Friday, May 27, 2011

Glee - Season 2

Glee's three writers sort of killed the Three Glees theory when they stated that they basically all work on different parts of the various episodes, usually focusing on certain characters they tend to write well, and more or less credited themselves for the different scripts randomly. And with the absence of an actual explanation for why the show is so directionless and inconsistent, the only conclusion is that it's just a directionless and inconsistent show. I liked Glee despite myself throughout most of the first season, but it all came crashing down pretty hard in the second. Some episodes were generally enjoyable, and the show is still usually fun when somebody is singing. But a lot of it was really bad, and the way it ignored or maybe just forgot about certain character traits or stories to serve whatever stupid idea they had for that week made it hard to ever give them the benefit of the doubt. Chuck is another show that tries to be both a comedy and a drama, and often fails at both. But that show still knows what it is at its center, and it builds around a familiar cast. Glee just does whatever the hell it feels like, and that makes it really easy to turn on it when things go wrong. And they tended to go wrong often enough that it soured me on it to the point where I won't be back next year.

I'm not really sure where to start. The main character, Will, has always sucked, and he sucked even more this year when they couldn't decide whether he was a flawed but earnest teacher, or a saint who will do anything for anyone, or an out-of-touch, scheming imbecile. It's not really the actor's fault, but he doesn't exactly save it either. The kids are pretty much the same group they were before, but only the most important ones like Rachel and Kurt really get much to do - the second season is where shows are supposed to branch out and give more of the characters significant stories to work with, and while they do this a bit with Brittany and Santana (when the former isn't so stupid that she believes Jane Lynch in Grinch makeup is Santa Claus), too many of the original Glee kids still feel completely neglected by the whims of the writers. They tried to mix things up with the faculty by having a particularly mannish woman play the new football coach (how many small town schools hire people exclusively to coach athletic programs, anyway?), but their handling of that was one of their biggest bungles, and they basically forgot she existed weeks ago. Emma's OCD is a plot that refuses to go anywhere, and possibly worst of all, they basically butchered Sue Sylvester. I said last time that her absence from an episode was palpable, but this year it was actually a relief. They can't decide whether she's evil or just strangely motivated, and for every step she takes forward in real characterization she takes two steps back with another tired scheme and familiar monologue. Jane Lynch is still great, but even she can't save this writing.

So the show can't really do anything with its characters, meaning all it has is the stories and the music. The plot follows the same basic pattern as last year with not much to mix it up despite the obvious knowledge that the club is going to make it farther this time, but probably won't win the championship because it's only the second season and a lot of this show is still about failure. The show still has some interesting themes, the problem is it just doesn't explore them enough, with it being too focused on reinforcing the road to Nationals and Kurt's gigantic gay bashing/private school/first boyfriend subplot. And the music - well. I don't know. They tried some original songs in a couple episodes, and they weren't really terrible compared to the other generic pop they sing, but I didn't really feel their significance to the kids' stories. They sing songs about stuff they know, but the stuff they know doesn't amount to a whole lot. A lot of the cover choices are fine, even if they're misapplied (when Finn has a religious crisis he sings "Losing My Religion", even thought that song isn't about losing your religion), but it's the performances that are more problematic. It's not the voices, because everyone on the show can sing, even if only a few of them regularly get the chance to (It seems like more than half of Tina's performances were humorously interrupted), but just the arrangements are boring. The show originally captured everyone's attention with "Don't Stop Believin'", when they took an old song and made it interesting with a capella backing vocals. Even the mash-ups in season one, which were deployed too frequently, were occasionally interesting. But the vast majority of the performances now are just standard recreations of a familiar song, backed by a full, conveniently omnipresent band, and without much to separate them from the original recording. It's not like they never mix it up, but they should more. The show just seemed lazier this year, and while it may be content to sit around and keep doing what it's been doing and rake in money from ads and music sales, it's going to have to do so without me this fall. Big loss, I know.

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