Glee: Showmance

I missed the sneak preview of Glee in the spring, so this is all new to me. Here’s the setup: High school glee club coach Will Shuester and his squad must place at regionals, or funding for the program will be cut. He needs twelve kids in the squad to compete, and he’s only got six. The grim news is delivered by Will’s chief nemesis, Sue Sylvester, the brusque coach of the school’s cheerleading squad. (The cheerleading squad is named, awesomely, Cheerios, which is one of many details that won my heart, just a little bit). Plot = established.

Here are the players: There’s Will’s brittle pregnant wife Terri, played by Jessalyn Gilsig, who played Claire’s doomed birth mother Meredith on Heroes. There’s Emma, the school’s germophobic guidance counselor, played by Jayma Mays, who played Hiro’s doomed love interest Charlie on Heroes. There’s obnoxious one-note cheerleader Quinn, who is played by Dianna Agron, who played obnoxious one-note cheerleader Debbie on Heroes (no, not the obnoxious one-note cheerleader who was murdered by Sylar. That was Jackie. Debbie was the obnoxious one-note cheerleader whom Claire and West traumatized in a cruel prank for committing the unpardonable sin of not letting Claire on the team). There’s Quinn’s cute boyfriend Finn, the glee club’s newest recruit. There’s cute, prim Rachel, the shining star of the glee club, who pines after Finn. There are also a handful of other kids in the glee club, none of whom get much to do in this episode, but all of whom are, if the musical numbers are any indication, crazy talented.

Will and Terri are in the process of buying a prefab mansion too expensive for their means. A montage of Terri in her dream home rolls while the glee club kids sing Kanye’s “Gold Digger”, and at this point I started to have a whisper of a shadow of a problem I might possibly have with this premiere, which might possibly turn into a problem I’ll have with the show as it progresses: Terri is materialistic and self-absorbed, Emma is sweet but neurotic and flighty, Sue Sylvester is spiteful and paranoid to the point of buffoonery, and Quinn is… an obnoxious one-note cheerleader. See where I’m headed with this? Ryan Murphy, who created Glee, also created Nip/Tuck, which is a show I sort of love, but damn, it’d be nice if he’d knock it off with the “Aren’t women silly and/or soulless?” undertones on his shows, especially considering the affection shown in the depictions of likeable do-gooder Will and hapless swain Finn. Right now, smart-yet-awkward Rachel stands as the show’s best chance to produce a cool, multifaceted female character.

Will takes a second job as the school’s night janitor so he can afford the Grand Foyer Terri wants built in their prospective home. While scraping gum off of desks, he bonds with Emma, who barely conceals her crush on him. Will and Emma share a tender moment after she tells him about the traumatic childhood yogurt incident that sparked her lifelong fear of dirt and germs.

In the ladies’ room, Emma catches Rachel trying and failing to become a bulimic to fit in with the popular girls and win Finn’s affections. When Rachel tearily tells Emma, “I guess I don’t have a gag reflex,” Emma chirps, “One day when you’re older, that’ll turn out to be a blessing.” I mention this to make the point that, whatever quibbles I may have with this premiere, it’s hard to deny that the script can be damn funny. To get close to Finn, Rachel infiltrates the school’s Celibacy Club, of which Quinn and Finn are charter members, and ends up participating in some inspired lunacy, such as a bit where club members pair off in couples and grind against each other with balloons pressed between their loins: If the balloon pops, Quinn claims, “The noise makes the angels cry.”

Rachel convinces the rest of the glee club, without Will’s knowledge, to add some sex to their upcoming performance at the school assembly to drum up interest in the club. I would have thought Will’s original plan, which was to perform Chic’s disco classic “Le Freak”, would have done the trick, but instead they substitute a raunchy version of “Push It.” This goes over swimmingly.

Later, Rachel and Finn rehearse (Rachel has packed a tidy picnic lunch, including virgin Cosmopolitans) and end up making out. Due to premature ejaculation and/or a flashback to a traumatic memory about learning how to drive, Finn abruptly breaks off their hanky-panky and runs out of the auditorium.

Terri discovers she isn’t really pregnant -- she’s having an hysterical pregnancy. Didn’t Lana have one of those, back in one of those really terrible seasons of Smallville that we’re all trying so very hard to forget? She tries to break the news to Will, but can’t bring herself to do it, though she does tell Will she’s willing to give up on buying her dream home.

Quinn, who suspects hanky-panky between Finn and Rachel, auditions for the glee club, along with two of her minions, by singing “I Say a Little Prayer for You”. By and large, the musical numbers, while a little canned, are the best part of the show. Sue decides to use the cheerleaders as her spies to gain ammunition against Will to bring down the glee club.

