by RHAD Joanna Champion
Great artists from Shakespeare to Rihanna have long pondered the quirky tendencies of humanity; in this case, our inclination to hate and love things so much at the same time. That powerful fury you feel towards something or someone which drives you CRAZY – and yet you can’t turn away.
This is my relationship with Glee. I faithfully tune in every Tuesday at 8pm, knowing full well I will spend almost the entire hour rolling my eyes and trying to will myself to turn the channel. But I don’t, and seven days later, the cycle begins again. I’ve begun a self discovery search for the reasons behind my insanity (defined by doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results). I’ve managed to parcel out a few of the reasons Glee has become one of the worst shows on television – and, more importantly, why it doesn’t seem to matter.
WHY IT’S TERRIBLE
1. Nothing Happens
No, seriously. Glee hasn’t stuck with a plot since the first season for more than a few episodes. And frankly, if Quinn wasn’t pregnant and therefore forced to technically keep that plot going for 9 months, I’m sure they would’ve dropped that too. The ONLY character arc in the second season that kinda stuck was Kurt’s gay bullying experience, and even that was wrapped up relatively quickly by shoving him off to Dalton Academy. Here are some examples of storylines that were either completely dropped or come up so rarely they might as well be: Will being in love with Emma, Puckleberry, Brittana, Tina/Artie, Rachel being Idina Menzel’s daughter but she’s raising Quinn’s baby, Sue having mom issues, Anything Involving the Football Team, Will’s ex-wife popping up occasionally…the list goes on. The plot changes every single week without rhyme or reason, and we’re expected to just kinda roll with it.
Now I know what you’re saying – “Joanna, what do you mean! Sue is one of the BEST parts of the show!” Okay, yes, she has some zingers that make me laugh out loud, and she referenced the Honeybadger video this week, which is worth 100 bonus points. But she is also the most inconsistent character on the show – or possibly on any show ever. Let’s review the first season for a minute: her attempts to bring down the Glee club served as pretty much the driving force of Season One’s plot – but in the finale, after they lost Regionals, Sue stepped in to share funding with them so the Glee Club could stay afloat – because “what would I do if I didn’t have you to hate?” or something like that. It literally rendered the entire season pointless. And, what’s more, the writers immediately backtracked in Season 2 and said, “Oh no, Sue really does hate them.” Except when she defends Kurt from bullies to the point of stepping down from the Principal job. Or except when she feels bad for ruining their Christmas party and gives them back their presents. Or when she sings songs to terminally ill patients with Will. Yeah, except for those times, Sue totally hates Glee club. Sometimes we’re supposed to like her, when she has a touching moment with her sister, right? But most of the time we’re supposed to hate her because she’s mean to the Glee crew? It’s painfully obviously they just have no idea what to do with her character. Pssst, Ryan Murphy – having someone switch constantly between being nice and being terrible is not creating depth for a character. It’s lazy writing.
3. So…They Have Money? Or…They Don’t?
Glee’s fallback plot line is that the group needs money – to stay in existence, or to get to a competition. But, in the meantime, they’re able to come up with super elaborate costumes and sets for performances that seem to be only for each other? Seriously, just that first Gwyneth Paltrow episode was out of control: a rain stage for the Umbrella/Singin in the Rain mashup, full costumes and a light-up flashbulb set for the Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag between Gwynnie and Rachel? Come on, people. Now, I know these numbers are in good fun and I’m all for a fun fantasy over-the-top sequence once in awhile, but it’s every week with this show! The Rocky Horror Picture Show that never even really happened still had full sets! They should at least throw in a little self-aware joke about this phenomenon, like they did for the fact that musical accompaniment just always seems to be around when they need it. You can’t keep complaining about the Glee club needing money when they seem to be staging full musicals for every rehearsal!
4. Guest Stars are a Good Thing. Sometimes.
I won’t dwell too much on this because it’s something the show has been widely criticized for already, but they take stunt casting to a whole new level on Glee. Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, Eve, Neil Patrick Harris, John Stamos, Carol Burnett, Josh Groban, Olivia Newton-John…and the list continues. I do give them some credit for appealing to Broadway fans with people like Idina Menzel, Kristen Chenoweth, Jonathan Groff and Cheyenne Jackson, but…maybe if they spent less time throwing celebrities into random ass character roles, they’d have a bit more time to focus on developing the characters they already have. Just sayin’.
