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‘Glee’ premiere has high points, fails to produce momentum

Published: Monday, September 30, 2013

Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 02:09

There must be some statute of limitations on how many times a television show can be renewed for another season with only the quality of its first to serve as justification for doing so. Unfortunately, “Glee” seems to be immune to that particular brand of logic. In fact, the show seems to be immune to most brands of logic — logical dialogue, logical plot points and logical character development, just to name a few. And despite a few shining moments, last Thursday’s season five premiere of “Glee” was no exception to that pattern.

Let’s be real: “Glee” was good once. Not just good, but really good. For a single season, it was a shining example of consistent, quality television. Then, instead of hitting its stride, it devolved into a mass of cringe-worthy dialogue and contrived, nonsensical plotlines. The writers lazily tried to squeeze too many stories into single episodes at the expense of well-paced action. Now, the show is almost physically painful to watch — which is a shame, because, save for the writers, its cast is full of truly talented people.

Those writers tend to focus on flashiness instead of substance, and, subsequently, have created multiple “tribute episodes,” the latest of which was Thursday’s premiere devoted to the music of The Beatles. With each tribute “Glee” does, there is some wildly transparent attempt to draw comparisons between the life of the artist or band in question and the lives of the various glee clubbers, who prance through scenes manufactured solely to make those parallels relevant.

For instance, when the ever-peppy and possibly pedophilic Mr. William Schuester (Matthew Morrison) announces to the group that they will be spending two weeks singing Beatles’ songs, his students immediately respond by trying to personally relate to the Fab Four — wheelchair-bound Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) even goes so far as to say, “And Ringo Starr was a sickly kid, which probably meant he was sitting down a lot.”

It’s like they’re not even trying. Either that, or the show’s writers may not possess a working familiarity with the definition of the word “subtlety.”

However, if the viewer can overlook — or at the very least, mute — the show’s mandatory overdose of the ridiculous, then the season premiere is actually not awful. At least this time the episode was not dragged down by unnecessary plotlines, as it usually is.

So then what were the highlights of the episode? The musical numbers, for one. Whatever the quality of its writing, “Glee” has never lacked talented singers or poignant performances. Of particular note was Rachel Berry’s (Lea Michele) hauntingly beautiful rendition of The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” after she is confronted with the realities of being a working actress and realizes that she may not land her dream role as Fanny Brice in the revival of “Funny Girl.”

The developing romance between Artie and cheerleader Kitty Wilde (Becca Tobin) also introduces a depth rarely seen on “Glee.” Faced with the possibility of losing her standing in the hierarchy-obsessed high school if she is seen dating someone at the bottom of the social food chain, Kitty asks Artie to keep their relationship a secret. Naturally, the glee club members find out and convince Artie that he deserves better. However, instead of caving to a vapid stereotype, Kitty gives a refreshingly honest speech about how social standing is everything in high school, and if she’s going to give that up, she wants to be sure that she really likes Artie first — and then freely admits that she does before kissing him in front of everyone.

The last worthwhile moment of the episode revolved around Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) getting back together after their breakup at the beginning of last season. Although their reunion duet could win several “cutest couple” awards, it’s the final scenes of the episode that pack in the most heartfelt punch: Blaine proposes to Kurt, and he says “yes.”

Cue The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” and Kurt forgets just how crazy it is to get married at 19. Who wouldn’t say “yes” with rose petals falling in your hair, and every person you ever knew helping your boyfriend sing you a love song on a grand, dramatic staircase? It’s certainly the sweetest and most gratifying scene of the episode.

Noticeably absent from the premiere was the late Cory Monteith, who passed away in July. A special episode commemorating the death of his “Glee” character, Finn Hudson, will air Oct. 10.

Unfortunately, this episode’s relative quality is no saving grace — it’s doubtful that the audience can hope for more than sporadic highlights and cheap ploys. “Glee” has spent the past three years playing with its viewers’ expectations, firmly positioning itself in an inescapable alternate reality chock-full of forced musical-character analogies and excessive plot — and it doesn’t look like that’s about to change anytime soon.

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