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‘Glee’ Season 1.5 Review

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(Article by nerdbastards supporter and all around Gleek Jenn Sedik)

Season 2 of Glee’, or season 1.5 really, saw the show expanding upon its initial wildfire popularity. We had guest stars from stage and screen: Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Kristin Chenoweth, Molly Shannon, Neil! Patrick! Harris!. We had cameos: Olivia Newton-John and Josh Groban. We had an episode devoted to Madonna quickly followed by one devoted to Lady Gaga. We had a bunch of kids in Ohio getting funky. We had a quadriplegic character played by a quadriplegic actor! Joss Whedon directed an episode! But we also saw the show struggle through some growing pains to figure out what it’s really good at (hint:more Sue Sylvester and less external media tie-ins. I mean Glee novels? Really?) and what its fantastic cast can really do.

(more after the jump)

After the first half of the season ended with the Glee-ful kids at William McKinley High in Lima, Ohio winning sectionals and Mr. Shue and Emma sharing their first kiss, there was a lot of buzz about where the show would go next. After that high, Glee came crashing down complete with slushies to the face, the date rape and subsequent blackmail of a high level school official, break ups, secret love and assorted intrigue. All to the tune of six covers, including the excellent Beatles’ number, “Hello, Goodbye”. All in all the episode “Hell-O” was a bit of a roller coaster, with Mr. Shue and Emma splitting up quickly after getting together, and ditto for Finn and Rachel.

The next episode to air was the famous Madonna Episode, “The Power of Madonna”, and it was pretty darn fantastic. Female empowerment and eight of Madonna’s best songs, including a truly great group rendition of “Express Yourself”, were capped off by the Sue Sylvester “Vogue” video. It was a shot-for-shot recreation of the original music video featuring the inimitable Jane Lynch in her first vocal performance for the show. This got my vote for the best episode of the season.

Glee then gave us a trio of episodes (Home, Bad Reputation, Laryngitis) that settled into a bit of a mid-half-season slump. Dealing with issues such as body image, rumors and public rankings and disability, the show had a tendency to take on the tone of an after school special, and not in the campy, over-the-top way you’d expect from Glee. There were, of course, stand out moments in each episode. Zack Weinstein’s turn as the quadriplegic Sean Fretthold in “Laryngitis” springs immediately to mind (casting a quadriplegic actor to play a quadriplegic character does help to offset the choice of casting the very able-bodied Kevin McHale as the wheelchair-bound Wheels), as do Kristen Chenoweth’s return in “Home” and Sue Sylvester’s “Physical” duet with Olivia Newton-John in “Bad Reputation”. I mean, it’s Sue Sylvester in neon spandex. What’s not to love? The episode also marked Molly Shannon’s debut in her recurring role as alcoholic Brenda Castle.

This brings us to two of the best names in the nerdverse: Joss Whedon and Neil! Patrick! Harris! The Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog pair teamed up again for “Dream On”. There was so much awesome in this episode, it could barely be contained by television. N!P!H! (as Bryan Ryan – even the character names were awesome in this episode!) rocked both of his duets with Mr. Shue – “Piano Man” and “Dream On”. Artie (Kevin McHale) did a crazy, flash-mob-style, dream sequence dance number to “Safety Dance”. It, too, was full of the awesome and it was really nice to see the show utilize McHale’s needfully underutilized dance skills.

A couple of less awesome episodes, “Theatricality” and “Funk”, acted in conjunction with the mid-half-season slump to bookend the awesomeness of “Dream On”. “Theatricality” was the Lady Gaga episode, a la the earlier “The Power of Madonna”, and despite not being a Lady Gaga fan myself or even knowing much about her, I was humming songs for days after. The costumes were fun and colorful, befitting Gaga, as were the numbers themselves. “Funk” was…funky. But not necessarily a good funky. Less James Brown and, as Mercedes put it, more KC and the Sunshine Band. Quinn (Dianna Agron) does “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” complete with pregnant teen back up singers/dancers. It was an interesting number but I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable. Which might have been the point. The songs were all great but I’m not sure funk translates all that well to Glee. And if the awkwardness was a choice, well it needed to be made a little more pointedly.

Finally, “Journey” sees the Glee kids competing at regionals. It felt like a solid season finale. Loose ends tied up in a neat little bow while new story lines left you wanting to tune back in this September. Josh Groban and Olivia Newton-John reprised earlier cameos. Quinn gave birth. Her daughter was adopted by Rachel’s birth mom, Shelby (Idina Menzel), who had to give Rachel up for adoption when she was younger. Rachel and Finn got back together. Sue used her blackmailing powers for good. Excellent renditions of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “To Sir, With Love” were performed. Undying love was professed, rather suddenly. Lessons were learned, and all in the space of an hour-long TV slot. Cheesy, campy, over-the-top, even maudlin at times? Yes, but undoubtedly effective. I cried. There, let the taunting being.

Glee Season 2, for real this time, starts back up in September of 2010. Overall it was quite a good debut season that managed to live up to unbelievable amounts of hype and press. At times, the show would devolve into a bit of an excuse to showcase songs that didn’t quite fit together and didn’t always serve the story. Other times the show could elicit goosebumps and a soaring joy that could only be described as, yes, glee. Hopefully the coming season will bring more of a story and less of that random music video feel. Better use of Brittany (Heather Morris) would also be welcomed. Her quiet, tossed off lines never failed to send me into fits of laughter. And, of course, more of the outrageous, the heroic, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).

Category: Featured, reviews, TV

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