McKinley High Anxiety

As I said here yesterday, Fox is repeating Glee — the musical dramedy revolving around a high-school glee club in Ohio that’s broken out due to both ubiquitous promotion and its surprising resonance to the cultural zeitgeist — over the summer. I’d hoped to have a follow-up to my review of the pilot covering its first season in toto but a sober assessment of my notes suggests that I’m best off just sharing what I wrote back in September after watching the second episode, which ran again last Thursday, rather than wrangle all the rest into shape.

Cast of 'Glee' posing on stage in jeans and red tops with Rachel sprawled out having fallen on a set of stairs
Promo image © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Television.

The show remains all over the map, although I think with its tonal shifts distributed more evenly, unless that’s simply a result of it not being a completely unknown quantity now. Like it or loathe it, Glee’s extreme mix is obviously intentional and here to stay for whatever the series’ lifespan turns out to be. I like it all right myself if only for the exhilaration of watching the experiment play out on network TV.

My biggest problem aside from the sheer danger inherent in this kind of clashing of styles regarding viewer buy-in: Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri, because the character is such a scheming, materialistic, insensitive shrew that the viewer is in the awkward position of rooting for the break-up of a marriage, and I know that Gilsig can play sympathetic.
Of course, absent tension in Will’s home life, then his flirting with Jayma Mays’ Emma at work makes him come off as a heel while Emma looks utterly pitiful and/or dumb rather than merely somewhat, adorably thus. Since we have a greater awareness than Will of the extent of Terri’s manipulation, it’s not entirely an excuse for his behavior, and for that matter I’m not sure how well Emma knows Terri.

The infusion of raunch in the second episode shocked me, especially with the high-schoolers portrayed as surprisingly chaste given today’s television landscape. First we had an inappropriate performance of the Salt ’N’ Pepa classic “Push It” at a school assembly, based on the realization of Lea Michele’s Rachel that the way to get the student body, as it were, interested in glee club to appeal to its collective sexual frustration. Then in the same hour in which Rachel sings longingly into a hairbrush, gets a thrilling closed-mouth kiss from Corey Monteith’s Finn, and overhears Finn’s girlfriend Quinn almost quaintly agree to “under the shirt, over the bra,” we have this exchange as Rachel hysterically admits to guidance counselor Emma her inability to go bulimic: “I guess I just don’t have a gag reflex,” says Rachel. “One day, when you’re older,” replies Emma, “that will turn out to be a gift.” I can’t believe that this show is
on the air for so many different reasons.

Related: Harmony and Irony G Love Nooner in Song

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