Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Problem With Glee

13 December 2009

Glee is really nothing more, in my not so humble opinion, than a latter-day version of 101 Dalmatians translated into a high school setting. Sue Sylvester is Cruella De Vil, the macho cheerleader coach with a do anything to win and maintain her power mentality (Cruella seems to be Disney's spin on the Machiavellian motif). The Glee Club are the 101 dalmatians each basically a cliche. Will is the good and decent though sometimes naive guy who "coaches" the Glee Club. The major mysteries the show plays on are will our good Will keep that evil Sue from destroying glee so it can compete in Ohio's glee competition and will Will's William McKinley High School Glee Club win that competition? Go Glee.

There are other subplots as well of course. One involves Will and his materialistic wife Teri. She is duping Will about her pregnancy. She makes Will believe that she is pregnant when she isn't. Another involves the cheerleader or "cheerio" Quinn. Quinn is Sue's mole in glee and is helping Glee's Cruella undermine our beloved club. Another involves Quinn, and glee members Finn, and Noah, who are also members of the football team. Like Teri Quinn is lying to Finn about her pregnancy (I suppose academics will pick up on this and start talking about parallelism and doublings in Glee). In this subplot Quinn is pregnant but not by Finn. Noah is the father of her as yet unborn baby. Finally, another involves Quinn and Teri. Teri has arranged with Quinn to become "mother" to her child.

My problem with Glee is that the show is so clichéd (all of the plots and subplots are standard Disney), caricatured (none of the characters have much depth), and characterless (at this point the main characters are simply Disney straw men and women) that I don't how the show will continue to be interesting over thirteen let alone twenty two episodes. Yes the musical numbers are nicely and cleverly staged but it often seems that the rest of the story is an almost meaningless wrap around for these musical numbers, musical numbers which are, in yet another example of cross promotion, eating up the ipod universe. With such thin wrap around plots, subplots, and characters I think the show would have worked much better as a six or eight episode British like series that followed Glee Club through the trials and travails of preparing for competition and the obstacles they have to overcome to get there. Unfortunately Glee is on American TV, an American TV guided by the commodity aesthetic ideal (if it makes loads of advertising revenue it must be worth showing for twenty two episodes) which prefers to flog a dead horse long after the flies and vultures have done their work (can you say The Simpsons and X-Files?). The best British TV series, on the other hand, always leave you wanting for more (Python reference intended). I'll take the latter anytime.

It has recently leaked out that TV auteur Joss Whedon is set to direct an episode of Glee on the back nine--additional episodes of the show have been ordered by Fox. Whether he can save a show that is already a dead horse is doubtful. As Whedon has said a good TV director is one who is anonymous. He should indeed fit in well with a TV show which is nothing if not one big anonymous cliche and caricature (Ryan Murphy as metteur en scene). They shoot dead horses don't they? Well not always at least in America.

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