Wednesday, September 09, 2009

'Glee' fall review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I talk about "Glee" - which still isn't really a show for me (and won't be part of the blog rotation) - and about Fox's marketing campaign for it.

Unrelated, I suspect you can figure out the new blog logo theme without my help.

44 comments:

Jaynee said...

Here's where we take separate paths, Sepinwall. I LOVE "Glee" - absolutely adore it. I'm so happy it's finally on weekly so that I can watch more than just the awesome pilot (Jane Lynch is a genius in anything she does).

Mandy said...

I've watched the Glee pilot three times now and liked it less each time. Nonetheless, it's still the only show of the season that I know the exact time and date of the premiere. I'm waiting to see what you'll be watching and adjust my schedule accordingly! Regarding Jane Lynch, I think I'm feeling a bit of fatigue with her characters. I always know I'm watching Jane Lynch, which isn't how I want to feel about an actor. You know?

Mike said...

I think maybe if "Glee" were super unfunny and on HBO and about a man played by Thomas Jane, Sepinwall would be all over it.

Ingrid said...

I liked the pilot enough that I will give this show a try, despite the fact that I am a bit allergic to musicals.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I've seen quite a few people compare this show to Freaks and Geeks, which makes me think I might enjoy it on some level. Could you address this as one of the leading F+G authorities out there?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Could you address this as one of the leading F+G authorities out there?

Glee is much, much, much broader than Freaks & Geeks was.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think maybe if "Glee" were super unfunny and on HBO and about a man played by Thomas Jane, Sepinwall would be all over it.

Really, all it would take to get me on board would be Lea Michele showing a strong pimp hand.

dez said...

People dressed in other personas? :-)

I kind of liked the Glee pilot, so will give it a couple more views to see if it will enter my viewing rotation.

Which reminds me: Is The Philanthropist gone for good? If so, I'm ditching the unwatched eps from my DVR. It was a nice diversion, but I don't want to invest any more time in it if it's already over. Thanks, Alan!

Anonymous said...

I'm giving the show a chance, but I think I'm with you on this one, Alan. I like musicals and I liked Ryan Murphy's other shows, but I know they have a tendency to go off the rails after a season or two and this one already seems over the top in a lot of ways. I think all of the characters are about too quirky by half (Jayma Mays ocd character wears plastic gloves to eat lunch. Seriously?), much of the dialogue tries too hard ("The most important thing in our culture right now is fame!"), and too many of the little details were just grating to me (the buzzing and bum-bumming of the chorus to score many of the scenes.) I have a feeling this show will end up like Ally McBeal where a lot of the unique elements that people loved in the beginning ended up being the very things that eventually drove them away.

The New No. 2 said...

I'll watch Glee for now to see what happens, but I agree that it bears all the hallmarks of a Ryan Murphy show: broad characters and an uneven tone. It goes from earnest to satire to self-parody in the span of ten minutes.

And it makes me thankful my school didn't have a show choir.

Kirk said...

Yeah, hmm. I felt the same way about the pilot, more or less, so it's not heartening to read what you think of the next few episodes. I reeeallly wanted to like it, too.

For me, it was that they just weren't clear about the nature of the show's reality - sometimes it felt like stylized reality a la Bring it On or Election, and sometimes it felt like total fantasy, more like High School Musical.

I'll watch, but I'm worried that I'll continue to wish it wasn't so shiny and fantasy-ish. That the singers weren't so perfect, and the characters were a bit more specific, and actually felt like underdogs. A show like that could really work for me.

But who knows, maybe they'll get it right! Here's to hoping, while doubting.

David J. Loehr said...

Yes, I love musicals. I love comedy. Underdog stories, sports and otherwise. Satire. Good casting. And I can't stand "Glee."

Your review is the first that hit the nail on the head for me. It just tries too hard, it's almost like a parody of what this kind of show would be like. (Hello, Ryan Murphy!)

And living in an area that's consumed with show choirs--and knowing a number of kids and parents deeply involved in them--it's really not something I'd want to devote another half-hour of my life to every week, unless it was making merciless fun of the choir. (I'm guessing this isn't going to happen.)

The performances are also too polished, they've stacked the deck. There might be some charm to it if they performed like regular human beings. I know, this way they can appeal to the "Music Man" effect--the "I'm in show choir and I must sound like them, too!" wish fulfillment.

But it's okay. The wheels will fly off in spectacular fashion soon enough. (Hello again, Ryan!)

Henry said...

