
Glee is a very unique show in the world of television today. No other programme attempts to pull off multiple song and dance routines every single episode which are carefully weaved into the theme and emotion the characters are experiencing that week. The musical aspect of the show is by far its greatest strength. Nothing else on television has the ability to turn even the most dull of episodes around completely with a rousing two minute routine. With all the costumes, dance moves, and theatrics it’s easy to forgive the show’s failings. Because there are quite a few failings.
For starters the writers’ ability to create a cohesive storyline over multiple episodes is almost non-existent. They either let it drag on too long (Terri’s pregnancy); not long enough (Rachel and her mother); or leave them on the back-burner so long we stop caring (Will & Emma)
Its default position of “Assignment of the Week” ran out of steam after about two weeks. Too many pieces of dialogue begin with “You know, Mr Schu’s assignment this week has got me thinking..”. When there not talking assignments, there’s the other old chestnut: “How are we going to stop Glee getting shut down?” It’s lazy, silly and there’s so much evidence the writers can do better.
By far the best recurring storyline and character arc of the season has been Kurt. Any time him and his Dad are on screen I make sure I have tissues handy, since tears like the Niagara falls are gonna start streaming. It’s obvious creator Ryan Murphy’s own experience as a gay guy in a small town have had a great influence on the writing of this character: since pretty much every interaction between Kurt and his Dad is smart, grounded and true.
It’s good to consider Kurt’s arc through the season as he: came out to his friends; then his Dad; tried to fit in with the football team; felt jealous of Finn and his Dad’s relationship; and experimented with being straight. Each episode brought something new to the character or a relationship he had, and allowed him to mature in a really interesting way.
Compare this to almost every other character on the show, and you can see why I’m frustrated. Too often, they had to deal with the same issues again and again. Quinn’s fear of being a mother; Puck trying to settle down and be a good guy; Artie dealing with being in a wheelchair; Mercedes wanting to take centre stage.
Rachel and Finn offered some rest-bite with their parental issues. However, why is it that the only relationships that seem to resonate are the parental ones? Why don’t I care more about Will and Emma? Finn and Rachel?
I could probably write a lot more about Glee’s flaws. However, no matter how wide and obvious its cracks I somehow always come back for more. You see, above all else Glee is fun. Silly… but fun.
The high school setting of Glee is perhaps the perfect place for a musical like this to take place. The high emotion of teenage hormones perfectly mirroring the overly dramatic songs and lyrics they perform. One moment you feel you’re on top of the world, the next you’re no one’s friend. Glee gets the emotion of high school.
I just hope the second season makes the stories it wants to tell more cohesive, engaging and creative. Since if the best of Glee can be listened to on my iPod or watched in 2 minute clips on youtube then all its potential as a show has surely been wasted.