Thursday, December 23, 2010

GLEE: "A Very Glee Christmas"

Well, they did a Christmas episode and for the most part it just ripped off various other televised Christmas episodes and specials. Not much to write home about, and little of consequence happened.

The main title was on a festive green background rather than a black one. I thought that was cute.

The glee club have found a tree in the street and are decorating it with stolen ornaments. It's pathetic, just like them. Might this be a sly reference to A Charlie Brown Christmas? Mr. Shue suggests they need to get in the holiday spirit, with which Finn heartily agrees. Mr. Shue says they will go caroling around classrooms to raise money and donate it to a local homeless shelter. The classroom caroling is a terrible idea. The students are not into it at all. One questions carolers who bring a band (this is a good point). The teacher throws a shoe at them. That ends that.

Mr. Shuster says that Christmas is about being grateful for what's happened in the year. Puck rightly responds, "I thought that was Thanksgiving." We will see throughout the night that nobody seems to know what Christmas is about.

Rachel asks Finn to meet her in the auditorium. When he gets there, she offers him a Christmas present: a solo sung by her. Way to think of others, Rachel. Despite being Jewish, she offers this Christmas gift as a peace offering to Finn hoping it will make things okay again between them. Somewhere in there someone says Christmas is about forgiveness. Again, no it isn't. I guess in a real stretch you can say that since Jesus came to forgive sin and Christmas is about Jesus it is sort of about forgiveness, but not really. Finn tells her he can't just forgive her that easily, and leaves her to sing her song alone; "Merry Christmas, Darling." It's not a fabulous song, but it's actually appropriate to this moment, which can't be said for many of the songs in this episode. A shame there's no mention of Chanukkah at all considering two of their leads are Jewish.

Artie learns the disturbing fact that Brittany still believes in Santa. But he doesn't want to come down on her and tell her the truth so he suggests they all go to the mall and ask Santa for something. I have no idea what he hoped to accomplish this way, other than continuing to validate a delusional belief. Things seem fine until Brittany does what you know she's going to do: she asks the impossible. Just like in every single TV show ever made where a kid asks Santa for something. She asks for Artie to be able to walk on Christmas morning. And the mall Santa agrees to it! Somebody fire this guy!

Back at Dalton Academy, Blaine asks Kurt to help him rehearse his duet, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Kurt of course takes the female line. It's not bad, though some of the fun suggestiveness of the lyric isn't played up. I love this song, and it rightly won an Academy Award.

Coach Beiste has decided to run a Secret Santa for the faculty. Everyone draws a name and has to buy a gift for that person. Will gets Sue Sylvester. Since Will is terrible at getting gifts (we briefly see a Christmas with Terri in flashback -- yay Terri!), he goes to Dalton Academy to ask Kurt for advice. The gymanstics needed to keep Kurt in the show are starting to annoy me. First, they overused him. Then he's gone from the school but they still feel the need to have him in every episode. So we continue to get weird visits from him and to him each episode. I don't know how long this can last. We're getting into "Mr. Worf, what the hell are you doing here?" territory; where the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies had to concoct reasons for Worf to not be on DS9. Isn't it enough that we see Kurt at Dalton? Do we need to keep him interacting with the old friends too? Maybe as the season goes on, they should have episodes without Kurt. Maybe even do an episode set entirely at Dalton Academy. It can't survive the way it's going.

Kurt's suggestion for Sue's gift is a track suit with a fur-lined hood for the winter months. This is a nice idea. But it turns out Sue has rigged Secret Santa, and thus everyone had her name. She now has a horde of gifts from an angry faculty and won't give them back. This is one reason I hate Secret Santa. It's almost never a good idea, yet workplaces consistently institute it. At least it's better than a Yankee Swap. Later on, the faculty take the gifts back, but can't return them because Sue has opened them all (and licked them, she claims). The faculty decides to donate them to the homeless shelter, and puts them all under the glee club's tree. Sue objects, but Will calls her a grinch and leaves. ...I'm sure you know where this is going.

In yet another flagrant rip-off that far exceeds nodding homage or parody, the show does How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Sue decides to steal her presents back. She puts on a Santa suit and paints herself green. Why? "Camouflage". Yeah, because you'll blend right in THAT way and won't look like a green Sue. Come on. There's a funny reference to My Lai though. She dresses Becky up as a "rein-dog", that is, she has floppy dog ears and one antler, just like Max. Why bother making her part dog at all? It's stupid. Anyway, they sneak around the room taking presents, stealing ornaments from the tree, even doing that sliding-around-on-the-floor gag from the cartoon, all while we hear the strains of "You're a mean one, Sue the Grinch." I was so annoyed by this. As if it wasn't bad enough, Brittany walks in on the destruction, and thinks Sue is Santa. Brittany cannot be this stupid. She just met a mall Santa who was black. She now believes a green-faced woman to be the same person. She's that blinded by Santa magic. Anyway, this scene exists solely to make Brittany the "Cindy-Lou Who"; her hair is done up in little braids and they exchange the exact same dialogue. And once again, the fib about the light that's out fools the child. This is not funny, this is just lazy writing.

