Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The image above is the perfect encapsulation of why this season of FOX's Glee has gone so far off the rails: it has sacrificed everything important about itself to find a happy ending for the character who best represents showrunner Ryan Murphy himself: Kurt Hummel, once a brilliant supporting character with fantastic lines and solo numbers now nothing but a shell, a pariah and martyr who can be almost painful to watch.

Harsh? Maybe. But Glee needs someone to be harsh who isn't a professional critic and isn't a rabid fan who thinks characters are being "mistreated" by the show. It needs a voice of reason. It needs someone to say that this creature, this phenomenon that the little show about a show choir has become isn't beautiful or wonderful. It's ugly, the very essence of glum.

I've long been unhappy with Glee's inconsistent characterization and inability to discover exactly what it wants to be. That complaint still holds some water, especially regarding what the show has done to some of its most likable characters. Good-hearted Finn Hudson is now an unlovable cad who waffles between the same two girls he has since the second episode of the series. (We're on episode 40.) Both of those girls are much less personable than they once were--Rachel's drive reeks of desperation, while Quinn has morphed completely into the frigid blonde bitch with no love for Rachel despite the major inroads they made together in season one. (This has not stopped the show from pairing them in a duet where they talk about being pretty and unpretty despite the fact that they hate each other--but don't worry, we'll get to the music in a bit.)

Other characters have been boiled down to token minorities: Tina and Mike Chang can't seem to break out of their Asian Couple mold, while Brittany is stuck as a (fairly offensive portrayal of a) bisexual hopping from Artie (now nothing but whiny) and Santana (perhaps the only three-dimensional character left on the show) without any pause. Kurt, Blaine and Karofsky play the three degrees of gay--not that there are any other options than martyr, out-but-sensitive and deeply, deeply closeted. Lauren is the big girl and Puck is the bad boy who wants the big girl. And Sam--well, who really cares about Sam anyway? Not the audience--the writers have never really given us a reason to care about him!

Will, constantly praised as the best teacher at McKinley, continues to make increasingly boneheaded decisions when it comes to his students. His love interests vary between an OCD pixie who is either crazy or not depending on the episode (Emma, a waste of Jayma Mays' talents), an irresponsible substitute teacher (Holly, once a blast of fun played by Gwyneth Paltrow but now stale and moldy), a drunk former glee club star (April, only still funny thanks to Kristin Chenoweth), and his shrew of an ex-wife who has never served any purpose other than screwing up Will's life (Terri, played as gamely as possible by Jessalyn Gilsig).

Even Sue Sylvester has turned into a tool for the writers to use to serve whatever plot purpose is needed at that moment--is she a villain? Is she turning good? Is she somewhere in the middle? All of the above! Jane Lynch deserves better than this--and better than last night's episode where she looked dumbfounded to be playing the character in such a strange, dishonest direction.

So with Santana the only character working anymore (thanks to Naya Rivera's beautiful acting above all else), one would turn to the music to get them through. And some of the music is great! I love Rachel and Jesse St. James' cover of "Rolling In the Deep" from last week, Santana's cover of "Back to Black" this week, and the aforementioned, truly wonderful mashup of "I Feel Pretty" and "Unpretty" done by Rachel and Quinn.

But so much of the time the music seems to be decided on what's popular at that moment--say, the cover of "Friday" (although that came a few weeks late). Or "Born This Way". Or "Tik Tok". The list goes on and on--while the music is still fine, it's stopped serving plot purpose and is more a showcase. While I've liked this in some instances ("River Deep - Mountain High" was done in a showcase setting and it vies with "Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy" and "I Feel Pretty/Unpretty" as my favorite performance of the season), in others it just comes off as so bizarre and out of place.

Something happened when the show introduced and focused so much on Darren Criss as Blaine. The show morphed from being about the artistic direction and became about pleasing the fans, truly the death knell for any show. It will probably continue on for several seasons thanks to the love from the fans and it's never-ending desire to please their every whim. But soon enough the fans will shrink in number, because you can't please all of them all the time. When they're not being pleased, they'll be able to take a moment and see what Glee has become--an ugly beast of self-promotion and character derailment. It's not even a joy to watch anymore--it's a chore. And a show that once showed such promise has become a parody of itself and proven to all it's critics that it is exactly what they thought it was. What a shame.


Robert said...

What a great piece. It's so true - every character except for Santana and maybe Will's ex-wife has become just a shell of what they were (not that they were really anything but blown up stereotypes to begin with). I have completely stopped watching this show - I just can't stand it any more even though it does have its okay moments.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more.