Glee hype overlooks show’s shortcomings

Following three Golden Globe wins last week, an Entertainment Weekly cover story and a much-hyped post-Super Bowl return on Feb. 6, it would seem that Glee is at the top of its game.

And that might be true in terms of accolades, press and fandom, but lately the show’s episodes have failed to meet the hype. Despite the popularity garnered by the idea of a show about covering popular songs, we are left to wonder about the quality of the show as whole.

Before I offend any hardcore Gleeks, I must admit my own devotion to the show. Or rather, to the show’s first season. There have always been problems with Glee but the show is undeniably likable. Glee has won over both critics and viewers alike with its charm and fun musical numbers. It’s the kind of show that just puts a smile on your face.

Glee used to be able to overcome many of its problems, because of Finn’s affecting smile and Rachel’s mind-blowing belt. But in the second season, the problems have grown out of control, leaving only a handful of redeeming qualities behind.

Last season had some engrossing, albeit ridiculous, story arcs that were maintained throughout much of the season. Terri, the wife of glee club director Will Schuester pretended to be pregnant while Will struggled with his feelings for guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury. Emma, of course, had a major crush on him. Classic teenage drama was well represented through head cheerleader Quinn’s scandalous pregnancy and the love triangle with her boyfriend Finn and baby-daddy Puck.

Though the stories seemed silly, they were engaging and lasted long enough for us to form an attachment to the characters and care about their problems.

But in the second season, the characters’ stories, relationships and problems start and end so quickly that we are left with little time to invest in our once beloved cast. Tina and Mike’s relationship, for instance, was introduced in the first episode with no justification other than their common Asian ethnicity. And what about her and Artie? Their romance was sweetly spread out over the first season, but their breakup was relegated to a mere flashback.

Speaking of underdeveloped romances, shallow cheerleaders Santana and Brittany share an entirely inexplicable makeout scene. When Santana blows Brittany off later in the same episode, Brittany tries to make Santana jealous by having sex with Artie. After this episode, the Santana/Brittany pairing is never pursued again.

There is one story line with some power — that of gay student Kurt. In the wake of a number of gay teen suicides last fall, the show’s focus on anti-gay bullying has  brought Glee tons of media attention, most of which has been positive. Actor Chris Colfer won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Kurt. Colfer’s moving performances are perhaps the only thing left that anchors the show in some kind of reality.

What gave Glee serious potential from the beginning was always the music.

Perhaps the first wave of Gleeks consisted primarily of theater and a cappella kids who loved to hear their favorite show tunes and pop songs sung by Broadway stars such as Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison.

Theater veteran guest stars including Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth and Neil Patrick Harris have continued to set a high bar in terms of vocal performance.

In the first season, the New Directions’ a capella-esque arrangement of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” made something original out of a classic and, whether you liked it or not, Michele and Menzel put an innovative spin on Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” by slowing it down and injecting emotional resonance into the story of the song.

Now, however, Glee’s writers seem to have changed their focus to squeezing in as many current hits as possible into the episodes, including Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” in the first episode and Cee Lo Green’s disappointingly censored “Forget You” and two Bruno Mars singles later in the season.

But the most disappointing part of this new season is the fact that the actors are doing little more than singing karaoke. The characters are only imitating the original, singing over radio tracks. There are no interesting arrangements, and unless one of the few remarkably talented singers is performing, the use of auto-tune limits the capacity of any of the musical numbers to really blow you away.

There have been some good moments this season, many of them revolving around a handful of standout songs, but the potential demonstrated in the endearingly unique first season is all but gone.

Despite my complaints, I’ll be watching come Feb. 6. I’m just hoping Glee will have undergone some major corrective surgery by then.

Cara Dickason is a senior majoring in cinema-critical studies and English. Her column, “Cine File,” runs Tuesdays.

11 replies
  1. demonterius niblack
    demonterius niblack says:

    i everything want you see go to ready love you keep yourself said hot sex 90 vh1 joy watkins pokemon red and blue versions nintendo gameboy pikachu mewtwo charizard jigglypuff gyarados onix lapras omastar kabutops and aerodactyl.

