Monday, December 14, 2009

For Nikki: Top 5 Things I Lurve About Glee

In 2008, I got a call from my best friend Bob in L.A.  "I just got asked to audition for this amazing new show," he exalted, as I felt the excitement vibes emanating through my crappy cell phone.  "They're talking Lea Michele for the lead role, and I have to sing, and it's the guy from Nip/Tuck, and I'm totally not supposed to do this, but I'm sending you the script for the pilot."

I downloaded the PDF, read it, fell in love, and although Bob didn't get the role, we both anticipated the release date of a primetime show that, for the first time we could remember, reflected our high school existences as the non-jock performer enthusiasts who survived our tiny high schools through our dreams of being stars.

I give you: my take on Glee.  (Thanks, reader Nikki, for the suggestion!)

Don't get me wrong.  I'm the first to admit this musical dramedy isn't perfect.  First, I HATE Will's wife Terri.  Not the actress, Jessalyn Gilsig--I feel like she's doing what she can--but the whole faked pregnancy subplot was so ridic that I found myself tuning out when she was on screen.  Second, though I love Michael Hitchcock (especially since he's direct messaged me twice on Twitter!), I was largely offended by his character, partially deaf choirmaster Dalton Ross.  (Like Gilsig, it wasn't his portrayal, but the way the script was written and directed.)  Also, I almost think the show would have worked better in a half-hour format.  Remember when The Office went hourlong for a few episodes?  (I'm talking normal episodes, not Jim and Pam's wedding.)  Yeah.  Not so great.

That said, there's a lot to love about this decidedly imperfect show.  Hell, maybe the fact that it's decidedly imperfect makes it all the more endearing and relatable.  God knows I wasn't flawless as a high school choir geek.

Also, did I mention that MY COLLEGE CLASSMATE IAN BRENNAN, is one of the co-creators?  LOYOLA THEATRE MAJORS HOLLA!

Sorry.  Just had to get that out there.  Belive me, I'm sparing you the full geekout I experienced upon discovering this blessed fact.

Anyway, Glee?  These are a few of my favorite things--about you!

1.  "Dancing With Myself." 

Though Bob didn't get the role of Artie, I'm loving Kevin McHale's portrayal.  Glee's done his character right: the best disabled TV characters are the ones written to a) acknowledge the disability and work it into the plot, but at the same time b) give the character other motivations and concerns, like the human beings they are.  (Really not sure if I phrased that right.  If I was slightly un-P.C., I'm sorry.  I had good intentions.)  See also: Jason Street on Friday Night Lights, Eli on Ed.  My only complaint about Artie?  So many times he's relegated to background.  We want more Artie!

Case in point: "Wheels," to date one of the most beautiful and touching episodes of Glee, and quite frankly one of the best hours of TV I've ever seen.  For the first time all season, Artie's disability is put to the forefront, as Mr. Schu and the gang debate on whether to pay for a handicapped accessible bus, or just let Artie ride with his dad like usual.  But Artie has another pressing matter on his mind as well: his crush on shy stutterrer Tina.  Early in the episode, both of Artie's plotlines are effectively expressed in his first solo song of the series: "Dancing With Myself."  At once wistful and Frank Sinatra-snappy, the music, lyrics, and especially McHale's offhand yet pensive delivery are so contagious I immediately downloaded it from iTunes. And boy can WORK that wheelchair.

2.  Mike O'Malley.

Though my girlcrush on Lea Michele will NEVER DIE, and Matthew Morrison is just too cute for words, my one of my favorite performances by far has come from one of Glee's supporting characters: Mike O'Malley as sensitive grease monkey Burt Hummel, the father of fabulous Kurt.

If you're younger than I am, you probably remember O'Malley as the host of Nickelodeon's Guts back in the nineties.  I myself remember him fondly as misguided metalhead Lenny in the Hilary Duff vehicle The Perfect Man, aka a Bad Movie I Inexplicably Love.  Also, in yet another weird Glee/Unpro connection, my aunt knows his mom.  He's one of those "Hey, It's That Guy!" character actors, always working yet only vaguely recognizable.

