Glee: Season 1, Episode 14
Well, Glee is back, and its as problematic as ever. I hoped that the writers of the show would take their four months off to get together, resolve their strong differences about the type of show they want this to be (and the relationships they want their characters to have) and come back strong with a show that aimed for thematic consistence, or one genre, or even one message. Instead Glee is still a mess of different ideas being thrown together, which isn't necessarily a fatal flaw. What takes the show from the level of "convoluted with potential" to the level of "I'm not sure I'll be watching this show next season" isn't the fact that the show is stuck in an endless identity crisis--its that its recycling the same tired, flawed, or outright stupid plots again and again instead of using its immense popularity to take some risks and try to improve.

Take, for example, the set up for the back half of this season, which is exactly the same set up as the first thirteen episodes: the Glee Club has to win [insert level of competition] or it will cease to exist. That was a perfectly serviceable, if slightly overused plotline in the first half of the season, but now the show is just repeating itself, which doesn't bode well, especially considering this is season one. This also leads to the squandering of a potentially rewarding plotline when Rachel's new love interest is almost immediately revealed to be spying on her. Never mind that it doesn't make sense for a team that hasn't lost once in three years to be so concerned by a newly reformed team as to actually seduce one of their singers (and possibly their coach) in an elaborate sabotage plot, but we've already seen a plotline about a rival school bent on sabotaging the Glee Club. Again, it is troubling that the show is so repetitive after such a brief time on the air.

Another troubling pattern the show has lapsed into is the lazy construction of every episode around Will assigning the Club to sing a certain type or genre of song every week. If what passes for a weekly theme on this show is that all the songs have the same word thrown into them, I have serious problems with what's to come. Add to that the fact that the way Will has them prepare songs of a random type each week has pretty much nothing to do with how the actual competition they are in works.

The final recurring problem I have with Glee is its dependence on a level of stasis from week to week that basically makes it stagnant. No matter what happens in any given episode (barring the mid-season finale which did change some things...sort of) everything will pretty much be back where it started by episode's end. So when Rachel almost leaves the Glee Club tonight (for what must be at least the fifth time in fourteen episodes) there's no tension, not only because we've seen this before, but because we know every issue will be resolved by the end of the episode. This leads to stupid contrivances like Sue's immediate re-instatement (which has her actually drugging the principal and blackmailing him either by raping him or making him believe he was raped) where instead the show could have something interesting, like a story or two about what Sue would do with herself when removed from her singular obsession in life.

All that being said, there were some good things in this episode. Jane Lynch's Sue is, as always, the best thing this show has going for it, and when they don't overplay her hand (as they did with her ridiculous spinster's club tonight) she is an easy ace in the hole. All of the musical numbers worked in spite of how foribly they were tied into the episodes central tenet (would it really be so bad if the kids sang a variety of songs every week instead of hearing five songs with the word "hello" in them so you can tie every scene together and name your episode in one fell swoop?), and despite the fact that immediately breaking Will and Emma up played into the show's stasis and back-pedaled one of the few things to actually progress on this show so far, I think the reason they split makes some sort of real world character sense, and is exactly the sort of plotting I wish there was more of on Glee. When all is said and done, this was a very disheartening return for the show (a return to form in the worst way), but hey, maybe things will be better next week.

Grade: C


-But probably not, since every song next week will be sung by Madonna.

-Apologies that this is my third review in a row that basically devolved into a rant. I promise I still like television, and each of these shows, but there has been a bad run of episodes in my recent review schedule. Here's hoping Thursday night returns with new episodes soon, or that next week's shows reverse their recent trends and surprise me...

-Ok, to the random quotes that were actually funny tonight:

-"What do you guys say when you answer the phone?" "No, she's dead, this is her son."

-"Oh, that's why the band is here."

-"I've got a full ride to a school called the University of California, Los Angeles. Maybe you've heard of it. Its in Los Angeles."

-"Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?"

-You two may be the dumbest teenagers I've ever seen. And that's saying something. i once taught a cheerleading seminar to a young Sarah Palin."

-"I'm engorged with venom. And triumph."

-"We have to wear sunscreen onstage, but its worth it."
Tags: Glee
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