And then Rachel sings a big, swoopy, awful ballad, which takes us into the credits. Which is a damn odd way to end an episode.

So that was the premiere of Glee. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I’m already tired of the two parallel love triangles, in which decent, downtrodden guys (Will, Finn) are torn between the shallow, self-absorbed women they love (Terri, Quinn) and the sweet-natured women who love them (Emma, Rachel). If Quinn and Terri don’t start revealing some hidden layers soon, I don’t know how much longer I’ll hang in, because really, the world doesn’t need another show about obnoxious, mean cheerleaders. However, the dialogue is pretty zesty, as are the musical numbers. It’s off to a solid start.


Jason said…
I really enjoyed the Spring Glee teaser episode so obviously I need to start watching now that the show is rolling. Good choice of new show to recap Morgan!
Morgan Richter said…
Glee seems like it could be fun and clever and low-key. I think the other show this season I'm going to take a stab at recapping will FlashForward. And I'll still be watching whatsitsname, that show with all the mopey people with superpowers. We'll see how it goes.
levitatethis said…
I really like Glee. When I first watched the pilot I enjoyed it but didn't love it. Last week I watched the pilot again and found it improved on a second viewing (I think it was the fact that I had a better idea of what to expect going in). I thought this first episode was a really strong one with a nice integration between the musical numbers and the actual story (from "Push It" to "Gold Digger" to that Rihanna song at the end).

Sure there are "types" but the dialogue helps them rise above what could be a detrimental thing. Something I like about the show is that I can simultaneously like and dislike a character -- there are times Rachel bugs me and then there are times I totally feel for her.

I'd like to see if the show can keep this up/grow or if it will slide back into something that's too one-note. If anything it's at the top of my "Must Watch" list.
Morgan Richter said…
Ah, good to know it was a Rhianna song; that went over my head. Loved their rendition of Gold Digger. Right now, I'm more interested in the glee club kids than in the adults -- I'm a fan of Jessalyn Gilsig, and I thought she had some nice grace notes in that final dinner scene, but the Will-Terri hysterical pregnancy/overpriced dream home plotline left me cold, as did Will's budding flirtation with cute Emma.

Still, it was fun, and there were enough great bits in there to keep me watching.
levitatethis said…
It would be while watching "Gold Digger" that I realized for the first time, Whoa, Matthew Morrison is hot. Apparently a music teacher singing Kanye (who I normally don't care for at all) turns my crank a bit.

Right now I'm enjoying the kids story line more as well, but I'm interested enough in the adults that the show still works well overall for me.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah, I'm pretty indifferent to "Gold Digger" under usual circumstances, but somehow it vastly improves when it's sung by a bunch of geeky high school kids and their music teacher. I'm not entirely sure how that happened.

(Fond memories of singing "Footloose" in my junior high choir. It wasn't pretty. As a general rule, school music teachers would be wise to steer clear of past and present Top 40 lists.)
Patrick said…
definitely do FlashForward - I have high hopes for that this season. Might give Glee a go based on this ringing endorsement -'I liked it. I didn’t love it'. Oh well.
Morgan Richter said…
Good to hear from you, Patrick. I might grow to love Glee. Or I might not. Time will tell. My hopes are pretty high for FlashForward, though. It premieres next week. And of course the new season of Heroes kick off a week from today.
Patrick said…
What I like about FlashForward is that everyone sees events 6 months into the future - so season one will bring us to that point and beyond. Rather than some other shows which would show events 3 years into the future so that we would have to plod through lots of filler over three seasons. Of course, if it was Heroes it would show us stuff 6 months in the future and then NEVER EVER get anywhere near those events!

And then, if FlashForward is a hit, they can just show us another flashforward at the end of the season and the whole thing starts up again.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah, the premise of FlashForward is pretty tidy and straightforward. I approve. You're probably right -- in Heroes-land, by the time the show's chronology caught up to the flash ahead in time, everything would have become hopelessly derailed and/or incomprehensible. It's the Heroes way.
Lou said…
Im in for FlashForward too. Haven't caught Glee yet but Im sure I can find it somewhere to try out, mostly for the ecclectic song use. Although I've no idea what a glee club is, having been brought on t'other side of the Atlantic...
Morgan Richter said…
Don't worry, Lou, there's no shame attached to not knowing about glee clubs (though the ever-reliable Wikipedia seems to think they originated in London, so...). You can pretty much use the term interchangeably with "school choir", if that helps. Glee should air on your local Fox affiliate (should be airing right now, actually, in your time zone).

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