Though he's appeared on only two episodes thus far, O'Malley may have increased his profile a thousand-fold thanks to a humorous and heartwarming performance.  Not all comedic actors can carry dramatic weight.  He can.  In only two episodes, Chris Colfer (as Kurt) and O'Malley have created a believable relationship between a showtunes-loving fashion aficionado boy who likes other boys, and a single dad who's not as clueless as he appears, and genuinely wants the best for his kid, no matter what and whom he loves.  Yet as accepting as he wants to be, Burt is still concerned for his small family, and knows that life will not be easy for himself and his gay son--and the more out Kurt is, the more difficult it will be.  Kudos to Glee for not writing off the "I love my gay son" plot in one Very Special Episode, as so many other shows have done--and for leaving the door open for more scenes between two generations of very skilled actors.

3.  Jane Lynch 

Interesting trivia: did you know that Sue Sylvester was not in the original pilot?  As it is now, who can imagine Glee without her snappy quips and signature red tracksuit?  Of course, I have no proof, but I highly suspect the role was written for one of the best character actresses EVER: Jane Lynch.

Anyone who's read this post is aware of my firm belief that Jane Lynch makes everything better.  And as the scheming but not-completely-evil cheerleading coach and Glee Club nemesis, she does not disappoint.  Whether she's making fun of Mr. Schu's hair or reading Little Red Riding Hood to her handicapped sister, Sue Sylvester's more than just a mustache-turning villain.  She's a beyotch with depth--the most interesting kind.  A lesser actress could have turned the character one-dimensional but as it is, I can't wait for next season to see what motivates the fiendish plans Sue has up her track-suited sleeve.

Lynch has rocked the house for me ever since her turn as lesbian dog handler Christy Cummings on Best in Show, and she's the only reason I watch those godawful commercials for PlayStation or whatever.  I'm thrilled she's finally getting the spotlight she deserves.  Go Cheerios!

4.  The Utter Relatability of Rachel Berry. 

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that in latter day pop culture, the nerdy girl is finally getting her day.  I'm not talking about the "ugly" chick with glasses, a ponytail, and strong opinions--all of which completely go to hell once the cute quarterback notices she's alive.  I'm talking about the type-A young lady, who's utterly driven to goals she may not be able to specifically name, to the detriment of her high school social status.  I'm talking about Samantha Baker with sky-high expectations and increased visibility that doesn't work in her favor.

Yup, that was sixteen-year-old Unpro to a freaking T.  I wanted, wanted, wanted--and my redneck jock peers just didn't get it.  I may not have ever gotten a Slurpee thrown in my face, and the teasing died down by high school, but I was not Miss Popularity by a long shot.  And it wasn't entirely undeserved.  Like Rachel, I wasn't always the nicest individual.  I could be a real bulldozer, not letting anyone stand in the way of my ambition.  Luckily, I did have friends who accepted me for who I was and let me know when I was being too much of a pain in the ass.  The hyperambitious, talented but awkward teenage girl is a fascinating character.  She's not always easy to watch and at times can be downright cringeworthy.  But she's real.  And between Rachel on Glee and Annie on Community, I couldn't be happier that she's appearing on network TV.

And fine, I still kind of dress like Rachel.  Minus the knee socks and the pantsuit.  What can I say?  It works for me.

5.  Hold On to That Feeling. 

Don't get me wrong, Glee has had its share of musical missteps.  (And no, I'm not talking about Mr. Schu's white-boy raps.  I kind of like them.)  I'm talking about the at times horrific Auto Tune that at its worst makes everyone sound like robots, and the borderline inappropriate dance moves that make my mom go "Good Lord."  And of course, everyone who's done anything musical EVER knows that knowing a song with perfect harmony and choreography a mere thirty seconds after you get the sheet music is highly unrealistic.

But my love for Glee's music far surpasses my sense of reality.

It all started in the pilot: when a downtrodden Mr. Schu, on the verge of resigning from McKinley High, happened by the school auditorium to see the original five members of New Directions groovin' to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin.'"  What brought tears to my eyes and suspended my disbelief?  How damn happy the kids looked.  Because I recognized that expression: the muscle memory in my face went "Oh yeah!  Remember that?"  The expressions of the actors are what sold me on Glee in all its flawed glory. 

Because when you think about it, most of the characters have pretty depressing lives.  Finn's preparing to play father to a baby he recently discovered isn't actually his.  Rachel won't ever fit in at McKinley--even those who should totally accept her, view her as an outcast.  Artie will face challenges his entire life, and found out the girl of his dreams lied about something important.  Mr. Schu loves Ms. Pillsbury, but they face an uncertain future.  But they have a common bright spot in their lives: music.  How happy you feel when you master a difficult note or finally get that grapevine sequence.  How good it feels when you find others who have that same haven.  It's the music that gets you through the utter crap life can be, a teeny tiny part of your life when everything, and you, are okay.

