While TJ and I were watching our DVR recording of the Glee season premiere last night, he mentioned something to the effect of “I don’t like all these new characters. I love this show so much, I don’t want it to suck in its second season.”
Then I told him he sounded a little like Rachel Berry, sending poor Sunshine Corazon off to a crack house to preserve the dynamics of the group.
Truth be told, I watched the premiere with equal trepidation. I’m a huge fan of the show and will defend it to its uncultured naysayers (ahem, Sean) until I keel over and die. But my heart sank a little bit when I saw that show co-creator Ian Brennan wrote the episode, because he’s the worst of the three main writers on the show. (Brad Falchuk wins easily for realism and emotional resonance.) Brennan likes to bring his characters to the edge of some life-changing epiphany at the start of an episode only to pull them back to square one by the end, as if nothing really happened.
As a self-educated film/TV buff, I mentioned in a previous post that from a narrative perspective, most episodes of Glee are frustratingly inconsistent. A viewer can suspend disbelief only so much to explain improbable character turnarounds and storyline resets—sometimes within a single episode!—to make for a fully satisfying experience. I end up getting more frustrated at the wasted potential of a promising storyline carried over several episodes that would spark honest and earned character development that’s cut short by the time minute 43 comes around.
Character inconsistencies are a frustrating challenge of serial television, where the almost real-time writing of each episode has the capacity to enhance or chip away at character development over the span of the entire season. And it’s only when you look back at where you’ve been after 20 episodes that you fully realize how much—or how little—development was actually accomplished (cf. The X-Files, seasons 8 and 9; Elisabeth Rohm’s instalesbian ADA on Law & Order).
But to see a show hit the reset button at the end of 44 minutes is tremendously jarring, especially when none of the characters “learn” from their experiences so that they’re fundamentally changed moving forward. It’s signaling to me, the terribly astute and critical viewer, that the creators don’t really know their characters. Or that these characters are teenagers and will change their minds about everything. Within a single episode. And forget what they learned the week before.
It’s like that two-part episode of Family Guy where Stewie finally kills Lois, and we find out that it’s all been a simulation. Brian makes the observation that the fact that none of it really happened is essentially a giant “F— you!” to the audience.
That said, I was moderately happy with the results of Glee’s season opener. There were a few things that were unfortunately reset, but more things that were left unresolved… which, if the Glee writers know what’s good for ‘em, should remain unresolved for the next few episodes. I don’t want to see Finn get back on the football team until next season. That would make his “football is who I am” dilemma prime grist for his character development mill. I want to see Rachel’s self-destructive ambition continue to drive her to more Machiavellian schemes and alienate her from the rest of the glee club kids. I want to see Quinn and Santana continue their tiff. And I want to see how these budget cuts are really having an impact on the school activities. I don’t want “budget cuts” to replace “we’re going to cut the glee club” this season as the go-to for why Schue needs to get his act together.
A few highlights for me, in no particular order:
- Sue was in fine form this episode, with one delicious jab after another. My favorites: “That doesn’t make any sense” (to Bieste’s non sequitirs); pretty much her entire chastisement of Santana for getting breast enhancement surgery; and of course, the poop cookies.
- Bieste. I like that she’s not a one-note character, which unfortunately, Ken Tanaka was. (Boy, talk about character inconsistencies there…)
- The conceit of the opener as a tidy way to bring everyone up to speed on what’s been going on with each of the characters. Loved, loved, loved the dig at Schue about never rapping ever again.
- Finn trying out for the Cheerios. I know that the interwebs has basically agreed that Cory Monteith should never ever dance on camera ever again, and seeing him do his moves made me cringe and laugh and point at the same time. On a side note, his Twitter screenname is @frankenteen, and I hadn’t really noticed until this episode how freakishly tall he is.
- Loooooooooooooooved that Becky was at the table with Sue during Cheerios tryouts.
- The look on Rachel’s face when she realizes that Sunshine’s got some vocal cojones too. That cued a fantastic little Lady Gaga riff that was exquisitely interrupted by Sue.
- The preview for next week’s Britney Spears episode. OMG.
A few “eh” lights:
- I’m Filipino, and I’m supposed to like Charice. Especially because we Asians are a tight-knit community. But I found her to be a little distracting in this episode, especially her angry wavy arms during her admittedly powerful rendition of Beyonce’s “Listen.” That said, I’m kinda bummed that she won’t continue to give Rachel a complex now that she’s been recruited by Vocal Adrenaline (Yay Cheyenne Jackson!). That’s a storyline I would have *paid* money to see.
- Okay, so Other Asian has abs. Whatever. I’m not jealous or anything.
- Chord Overstreet as the new quarterback, Sam. Yeah, he’s got a big mouth all right. It’s a little distracting. And I agree. He needs to lose the Bieber hair. His tryout did get the best exchange of the episode. Puck: “How many tennis balls can you fit in there?” Sam: “I don’t know, I’ve never had any balls in my mouth. Have you?”
And a few lowlights:
- The Sue-Schue partnership was amazing. The two were such a fun couple to watch. I actually hated that it frayed at the end, because after last season’s developments, there really is no valid reason for Sue to seek the destruction of New Directions ever again. Sure, Schue was being noble and honest and all that crap by nutting up and apologizing to Bieste (lest we forget, he did plant drugs on Finn to get him to join the glee club in the first place), but he really should have gone with the poop cookies. Even just for a few more episodes.