Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glee: Okay, Can We Stop Talking About High School Musical Now?

I think this should settle the “Is Glee Ripping Off High School Musical?” debate.

Riddle me this—is High School Musical allowed to make jokes about crazy-train filicide? Is High School Musical allowed to not-so-subtly make reference to oral sex—or worse yet, push “the C word”? And did you see the brochures in Emma’s office?

Definitely not HSM material.

Last night’s episode of Glee was every bit as entertaining as the premiere we saw four months ago—and it answered what I think is an even more important question:

What’s Glee going to be about?


After the pilot, the direction of the show seemed nebulous. Obviously, the A-plot (getting to sectionals/regionals) was set, but the B-plots seemed harder to come by. Now, we can see those supporting stories developing, and they’re delicious.

The hilarity of Terri’s hysterical pregnancy is her character’s saving grace. If the show was trying to sell her as a sympathetic character, she’d be hard to take. Fangirls like me would see her only as a roadblock to the Will/Emma relationship; with this development, we’re totally allowed to love-to-hate her. It’s a bold choice for the show, and one that’s making for an interesting ship. For instance, in Matthew Morrison’s recent interview, he said, “It's hard trying to defend [Will and Terri’s] relationship.”

Normally, you find actors trying to play devil’s advocate. There were times back in the day when Jenna Fischer of The Office would talk about how she thought maybe it was more interesting if Jim and Pam never figured things out, because her show is realistic and sometimes those things just don’t happen. Just this morning, Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv from Fringe were quoted by Entertainment Weekly as going against their oh-so-obvious ship. It’s refreshing to have a show not even try to sit on the fence about where they’re going.

Watching Terri flounder as she tries to conceal the very fake nature of her pregnancy is going to be amazing. I guess joint baths are out the window, eh? She’s obviously going to have to remove sex from the equation, and is that really the way you want to go when you’re trying to convince your husband not to leave you? Also, Terri doesn’t even know Emma exists at this point, right? There’s gotta be some intrigue down the road once she realizes her husband might have his eyes on his coworker. (Oh, yeah, we know a thing or two about that around here.)

The angsty goodness between Finn and Rachel is just as yummy. The show is doing an excellent job showcasing just how awkward young like can be, and how confusing the associated emotions are. Last night solidly built an impressive love triangle between the high-schoolers. It’s obvious already that Finn and Rachel like each other, but the status problems associated with that coupling, along with his girlfriend, are clearly going to put this relationship on hold for awhile. I can’t remember the last time premature ejaculation was used as a sweet device to show just how smitten our hero is. Finn’s subsequent lack of explanation did nothing to demonstrate this fact to poor Rachel, who pwned that last number.

It’s interesting to see how the Terri-like wheel of this love triangle, Quinn, is constructed differently. She’s still got her shrew-like characteristics, but I also kind of like seeing her take on the role of Vindictive Bitch Christian Cheerleader. While we’re on the subject, how un-High School Musical was that Celibacy Club meeting? I love how forthright Rachel was, discussing the pitfalls of preaching abstinence. It would be easy to have written Rachel as a prude, but it’s way more interesting to make her sexually aware.

So then let’s talk about the music. Last night we saw “Superfreak,” “Gold Digger,” “Push It,” “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” “Take a Bow,” and a delightful little snippet of “All By Myself.”

All I have to say is … good GOD, how hard are these people working?

The one problem I have is that I’m a little troubled by the staging used in “Take a Bow.” If this was my freshman undergrad course on “University Writing Through Hollywood Musicals,” we would say that episode had a diegetic conflict. All of the songs in the pilot and all of the songs except for “Take a Bow” are used in a diegetic context: the singing is actually happening. No one is breaking out into song randomly. But then in “Take a Bow,” and similarly, in a clip from an upcoming episode using the song “Bust Ya Windows,” the songs are used in an extradiegetic context: we’re not to assume that Rachel was actually belting out the chorus while watching Finn and Quinn (eww to that rhyme, by the way) canoodle at the lockers. It bothers me because it’s inconsistent. I have no problem with using music to highlight a moment, as “Take a Bow” expertly did last night, but it was confusing in a "is this really happening?" way.

It would be better if the show would keep the songs onstage or in rehearsal, but intersperse them with other scene snippets to spotlight how the song is relevant to other stories. This was done to great effect by showing Terri making redecorating plans during “Gold Digger,” and “Take a Bow” would have been just as moving were Rachel NOT singing in the hallway, but rather just standing there looking forlorn as the sound of her emotive rehearsal plays in the background.

Okay, fine, I’m just a musical snob.

All in all, another great showing from Glee and an excellent start to the 2009-2010 television season. Now bring on Week Two!

3 Responses to “Glee: Okay, Can We Stop Talking About High School Musical Now?”

Era said...

Glad to see someone is writing about Glee and its general awesomeness - and how it is NOT, in fact, the failure I believe HSM was. More hilarity, more innuendo, and much more talent drives this new show, and I'm really excited to see where it goes. You did a great job highlighting the important issues. :] As always, thanks for your insight!

thebubbreport said...

My favorite brochure was "I Found a Hair Down There!"

I am so glad that some original scripted TV is back on the air!

Selina said...

I really have to get around to watching Glee. Everyone's talking about it. :)