GLEE, I have to say it: I enjoyed your “Duets” episode at least twice as much as last week’s “Grilled Cheesus” show about faith, or even the previous week’s Britney Spears spectacular. The premise was simple: Everyone pairs off to perform duets. What was complicated was who paired with whom, and why. The prize was a dinner for two at Breadstix, and from the way the kids went crazy, one might assume Wolfgang Puck – or at least Gordon Ramsey – had take over the kitchen.
“Great duets are like a marriage,” Will (Matthew Morrison) suggested, and in this case, it made for some strange bedfellows. I mean, Artie (Kevin McHale) and…Brittany (Heather Morris)? Santana (Naya Rivera) and…Mercedes (Amber Riley)? Quinn (Dianna Agron) and…Sam (Chord Overstreet)? And what happened to Mark Salling that necessitated sending Puck to juvie? Perhaps it was just a stunt to get Sam into the glee club?
Ya gotta give GLEE credit for not backing down from the Big Issues. It’s not every light entertainment program that will tackle a heavy subject like religion – let alone address it in a mostly balanced fashion that did not implicitly endorse organized religion in general and Christianity in particular. In fact, it was so even-handed that no particular belief system was demonized.
Finn (Corey Monteith) got the ball rolling by trying to make lunch one day. He tried to make a grilled-cheese sandwich, but what he got was a charred piece of bread upon which he perceived the image of Jesus Christ. Being Finn, he dubbed his lunchtime apparition “Grilled Cheesus,” wrapped it in plastic, and began praying to it.
Like some sort of truth in advertising campaign, this week’s GLEE focused on the homonyms Britney and Brittany – showcasing the music of one and the dancing of the other. The story focused on the power of fantasy, and several of the production numbers were like a dream come true.
While Will (Matthew Morrison) wanted to focus on easy-listening icon Christopher Cross, the kids – especially Kurt (Chris Colfer) – wanted to perform a Britney Spears number for the homecoming pep rally. But Will was completely against it, because he did not consider her a solid role model. And, strangely enough, Brittany (Heather Morris) was against drawing from the pop princess’ catalog. That’s because Brittany’s full name is Brittany Susan Pearce, making her Brittany S. Pearce, or “Brittany Spearce.”
GLEE faced the monumental challenge of following up last year’s breakout season as the critical darling or, if you prefer, the teacher’s pet of television. So what could GLEE do you do for an encore? Why, more of the same – only different, of course! And, for the most part, the sophomore season’s debut succeeded by quickly establishing a new status quo that was actually the old status quo with a fresh coat of paint.
Fresh off losing at Regionals (McKinley High finished third out of…three schools.); the members of New Directions find themselves back for another fall semester at the bottom of the social ladder. (They are the “plankton” of the food chain, Kurt (Chris Colfer) notes, wryly. Will (Matthew Morrison) decided the answer lay in recruiting new members. Two promising newbies presented themselves: Sam Evans (newcomer Chord Overstreet) and Sunshine Corazon (pop star Charice). The problem was, Sunshine was a little too good. Rachel (Lea Michelle) feared that Sunshine might hog the spotlight from her, so Rachel set about preemptively eliminating Sunshine before she got a chance to shine.
Talk about going out on a high note! GLEE managed to save the very best for last, wrapping its inaugural season with an extraordinary episode filled with fantastic musical performances, suspense, and a really moving story. Oh, and grace notes in all the right places.
GLEE usually saves the sentimental stuff for the last act, but the finale started tugging at the heartstrings right away. And it also went for the heartbreak, too. While the kids were demoralized about their prospects at Regionals, Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) talked about the importance of living the experience to its fullest, and he said something that really froze me. Looking ahead to the future, Will talked about how the kids will look back on this experience. “It’ll take you a second to remember everybody’s name,” he said. And that’s what got to me. That was the voice of experience talking about the tragedy and pain of nostalgia. Right now, these kids constitute are each others’ world, but someday everything will inevitably become hazy memories. And everyone who has ever dusted off an old yearbook or peered at a grainy scanned photo on Facebook knows how selective (and cruel) memory can be. Indeed, this was their time…
GLEE got off to a rough start for me this week, because I actually did not like the opening number, a rendition of “Ice Ice Baby” performed by Will (Matthew Morrison). I don’t have a problem with Morrison’s rapping – I really enjoyed his versions of “Gold Digger” and “Bust a Move” for example; it’s just that something about “Ice Ice Baby” left me cold. In fact, it wasn’t just Will. I thought the backing vocals were off as well. Maybe the song just wasn’t mixed properly from broadcast. I’ve been trying, but I can’t recall another performance on GLEE that I really actively disliked.
In another misfire, Sue Sylvester did another video, which meant the wonderful Jane Lynch got to perform with guest star Olivia Newton-John on a refurbishing of her hit “Physical.” I thought the vocals were electronically manipulated a little too much, but perhaps the producers had to do it to cover up some mistakes. Sue herself suffered from the mistake of giving Kurt access to her office, so he was able to get hold of video of Sue rocking out to the original “Physical.” The video went viral on the Web (after the gleeks uploaded it) and Sue was humiliated — on a global scale. Of course, in Sue’s case, everything is larger than life, right? Still, it was shocking to see Sue on the other side of the popularity coin – as the butt of “slow-motion laughter.”
Will and April duet right.
Each episode of GLEE since its return has been better than the one before, and this week’s installment, called “Home,” was no exception. A treatise on the concept of finding someplace to belong, the story also saw the welcome return of Kristen Chenoweth as April Rhodes. This was one of those episodes that had viewers laughing, singing along and then crying – sometimes practically all at once.
The storyline saw Sue (Jane Lynch) boot the glee club from the auditorium, sending Will (Matthew Morrison) in search of rehearsal space. That quest brought him into contact with April, who was running a roller rink because she got sidetracked on her journey to Branson. April, too, was searching for someplace to belong – was she really happy playing the mistress of a local strip-mall king? When she and Will dueted on “Fire,” it felt like she rediscovered where she belongs: by his side. Morrison’s and Cheno’s voices mesh perfectly, and they look good together, so it was no wonder April wanted to move in with him immediately. (I’m sure Emma would have something to say about that…) Their duet on “One Less Bell to Answer” was heartbreaking.