In Outside My Comfort Zone I watch a single episode of a television show I would never have watched otherwise, and record my impressions. This time around I give Fox’s musical mega-hit Glee a try. Will these plucky teens steal my heart and take it all the way to regionals? Lets find out!
“Pot o’ Gold”
Season 3, Episode 4
Original Airdate- Nov 1st 2011
Dropping into Glee cold is a bewildering experience. To be fair, that’s generally true of any serialized TV show - I wouldn’t expect anyone to jump in in the middle of the third season of Battlestar Galactica or Lost and immediately understand what is happening – but the first few minutes of this episode threw so much at me that I began to doubt whether I was ever going to understand what I was looking at. Hitting the pause button and discovering that Glee is a hour-long program instead of the half hour I expected only served to deepen my despair. Luckily for me I am not an idiot and was eventually able to get a handle on things.
For those who don’t know, Glee deals with the trials and tribulations of a diverse and cheerily multi-cultural group of high school kids who all sing together in their school’s glee club. Except in this episode a schism has formed among the singers, with many of the ladies leaving to join a competing all-female glee club called “The Troubletones”. Drama!
I wrote that word (Drama!!!) a lot in my notes for this show. Everything in Glee is heightened, and the characters behave as if the stakes are constantly sky-high. Sprinkled throughout the episode were an amusing number of lines that I couldn’t help but hear in ALL CAPS, because these kids are feeling REAL FEELINGS. For example: “THIS IS NOT THE WAY THAT SENIOR GLEE CLUB WAS SUPPOSED TO GO!” or “I WILL NOT LET THIS SETBACK CRUSH OUR SPIRITS!”
The result of everything being so intense is that no plotline can be more important than another, so the plot thread where a teen mom who gave her baby up for adoption but now wants it back is given equal treatment to the one where a cheerleader thinks an Irish foreign exchange student is a leprechaun and makes him grant her wishes in exchange for access to her “pot o’ gold” (don’t worry, she figures out leprechauns aren’t real before she sleeps with him. Also it turns out she’s a lesbian?).
At first it was refreshing to see so much diversity on display, especially the casual acceptance the show treats the gay and lesbian characters with. As the episode went on it became almost depressing however, as it seemed more and more that in the name of diversity they had created a bunch of characters who are defined by the category they are in: gay guy, ditzy cheerleader, jock, kid in the wheelchair. It feels so limiting. Even the Irish kid wears a green shirt and suspenders for the entire hour, as if the fakey accent weren’t enough.
Glee has a built in defense that disarms most of those criticisms: it’s a cartoon musical. The camera work, the fast editing, the bright colors, the bouncy soundtrack, and the fact that everyone has a character-defining costume (the cheerleaders continued to wear their cheerleader outfits out to dinner and sitting around at home) all create an impression of a surreal world where the normal rules of logic need not apply.
This is never more apparent than during the songs, when we are just supposed to accept that everyone all of the sudden knows all the words and choreography by heart, or that the Irish kid sings in a perfect American accent because hey it’s a party so fun and whimsical!
Tastes vary on musicals of course, but I was disappointed that the music tended more towards the lip synchy “I’ve got a song in my heart and now I’m going to sing it in the cafeteria while the lunch ladies inexplicably dance” style and away from genuine performances. Its hard to be impressed with these kid’s pipes when its clear that everything was studio recorded and produced to within an inch of its life. That being said I thought their pop covers were serviceable and inoffensive, which is something.
WILL I KEEP WATCHING? – Unlikely. My time with Glee wasn’t bad, just mostly bewildering. I’ll tip my hat to you crazy kids, but I’ll be over here doing something else. Good luck at sectionals.