Last year, GLEE’s “Sectionals” episode was all about that scrappy collection of outsiders coming together to form a family (or at least a team) to win sectionals. This year, Show Choir Sectionals was an excuse to tear the team apart via outside influences and internal strife.
Believe it or not, Emma (Jayma Mays) actually gets the blame for sowing the seeds of discontent, because she suggested to Will (Matthew Morrison) that he should change things up for sectionals and not go with his rigid format. “You’re a constellation of stars,” Emma noted in pointing out that lots of glee club members are capable of singing and should be showcased. (She said this right after perfectly pegging his predictable program.) Will agreed that after devoting so much time to making everyone feel like a star, it’s actually time to make them stars.
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.)
The-powers-that-be at GLEE made the interesting decision to tackle the classic midnight movie/interactive stage production The Rocky Horror Picture Show by adapting it into “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” leading to spasms of pearl-clutching and hyperventilation by self-appointed minders of so-called public morals. It would appear they got their money’s worth, as swathes of the work were excised and adapted.
On its surface, RHPS would appear to be the perfect production for the McKinley High show choir to tackle. As Will (Matthew Morrison) pointed out, the RHPS cultural phenomenon was spawned among the outcasts at the fringe of society, who bonded over their mutual affection for the crackpot musical. And, as has been repeatedly drummed into viewers’ heads, the glee club draws from the social dregs of the high school. But then again, GLEE itself airs on a major broadcast network at 8 p.m., not darkened movie theaters in a shabby part of town in the middle of the night. And thus, certain concessions must be made.
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.