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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Televangelist: 'Glee' Season 1 Finale

click to enlarge DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': We'll be better next season
  • DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': We'll be better next season

Last night's "Glee" season finale (the second Season One finale, technically) reminded of something Landry Clark said to Billy Riggins on the latest episode of "Friday Night Lights."  While the boys were drinking beer on the football field, Billy wanted to talk about the State Championship from three years ago.  "Remember?  Remember?" He implored.  Landry replied, deadpan, "Billy, seriously, you want to reminisce about a game that only took place three years ago?"

That's how "Journey" felt to me - one big cuddle fest where everyone says "hey remember the time ...?" and then cries.  Rather than compare it to a state championship, it seems more aptly parallel with the last day of camp.  You know, where all the misfits somehow, out of the confines of school, found friends and had a wonderful experience together.  Then suddenly the summer is over, and it's time to go back to that other, dimmer world.

The back nine episodes of Season One of the show were, overall, messy.  The interesting take on familiar tunes like "Don't Stop Believin'" and creative mashups of songs like "It's My Life" with "Confessions" that defined the first half of the season were given up in favor of increasingly exact replicas of the originals.   Yes, I thought Santana did a great job with "Bad Romance" ... because she sounded exactly like Lady Gaga.  Worse, the show managed to snag a young, fantastic Broadway talent with Lea Michelle Jonathan Groff, and barely utilized him.  In a meta-joke during the finale, Groff's character explains his defection back to his original school and their power-house show choir Vocal Adrenaline by saying, "you guys never recognized me as a great talent; I barely got one solo."  A few duets with Lea Michelle were among the best songs of the series, but until "Bohemian Rhapsody," he was never allowed centerstage.

Speaking of Vocal Adrenaline and Regionals, they did clearly deserve to win.  New Directions kept stressing that they had heart, but the competition is not based on inner beauty or the fact that you have a kid in a wheelchair ... it's based on performance.  New Directions' performance was (for one of the first times in "Glee's" history) like something an actual high school show choir would put on.  The costumes were modest, the songs were mostly belted out by two reasonably talented leads, and the choreography was minimal.  They put on a good show - but how could that realistically compete with a team full of professional dancers, one stellar singer, and a shameless overuse of hairography?

Oddly, this felt like a series finale to me.  Sure, they set up Season Two perfectly - Sue has a heart, we've seen it a few times now.  She chooses not to smash Glee to bits because, like the Joker with Batman, she doesn't want to get rid of an enemy that's just too much darn fun.  The kids didn't win Regionals, so they have another year to perfect their songs, explore their arbitrary relationships and get slushied.   Still, the show's insistence on focusing so much on what was hit a strange note.  When recommending the show to new viewers, I insist they watch the Pilot first to see the kids sing "Don't Stop Believing," the cast's greatest hit and best song.  And I know the words like "best" and "greatest" are true because the finale, called "Journey" focused on the "journey" the kids took this year, where they decided to sing a "Journey" medley at regionals, because, well, "Journey" is what they do best.  Let's hope the writers and composers refocus their energies for the next season in a way that makes "Glee" find new ways to shine.  It would be a shame for these kids to just be a one-hit wonder over a happy-hour karaoke hit.

Meanwhile, though, I will be singing along with vigor and glee to their latest volume of songs - like Sue, I can't really ever deny that the show is, well, fun.

Musings and Miscellanea:

  • I didn't focus much on the plot in this review because it was kind of all over the place.  Quinn has her baby after about two years of pregnancy.  And who adopted little Jackie Daniels Beth?  Shelby, of course, who wants nothing to do with her 16 year old daughter, and would rather have a fresh new baby instead.  Yikes.
  • Emma was absent for much of the back nine episodes, which was a good thing.  She and Will needed some distance, but in a desperate attempt to drum up some drama, the writers inserted her at the start of the episode again just to bring her back for another season-ending kiss.  Isn't she dating her dentist?  Looks like she's just falling back into her same old patterns with Will!
  • Rachel and Finn have barely spoken in these back nine episodes as well - Jesse was Rachel's True Love up until ... Finn tells her he loves her?  She doesn't exactly return the sentiment, though, and it isn't mentioned again.  Rachel is more fun when she's single, and I doubt she and Finn will really get together for awhile.
  • FINALLY - I was so happy to see not only some of the supporting cast getting solos (however short), but that every cast member got one line last night (even Mike Chang and Matt!)
  • Who else wishes they could read Sue's latest book, "I'm a Winner and You're Fat" ?
  • "This is as barren as me in here, Will" - Sue
  • I did like the ending with Puck and Mr Shue play the ukelalee version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," created by the late Hawaiin singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
  • FOX will be playing the reruns on Thursday nights all summer for those who missed it the first time around!

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