A friend of mine said the same exact thing you did -- that it wasn't a show for him -- as I was trying to convince him to give the show a chance. I saw the pilot last week after hearing rave reviews about it for months. I love the show, though I fear it may not live up to the standard set by the pilot. And yes, the singers seem to sing a little too perfectly for being together in just one episode's time. But it's got other things going for it, like Jane Lynch (who was bitingly funny in the pilot) and Jayma Mays. In some ways, the show reminded me of Election and Freaks and Geeks. Hopefully, it can live up to those high standards.

Antid Oto said...

Plus they stole Jane Lynch away from Party Down, which is unforgivable.

Steven said...

I was underwhelmed by the premiere in May, but the show kind of grew on me when I saw the premiere again last week. What I noticed was that the some of the bit characters really add flavor to the show, like the singing lawn-care guy. The choice of songs featured in the premiere was excellent.

There were a number of things I did not like, such as the spendaholic wife (who should stay on FNL), the preachy speeches about how "we are all losers," and the conspiracies to eliminate the glee club.

Overall, I will watch it as long as the music is good and they keep finding funny side characters. I will not get too invested in the plot. Because of the absurdities and contradictions in the plot I can see why Mr. Sepinwall would not continue to cover the show. I hope there will still be a chance to discuss it once in a while.

Jennykins said...

What is "famous cross-dressing characters on television", Alan?

For your blog theme logo, I mean. There aren't any cross-dressers on Glee. Yet. But given that it's Ryan Murphy, that's probably only a matter of time.

mq1986 said...

The musical numbers are really remarkable (although completely too polished and elaborate to be convincing for any real high school show choir/glee club--besides the fact that all the "students" look like college juniors), but they do not redeem the overwrought writing, the caricatured characters, and the completely predictable plot-lines. With "Glee" being so expensive to produce, they better hope to appeal to enough of the hardcore musical/theater fans to keep themselves on the air--or they had better improve their writing.

Matthew L said...

Unrelated, I suspect you can figure out the new blog logo theme without my help.

Just wondering - I recongise Klinger, Hanks in Bosom Buddies, and Tara, but who is that second along?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Katherine Moennig as "Jake" in the WB's short-lived, unintentional comedy masterpiece "Young Americans."

I wanted to stick with characters who cross-dressed on a regular basis, as opposed to one-shot drag queens and kings (too many choices in that case), so that spot was either gonna be Moennig or the woman who played Lou McCloud on "The Young Riders." (Something about shows with "Young" in the title seems to encourage gender-bending, I guess.)

Jaynee said...

Jane Lynch may let you know you are watching her, but she's still laugh out loud funny. "Your resentment is delicious," is my favorite line from the Glee pilot.

I wouldn't compare the show to "F&G" at all though - I'm surprised that comparison has been made. I think it's more like the movie "Election" only (as Kirk also said) with more likable characters.

Jennifer said...

I look forward to watching an amusingly silly show with blowout songs every week. I'm not into American Idol (sin, sin, I know, but I'm bored of all reality TV that isn't Project Runway by now), but hey, AI with a plot that doesn't involve bitchy judges every week? Sure.

Though yeah, I won't argue about Jessalyn Gilsig's character dragging down the fun. I'm a crafter and she makes me feel ashamed of my kind.

Pamela Jaye said...

I may not be Glee's target audience. in fact, as of April, I'm no one's target audience. I didn't see High School Musical, but eventually I plan to watch those Family Channel ep with the Cassidy brothers. My brother liked it, and I like David's voice, even though I don't so much like David.

I missed the pilot the first time due to Fox changing the time by one minute (DVR wasn't happy) and I had no idea there was a mall tour - although I would not have gone.

However, I did watch Boston Public, and I loved Fame in its early seasons.

I know it can't be Fame, but just getting the chance to hear people sing on a TV show - weekly. And I loved the song by Journey. And I thought the ending was heartwarming, even if it was predicatable. I'm a sap.

I'm still trying to get Baylink over here to see it - he finally got to NY this summer and he saw three musicals.

Pamela Jaye said...

re: Lea Michele - she looks so familiar, but I've imdb'ed her and nothing listed is anything I watch - also, I haven't been to the theaters since Jan of 08 and I haven't been to any show without Scott Bakula in it since... um... 1996 (Donny Osmond in Joseph)

So where have I seen her - or does she look like someone else?

Matthew L said...

Katherine Moennig as "Jake" in the WB's short-lived, unintentional comedy masterpiece "Young Americans."

Thanks. She looked familiar, but I don't know why because I've not heard of that show or the actress.

Rachel said...

I love musicals, I am the target audience for nearly everything TV-related, I have memorized the soundtrack to Spring Awakening...and yet I can't stand Glee. The musical is incredible, the actors are amazing - but the writing and plot stink.

Unfortunately, this is the show that I get invited to viewing parties for, not Mad Men...