Oh, and an honorable mention goes to the piano player guy.  I love him almost as much as I love the animated Mark, accompanist to Jesus and Big Gay Al on South Park.  I kind of wonder if they're the same guy.  Wouldn't that be awesome?


  1. Mike O'Malley?! I may have to give this one a look! Great review!

  2. Thanks!

    He was only on two episodes this season, but really rocked the house on both of them. I know people IRL who are just like his character, and he was right on the money.

    Another reason to like the guy: my aunt knows his mother because they both used to teach at an adult learning center, helping people get their GED's. Apparently he donates a ton of money every year. Very cool. :)

  3. Squee! Thanks for taking my suggestion!

    I love that three of your reasons for loving Glee are the same as mine - Artie, Mike O'Malley and Sue Sylvester. But mostly Mike O'Malley. God, I hope we get more of him in the future! That scene with him in the stands as Kurt took the field in the football game, and Mike O'Malley's face falls and he says something like, "he's so small," just hit me in the gut for some reason. What a dad.

    And Sadako knows I think this: Good dads are sexxxxy.

  4. You're welcome, Nikki! It was a fun post to write.

    I like how Burt's the typical befuddled redneck dad--except not. Even though he's still coming to terms with it, he figured out years ago his kid was gay. What brought tears to my eyes was the whole "Defying Gravity" subplot in the "Wheels" episode. Him in the principal's office arguing that his son should get an audition--and then Kurt blowing that same audition to help his dad save face--was just a really lovely display of selflessness, coming from both sides. Burt and Kurt don't always understand one another, but damn do they try.

    And Artie rocks. Kevin McHale's voice is so good! He needs more solos.

  5. And I forgot to mention that I'm squeeing with delight over here that you mentioned Ed. I freaking love that show and I'll watch Tom Kavanaugh in ANYTHING. Where's the DVD for that show?

  6. Yay, a fellow Ed-head! Even though the last season was fairly ridiculous, it was such a good show in the first couple of seasons.

    I thiiink the first season might be on DVD, but I could be wrong. I think the release has been a "Freaks and Geeks" type issue, where the music licensing has become really expensive.

    Speaking of music, both theme songs for that show ("Next Year" and "Moment in the Sun") were aces--and this was before most TV shows used good music.

  7. Agreed, Jane Lynch makes everything awesome. Even Arrested Development and that show could not have gotten much better.

  8. I hardly watch anything on TV...only Supernatural, and Mad Men for the 3 weeks or whatever a year that it's on...but I should really check this out, just because I love Jane Lynch so much! I bet my honey would LOVE this show. He loves all things YA.

    There are not too many degrees of separation between you and this show!

  9. Bryn--I keep meaning to check out Supernatural, because I think Jared Padalecki is SO HOT and it looks like an interesting show.

    Glee's far from perfect, and can be really uneven. Hopefully they will find their footing in the new episodes. But yeah, definitely give it a shot--what they do well, they do very, very well. And Lynch is AMAZING.

  10. Awesome review! I agree with everything (though the autotune thing doesn't bother me as much as it does other people.) And, if you like Jane Lynch, you should check out a little show called Party Down. I think it airs on Starz, but all of the first season is available on Netflix instant viewing. The show is great on its own, but Jane Lynch makes it all the more better. Second season starts in April, and I don't know if she will be in it, since she's now in Glee, but the first season is defintely worth a watch.

    All last week, I kept on replaying Sue's final scene with Will in my head and giggling. "Destination: HORROR!" Hee!

  11. Call me a crotchety bitch, but I just don't get the appeal of glee. We watched the pilot + I thought it was completely unfunny -- and I say this as a former high-school speech geek/musical cast star. I agree the faked pregnancy was silly. Maybe I need to give it another chance?
    I do, though, LOVE Jane Lynch and I'll watch pretty much anything she's in.

  12. Gah I love this show. But even more awesome than your take on it was...the fact that I'm now following Michael Hitchcock on twitter. YAY!

  13. EB: it's admittedly uneven, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way you do. It's worth TiVo-ing and just watching the Jane Lynch parts, however. She's comedy gold.

    Laura: I LOVE Michael Hitchcock...his Tweets are so cute!