…AND WHY YOU STILL WATCH
1. The Music
It’s the most obvious, so let’s get it out of the way first. Glee produces some really great covers of music that people already like. They hired some amazing powerhouse voices for this show (and some really meh ones – who sat in Dianna Agron’s audition and said, “Yes, this girl has a good enough voice for a show primarily about music?”). We tune in for the musical numbers that consistently top the itunes charts the next day. They know how to arrange a song (if only the actors knew how to lip synch to their own voices), and they consistently choose catchy tunes that are either currently popular or make you nostalgic for the days that they were. Here’s a tip, Glee: don’t EVER do your own original songs again, because they were terrible and that’s not why people watch your show. I don’t care if it gives you street cred – stick to badgering Kings of Leon until they give you the rights to their music.
2. Cultural Relevance
Glee’s ratings are awesome, especially in that oh-so-coveted 18-34 age bracket of viewers. This means that if you’re in that age group, most people you know probably watch it. And in order to engage with the people you know in conversation, you need to watch it too. It’s that simple, really – everyone knows the show has constant “buzz” surrounding it for one reason or another, and people want to keep up. Whether it’s “Tell me you saw Brittany do the Britney Spears number!” or “I hear Lea Michele is a huge bitch in real life,” you need to know the characters and what’s happening with them to be up on your pop culture. For people who don’t care about that kind of stuff, this is less of a draw, but for folks who like to be current, Glee is unfortunately a must.
3. The One-Liners
I mentioned above how great some of Sue’s lines are (they’re actually all written by one guy named Ian Brennan), and sometimes when there’s a particularly awful episode happening, her harsh judgment and endless cruelty are all that gets me through. Whether she’s insulting the outcasts Mercedes and Kurt (“How do you two not have a show on Bravo?”) or making fun of Mr. Schuester’s coif (”I thought I smelled cookies wafting from the ovens of the little elves that live in your hair.”), she always keeps us in stitches. I also have to give due credit to Brittany, the genius Heather Morris, as the dumbest cheerleader in the world. Like Santana, I too am in love with her for classic lines like, “Did you know dophins are just gay sharks?” and “I’m pretty sure my cat is reading my diary.” And speaking of Santana, she’s had some good insults lately too (“I know you’re as dumb as a bag of wet hair…”). A bunch of single jokes does not a good script make, but it’s enough to keep me hoping for the day they’ll put some coherent dialogue in between the laugh out loud moments.
4. Touching on Important Issues
The writers of Glee seem to want to champion every cause out there, and attempt to teach a lesson in every episode. Sometimes this comes out awkwardly (teen drinking? Uh, sure, it’s bad…only there weren’t really any major consequences for the students showing up drunk to school), but when they hit the nail on the head, they hit it hard. The best example is the bullying story arc, featuring Kurt’s character being constantly harassed by Dave Karofsky, a macho football player. In general, bullying has been all over the headlines for awhile, as well as gay teen suicides. The way this story carried out was both heartbreaking and infuriating – knowing that real-life Kurts are out there getting beat up and harassed every single day, and knowing that just like on Glee, these students are often forced to seek other options for school because administrations are so reluctant and sometimes unable to appropriately punish students like Dave. I have a feeling creator Ryan Murphy is really working out some of his own issues on the page here, which explains why Kurt is probably the most explored character on the show. Let’s face it, this storyline (and not necessarily his acting) won him a Golden Globe. Additionally, the way the show depicted a parent talking to his son about sex was one of the best I’ve seen – who knew Mike O’Malley would make me tear up by explaining to his kid that he matters enough to wait for the right person to have sex with? (Author’s note: Friday Night Lights addressed this issue just as well, and also addressed every other issue 100x better. Watch it on Netflix.)
So as you can see, my lists are just about even. Maybe just one more “Why it’s terrible” reason would push me over the edge, who knows! Then I’d have the courage to turn the TV to something else. But for now I continue to tune in, letting Fox take over my 8-9:30 on Tuesdays (that’s right, you should ALL be staying tuned in for Raising Hope after Glee, because it’s one of the best sitcoms on right now). Although Glee is still always in the news, I am sensing slight backlash from other critics and even viewers, raising some of the points I listed above. I hope the writers are tuning into the blogs and getting an idea for what’s going wrong, so they can stick to what they’re good at and figure out a way to make Glee a show worthy of the attention it commands.