Indeed said...

Glee is an easy sell for me because I love musicals. I remember liking the pilot back in May, and I must say, I really liked tonight's episode. I find it charming. Although, I imagine some people disliking it for the same reason I intensly disliked Pushing Daisies. Just something about the tone is not for everyone.
I think it's going to be a love it or hate it show. For now, I love it and will watch again!

Ariadne said...

It's fun.

I'm tired of shows like Rescue Me and Mad Men and Saving Grace that are full of unpleasant people but I'm expected to watch and admire them because they're sophisticated or whatever.

Or shows like House or The Mentalist that treat the audience as if they're too stupid to follow a story without flashing billboard signs and have no continuity.

Or reality shows that are about the worst of human nature.

This is a show I can watch with my family. I can relax with them and I can have fun after a tough day.

It's not Art! but then Shakespeare often wasn't either.

Blair Waldorf said...

Just about 2 minutes in to this episode and I'm losing count of how many stereotypes they can cram in here.

I really want to like this but...

Dan Coyle said...

Ryan Murphy hates straight women with a passion I don't usually see outside of superhero comics. Seriously, every female character is unbearably shrill, ESPECIALLY the ones we're supposed to root for.

It's time for Murphy to grow up and stop hating the vanilla people in his life. Or find something else to do.

Rinaldo said...

For habitual cross-dressers, there's always Jeffrey Tambor's lawyer character on Hill Street Blues, who went to work in a dress for most of a season as part of his therapy.

Carrie said...

Jessalyn Gilsig's character is a problem with a capital P.

I like the show, but it's mostly getting by on the goodwill generated by a few very funny lines per episode, Jane Lynch being Jane Lynch at her most awesome, a few very likeable and talented actors (Michael Morrison and Lea Michele, mostly) and the fantastic musical numbers. Otherwise, it is completely all over the place. I hope the tone will fall into place in the coming episodes...but having watched Murphy's earlier work I am not optimistic.

Still, at times this show makes me smile more than almost any other show on television these days, so I will stick with it. (The show that makes me smile the most? The criminally underrated 10 Things I Hate About You remake on ABC Family. That's a gem.)

Steven said...

From what I had been reading, I was expecting a letdown with the second episode. However, I thought it was on par with the first one - not great, but not too bad. I had my doubts about the wife's pregnancy, as that plot development would have derailed the show in a more realistic universe. The Finn childhood flashbacks have been pretty funny. Jane Lynch does get all the best lines. Her character is completely over the top, yet most of the other characters are so bland that the show needs her antics. The singers other than Finn and Rachel haven't had much to do. Unless this show devolves into a total soap opera, I imagine future episodes will feature them.

hipo said...

@Pamela Jaye, Lea Michele originated the role of Wendla in Spring Awakening. But the reason she looks familiar is she is a dead ringer for Idina Menzel (Rent and Wicked), who also happens to be Taye Diggs' wife. I have high hopes that Idina will play Rachel's biological mother in an episode.

dollar_bin said...

If they gave Jane Lynch a black stovepipe hat and a handlebar mustache to twirl while she cackled maniacally, Glee would be only slightly less verisimilar.

The Amazing Acting Eye said...

"Glee" makes an hour on the treadmill fly by. Sometimes that's all you need.

RachelP said...

Regarding Ryan Murphy and women characters ...

I didn't watch much of Nip/Tuck, so I can't speak to any patterns, but I actually *really* like the way that Emma and Rachel are characterized on this show -- I've even commented on it to my husband. The fact that they're weird, that they have full-on neuroses, makes them stand out in the sea of bland hotties you usually see on television. To me, at least.

Anonymous said...

JANE LYNCH, JANE LYNCH, JNE LYNCH!!! Worth the price of admission. The scenes with the wife are agony, and if I have to hear another heavyset African American woman say "I WILL cut you" I'm going to scream.

Rob S. said...

I remember liking the preview ep a few months ago... but I couldn't watch more than 15 minutes of the premiere. The wife character is horrible, and she brings her husband down with her. The only character I had any interest in (in the few minutes I saw) was the germ-phobic guidance counselor. I'm sorry I missed some Jane Lynch goodness, but life's too short.

Ben said...

I sometimes get into these shows that only work sometimes, and then apparently only by accident, when the deeply conflicted impulses that went into making the show seem to tug each other into exactly the right shape. I mean, "L Word". In the earlier seasons, one out of every four or five episodes would cross the line from ridiculous into brilliant.

"Glee" is like this. Maybe it'll fall into place. It has the ingredients of outstanding television. As it's arranged now, it's almost unwatchable, but I'll stick with it for a little while in case it becomes beautiful.

