Soap Opera Weekly: 8/30/10

The 62nd Primetime Emmys was kind of like a horse race last night: It started out really strong, moved at a gallop, then faded badly in the final turn, before finishing with a favorite and a dark horse in the winner’s circle.

First of all, I have to give kudos to GLEE’s Jane Lynch for pulling off my favorite win of the night; I figured she was the only guaranteed lock of the night, and luckily it happened. It was fantastic to see her win for such a vivid character and performance.

Speaking of GLEE, I loved host Jimmy Fallon‘s opening piece, in which he teamed with GLEE regulars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer and Amber Riley — as well as totally random guests Jon Hamm (Don, MAD MEN), Nina Dobrev (Elena, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), Jorge Garcia (Hugo, LOST), Tina Fey (Liz, 30 ROCK), Joel McHale (Jeff, COMMUNITY) and AMERICAN IDOL’s Randy Jackson (as well as reality gadfly Kate Gosselin, whose 15 minutes is long past over) for a performance of “Born to Run.”

Fallon did a nice job keeping the show moving, even if he did rely a little too much on musical humor. The tuneful tributes to canceled series (like 24 and LOST) were clever, but I was less enamored of the audience-participation bits. Special kudos to Ricky Gervais for his hilarious segment, in which he complained about the ceremony not serving alcohol, so he doled out beers. (It was just a joke, and those waiters served non-alcoholic beer…)

My favorite wins: In addition to Lynch, I was really happy for THE GOOD WIFE’s Archie Panjabi, as she really brings to life a kick-ass character in Kalinda.

Least-favorite wins: Edie Falco in the comedy category (Since when is NURSE JACKIE a comedy?). And, as Falco herself noted, “I’m not funny.” Also, Kyra Sedgwick over Julianna Margulies smacked of a career-achievement award. And MODERN FAMILY beating GLEE just didn’t fly with me. MF’s absurdist humor strikes me as plot-driven “anything for a laugh” funny, whereas GLEE’s comedy feels more like it arises from character.

Tactically, I think it was a mistake to group the show by segments, but it did make it easier for fans to watch: saving the miniseries and movie category for the final hour was probably for the best; if it was going to be segregated, the-powers-that-be certainly didn’t want to lead with the HBO love-fest.

While it was tough to pay attention until the end, the two big categories were saved for last: MAD MEN won its third straight drama trophy (I thought last season saw a dip in quality, but it finished strongly, so that’s what voters must have remembered) and MODERN FAMILY unseated 30 ROCK. At least MF is funny, even if it’s no GLEE.

But I was quite happy with the Emmy ceremony as a whole.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

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GLEE 2.8: Furt

Is it possible that GLEE finally managed to go too far with Sue Sylvester? (I don’t like to say “jumped the shark” because… D’oh!) Having Sue marry herself seemed to redefine self-absorption, even for Sue! What’s more, it seemed to come totally out of the blue. Y’know, like the blue of her tracksuit wedding dress. (Wow, that was hideous!)

The one bright spot in the story was the appearance of Carol Burnett as Sue’s dictatorial mother, Doris, the “famous Nazi-hunter.” It’s easy to see where Sue (Jane Lynch) gets her bullying attitude. Doris started tearing down Sue from the first sentence out of her mouth. And while Doris felt that Sue had shut her mother out of her life, Doris was reluctant to share any details of her own. (In fact, I began to doubt that she has been hunting Nazis all this time.) And I was not familiar with the song “Ohio,” or the fact that people wrote songs about Ohio. Notice that Sue’s father did not appear. I’m guessing the show is holding him back for next season.
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GLEE 2.7: The Substitute

Another GLEE episode that takes its title literally (see Britney/Brittany and Grilled Cheesus), this one was all about substitutions, both physical and emotional.

In the most obvious sense, Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed Holly Holliday, a substitute teacher called upon to cover Will’s Spanish class when he fell in. An enterprising Kurt convinced her to replace Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) at the head of glee club, and she did. Literally. Meanwhile, Mercedes (Amber Riley) was trying to substitute food for love, even as Sue (Jane Lynch) tried to substitute…healthy foods for Mercedes’ beloved tater tots. Also? Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) feared that Holly was trying to replace her in Will’s life,

The most effective substitution for me was probably Holly’s move to replace Will’s tired old songbook with a few more modern numbers. She also sought to usurp Will’s more autocratic style of “advising” the show choir by turning over most of the decisions about songs to the kids themselves. (Thus, the students became the masters — another substitution.)
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GLEE 2.3: Grilled Cheesus

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.
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GLEE 2.1: Audition

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.
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GLEE 1.17: Don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation

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.”
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GLEE 1.16: Home is where the singing is…

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.
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