  2. Eve
    Eve says:

    Completely agree! This season feels so different from the first (in a disappointing way.) I guess it’s realistic for people to be breaking up and switching love interests faster than you can blink but a good TV show requires some steady relationships (whether those are friendships or romantic.)
    …and the music… what happened to covering classics and songs that are ‘under the radar.?’ I think they’re trying to bring in the young audience by using every song that’s on the radio. A few new songs are okay but I liked it better when they ‘revived the classics’ with a unique touch. Even when they weren’t that old (example: My Life Would Suck Without You) they weren’t so recent they’re being heard constantly.
    Anyway, I agree with the article completely! Stick with a story line, develop some relationships throughout it and stop being the radio.
    And one last thing, Why is it okay for everyone (even Mr. Schuester) to bully Rachel but not Kurt?

  3. Kate
    Kate says:

    Could not disagree with this article more! I really believe that Glee is what TV and teens need right now. With all the trash on tv and kids being bullied, teens need a place to go where they can see a bit of themselves. What I love maybe the most about glee though is the music. The variety they put out is amazing and I can honestly say that I always find myself liking the glee verison better. They need a mix of old and new songs from all different genres, that’s what makes them Glee!!!!

  4. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    Do you remember your high school days? Kids paired off and broke up constantly. That was just how it was. And as far as the guest stars, i think they add a little somethin’ to the voices that make for an interesting show. Gwenyth Paltrow’s version of ‘Forget you’ was funny, entertaining and just plain fun! Neil Patrick Harris blew me away, as did Kristin Chenowith. And Idina Menzel’s duet with Lea Michelle, well, that was breathtaking. And Chris Colfer’s portrayal of a gay teen bullied by the football player is heartwrenching, as was his scenes with his onscreen father, Mike O’Malley. The show is 43 minutes of fun. And I enjoy every minute of it. And, since I am no longer a teen, in fact I could be a mom to any one of the cast members, I think that says it all.

  5. Gleek
    Gleek says:

    Um… HELLO the acapella version of Teenage Dream is not “karaoke singing over radio tracks”. Also they’ve done a bunch of mash-ups so it’s pretty offending for you to call their covers a karaoke version. Billionaire & Forget You were great on their own because the people singing put their own flair into those songs.

  6. Nostalg
    Nostalg says:

    Something happened to Glee — everybody started liking it. In it’s first season, Glee became an instant classic for me, captivating me with its surprising, charmingly-unrealistic plot, it’s flawed but empathetic characters, for whom it seemed that whatever the plot’s outcome were unlikely to be fully fulfilled, and the music (even though it was more auto-tuned than needed for so many veteran performers) was varied and stood out from the original which it covered.

    But now, most of what I enjoyed about Glee is gone. Focus has shifted from maintaining an overall plot arch to providing a quick set up for another A-list celebrity to make a brief appearance. What once was a fantastical but still ringing true to life portrayal of high school outsiders has turned into an unbelievable tale of how every student must be paired off into unpredictable and unlikely couples that will fizzle and reform every few episodes. The music selections seem to be made based on what is most likely to sell on iTunes than on what fits the story the best.

    I’ll keep watching, because every few episodes (such as in Duets), I see a glimmer of the Glee that used to be. I hope things will change. But, given that this Glee is the one that attracts the most viewers, I don’t see the show going back any time sonn.

  7. jewel64
    jewel64 says:

    “Disappointingly censored” ? Did you REALLY expect the Cee Lo number to be the UNCENSORED version on Glee?

  8. sonja
    sonja says:

    This is so true, the show has been a disappointment lately. They really need to develop and work with a few relationships that last throughout the show, instead of having everyone date each other as fast as possible. I miss the old Glee :(

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] to one posting on Daily Trojan, perhaps not: Despite the popularity garnered by the idea of a show about covering popular songs, […]

Comments are closed.