Steve said...

I saw the first two episodes and was very confused because I thought Emma was played by Abby Elliott but didn't hear any news of her no longer with SNL. Turns out Emma is played by Jayma Mays. Seriously, Abby Elliott and Jayma Mays are dead ringers for each other.

Anonymous said...

I loathe this show. I thought the pilot was horrible and had no desire to see the second episode, but I was told it got better. Not so. I love comedies, I love musicals, and I hate Glee, which scarcely qualifies as either.

Hope said...

I am so grateful to find a negative, honest review of "Glee." They are in desperately short supply.

I am the first to admit that I don’t understand this show. I understand the APPEAL of this show; the actual execution, I have serious problems with.

I would like to believe that its success is a case of people being blinded by their love of the concept to the show itself. If that’s true, then “Glee” might burn itself out once the rest of its audiences recognizes the shallowness of its claim to originality.

Let’s just touch on a few things episode number two is guilty of: continuously relying on Jane Lynch for the only skilled comedic acting, almost criminal stereotyping of the sole African American female character, again implying that schoolteachers are broke and pathetic, using the handicapped kid as a joke in and of himself, failing to make the wife of Mr. Shoe even slightly sympathetic, and repeatedly abusing the “hilarity” of how gay everything is.

That last one isn’t camp; it’s specifically anti-camp: commenting on its own “freshness” and “quirkiness” and “tolerance” through a self-awareness of who will be drawn to this show is a marketing tool, one Fox is routinely guilty of in its shows and one that on a smaller network would be eminently more sincere. This show isn’t an underdog, yet it claims to be, and by doing so is getting self-identifying freaks and geeks to buy into the lie.

Lots of people claim to love this show because they themselves were Glee Club members, choir kids, band geeks, or other flavors of high school loser. Sure. For some, that might be true, and for others, it’s just in vogue. I could go on and on about my loser/nerd cred, but in the end, it has little to do with “Glee” and its quality (or lack thereof).

Liking this show, or claiming to, doesn’t prove anything about who you are or who you were in high school. You want a show that represents the pain of an unpopular or lonely adolescence, you’re better off turning to “My So-Called Life,” “Freaks and Geeks,” or even “Everybody Hates Chris.”

There is nothing authentic about “Glee,” as there was in those shows. It is entirely a fabrication of both high school and outsider-ness, a commercial packaging of the recognizable elements of those older, cult shows into something easily digestible and suited to a wider market of people who want to believe “Glee” is anything but typical.

In spite of its sporadic songs (a concept ripped from the endlessly more unique “Pushing Daisies”), “unlikeable” characters (completely without edge), and occasionally interesting performances (I’m pretty much only thinking of you, Jane Lynch), “Glee” remains false, unfunny, trite, and at worst, offensive.

I wanted it to be unusual and offbeat as much as the next “Strangers With Candy” fan, but it’s not. It’s the same awful high school show with a whimsical lacquer, closer in spirit to “The Secret Life of the American Teen” (gag) than anything more substantial.

Again, I think a huge part of my issue with “Glee” is its unstable tone, and this might be its undoing. If it can bring the funny in a way it hasn’t yet, or if it can commit to being whimsical or a parody or a satire (but not all at once), it might yet become a good show, or at least something I want to watch.

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful to find a negative, honest review of "Glee." They are in desperately short supply.


Bravo ... and well said. I agree with almost all your points. I wanted this to be a good show. But after watching the pilot and first two episodes, it just seems to be all over the map with no focus. I think they are trying all kinds of different ideas just to see what sticks. Which means, they will alienate everyone in the end.

Sorry Jane Lynch lovers --- but I just don't find anything funny about her performance here.

Niquita said...

Hope is right! (see two posts above). This shows tries SO hard to convince people it's original, quirky, and clever. All I see is a show trying SO hard.

Major qualms:
1) All the characters are stereotypes (conflicted jock, neurotic overbearing club leader (hello "election"), black girl with 'tude (hello everything))
2) The tone and acting are uneven, and directionless.
3) It's so corny and unbelievable. It's not set in anything close to "reality" but believes it is!
4) Kudos to another poster for pointing this out: All the female characters are unbearable!
5) CLICHES abound, from Varsity Blues, American Pie, High School Musical, and soooo many other things. My boyfriend was convinced this show was good so I watched the pilot with him and literally predicted (with eye rolls and dull sighs) EVERYTHING that happened to a T: "lemme guess, the jock wants to quit the team to sign and dance but he's scared." This is not a parody of these plot lines either folks. Glee would have you believe that this shit is original.


Only bright spot: the musical numbers (albeit too polished and shiny to be REAL).