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.
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.