Posted on Friday, September 11th, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
Wednesday night marked the season debut of Glee on Fox, the new one-hour comedy series that is currently as well known for its experimental, tireless marketing campaign as for its potential to be the season’s largest breakout hit. On the ratings front, the episode pulled in 7.3 million viewers and was tops in the 18-49 demo; but that didn’t match the 10 million-plus it scored in May, when Fox teased the pilot directly following its inexplicably popular show, the one that features highly emotive people singing. When the friggin’ Vampire Diaries is racking up nearly 5 million viewers on the CW, is that cause for concern? Should Fox add fangs and immortal lovin’? I’m guessing that the majority of our interested readers are now caught up with Glee via DVR. So, what did you think of the ep, the song choices, and the show in general? Some of my thoughts after the jump…
Wednesday marked the first time I’ve watched Glee. I became aware of it—and the buzz—when comedian/co-star Jane Lynch (Best in Show) noticeably left the first season of Party Down on Starz due to her commitment. After the switcheroo occurred, I began to hear from friends just how funny and vital Lynch was on Glee, and while her scenes this week fit that description, I feel the cast of Party Down (Martin Starr, Adam Scott) is a hipper, more talented, and uncensored springboard for Lynch’s zingers. But, obviously, PD is a less visible and less profitable program, so the decision was in Lynch’s best interest, for now.
Overall, my sentiments are not dissimilar to those of TV critic Alan Sepinwall. Clearly, this is not a show that is going to appeal to a lot of straight dudes; the flamboyance allowed by the premise (a YouTube-friendly, co-ed high school choir) and the romantic, soapy subplots are poised to receive a “gay” verdict, which is not lost on the show makers. The word “gay” is uttered twice to comedic effect in this ep alone.
I think it says much that after one ep, the TV shows Glee most reminded me of were—to some surprise—Freaks and Geeks (nice production values, school setting, fair character depictions) and—to my never-ending eye roll—countless uber-broad, cornfed talent shows. Per Geeks, I’m not directly comparing them in terms of “classic” and quality; I’m sane. Regarding the latter, it’s novel how the show’s musical numbers, choreographed to be both believable and “fierce,” are placed throughout like crack.
It’s a smart strategy to have the song numbers diced up (and often debated in-show) so as to offer fresh takes on ’00s hits (Kayne West‘s “Golddigger”), ‘rents-charming throwbacks (Dionne Warwick‘s “I Say a Little Prayer”), and ole’ MTV fuck jams (“Salt-n-Pepa‘s “Push It”). The equation makes Glee seem welcomely original for a Big 4 Network, but it also has the potential to become an unwelcome harbinger; the musical numbers work so well as to have lightbulbs going off in the brains of many a TV-exec. And I think that no matter the show’s ratings trajectory, its influence will be felt with numerous copycats. (Not unlike the speculated impact of in-show ads during Jay Leno‘s “revolutionary” new show on NBC). Glee‘s musical numbers are not as disagreeable as in-shows ads (re: both a throw back to TV of yesteryear), but they serve as colorful intermissions designed to satiate attention spans. And for one-hour programming with commerical breaks, that’s worry for concern.
As far as the show’s characters, I didn’t really buy the guy who’s in a token wheelchair. And I guess, for plotlines involving cheerleaders (nicknamed “Cheerios” here), they weren’t overtly stereotypical or tres vapid. The one decision I felt was a sizable misstep as a first-time viewer was the rushed quasi-infidelity of the choir teacher, Will (actor Matthew Morrison); the ep seemed focused on making him a stand-up if imperfect married dude (as well as an expecting dad), but then he nearly falls into a porno-sex scenario with a fellow teacher and crush. He’s wearing a janitor uniform for chrissakes. Laughable.
Glee is set up to make Morrison a sex symbol, but I don’t understand how making him a Don Draper-like Mad Men player with a heart appeals to chicks, no matter how many baths the guy takes with his wife. But maybe girls have a different take on this. All I know is that Don Draper would never take a bath or watch Glee (unless Bets made him). And while Fox could do a lot worse, I doubt I’ll be checking in either. Maybe if the choir covers the Clash, the Black Lips, the Fat Boys, Yacht, or Eddie Money‘s “Shakin’.” What’s your request?
Glee Question: Fan or Pan?
Hunter Stephenson can be reached at h.attila: gmail and on twitter.