With the tree destroyed, everyone is depressed but Finn tries to buoy spirits. He and Rachel go out shopping for a new tree, but again Rachel tries to patch things up. The tree place starts playing "Last Christmas" by Wham! which Rachel says is "my favorite Christmas song". Seriously. Okay, I'll forgive you that because you're Jewish, Rachel. Anyway, logic is cast aside as Rachel and Finn sing the song, but the Wham! vocal is never heard. Is the tree place just playing some instrumental version? And then what's worse is a chorus comes in singing back-up. Who is singing that? The music in this episode is so messed up. You can tell that it's all just excuses to use tracks from the Christmas album and not the other way around. And their song choice throughout is bizarre. The club opens the episode singing that song from the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Complete with the silly dialogue about being a train with square wheels and all. What's worse, all the choral parts seem mixed far lower than the solos. This is fine for a record, but completely illogical if they are all singing together in a room. I try to suspend disbelief with this show, but the mix is so far off in this episode. And back-up singers come in when there is no one there on-screen. Not only "Last Christmas", but "Merry Christmas, Darling" have vocals that come from nowhere.

Finn tells Rachel that they are officially broken up, because he can't get over the fact that both of his girlfriends have cheated on him. They do not buy a tree. Back at glee club, Mr. Shuster walks in on the group deciding to "go 'Gift of the Magi'" to raise money to replace the presents. The boys will sell their watches and the girls will sell their hair. Thankfully he stops them from executing this stupid idea. He asks if any of them have ever read "Gift of the Magi" and no one has, which is evident. At least this scene errs on the side of parody. Not like that awful 7th Heaven episode where they did the O. Henry story verbatim. Santana says everyone knows the point of the story is that "Christmas sucks" or something like that. Here would have been a golden opportunity to use a song like "Hard Candy Christmas", but of course the powers that be are not that smart. And whatever point was to be made about "Gift of the Magi" never gets made. The conversation just sort of shifts.

The guys convince Coach Beiste to dress as Santa and go to Brittany's house to explain that he can't make Artie walk. This scene continues a storyline that's already ridiculous. We learn that Brittany's parents "want her to believe" too. So it's their fault that she is so dumb! This is bordering on child abuse. And Brittany believes that Coach Beiste, with a fake beard, is Santa. The same Santa who was black at the mall, and a beardless green woman at school. What saves this scene from total awfulness is that Beiste tells a story of when she was a girl and all she wanted was to be like the other girls. Instead, Santa gave her patience. It's a very moving scene. It's also got a witty line in there when Beiste says there was once a husky little girl, and Brittany asks if it was Ricki Lake. I like Coach Beiste and they way they write her. She is a glimmer of goodness in a lackluster season.

The visit from "Santa" shakes Brittany's faith, and Artie takes her home from school the next day. They miss out on the performance Mr. Shue has arranged: the glee club is caroling for the faculty. Finn gives a little speech about how when things are bad at Christmas, there's "nothing a little more Santa or a few more Jingle Bells can't fix." Nonsense! At this point, I'm just wanting to go all Charlie Brown and shout "Isn't there ANYONE who KNOWS what Christmas is all ABOUT?" Note that Jesus gets no mention at all in this episode. Not saying we need Linus to quote Luke 2, but I need a little more than just recycling Dr. Seuss.

And speaking of which, the circle completes as New Directions start singing "Fa-who fores, da-who dores..." Really, you've come to sing Christmas songs and you open with that? And Sue the Grinch hears from her office and lightens up, bringing back all the gifts. I wonder if she has an enlarged heart now. They also sing "Christmas day will always be just as long as we have glee". Those aren't the words. Do they mean glee like the club? Glee like the feeling? Either way, it totally ruins the sentiment of the song. The lyric is "Just as long as we have we." While it might seem cutesy to throw the name of the show in, it undercuts the message of togetherness that Seuss was conveying.

Artie and Brittany discovered a present under her tree for Artie. It is a robotic pair of legs that enable Artie to stand and walk a bit. Nobody knows where they came from. So the episode ends like all these shows do, with a Christmas miracle and the granting of the impossible. I will give the show points however for showing us that it was Coach Beiste who provided them. Any other TV show would have had "the real Santa" be the gifter. I've seen it over and over. I was very glad that at least that cliché was avoided.

Despite that one brief glimmer, the episode was little to write home about. It was a hackneyed smattering of familiar Christmas tropes. I was glad that they didn't try to cram It's a Wonderful Life in there too, though I fear next year they might try. There wasn't much in the way of real brilliance beyond a few good jokes. And I think part of what bothers me most is this need they all felt to keep Brittany believing in something they know to be a lie. It's aggravating because earlier this season Kurt had expressed trouble with religion, equating God with Santa Claus. But God is NOT Santa Claus, and this episode is a classic example of why the two should be clearly defined. When Brittany finally learns "the truth", what will that do to her? I mean, if Finn had a crisis of faith over a grilled cheese sandwich, what will become of Brittany? But of course, God got no mention at all in this episode; what does Christmas have to do with God anyway?

Songs in this week's episode:
The Most Wonderful Day of the Year
We Need a Little Christmas
Merry Christmas, Darling
Baby, It's Cold Outside
You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Last Christmas
Welcome Christmas

Next week: Glee is on hiatus until the spring. What will the rest of the season hold? We can be sure of a return from Sunshine. I just hope the quality goes back up and we get episodes like "Duets" again, and nothing approaching the awful that was "The Rocky Horror Glee Show".

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