Friday, April 22, 2011

GLEE: "Comeback"

Time to make my reviewing comeback by looking back at Glee's episode, "Comeback". This was 5 episodes back, and months ago that it aired, so I don't remember it too well, but I'll do my best from my minimal notes. I could watch it again on Hulu, but that would make this take even longer; I have many episodes to cover.

At the start of this episode, students are actually in class! One of my biggest criticisms of the series generally is that we never see these students in class. I like the reminder that this is a school. I'd actually like to see more in-class time like Freaks and Geeks (which didn't dwell on it, but always felt like school). Right now, it's like Saved By the Bell: the College Years where if we ever do see them in class, it's the one anthropology class that they all seem to take. Having said all this, it was nice to see the kids in class again. This season has gotten a little better at having classroom content, but it's not near enough to the believability level. Heck, at this point I'd take more cafeteria scenes.

Sue Sylvester mentions she was so depressed she almost killed herself, calling it Sue-icide. Cute.

Like many Glee episodes, this one focuses on a theme of songs to practice for competition. This weeks theme is anthems. And like many other episodes, they completely ignore the theme for most of the episode. More on that as we develop.

There's a rather unfortunate joke in this episode. Mr. Shue asks the kids who can tell him what an anthem is. Brittany responds by saying "the bottom of an ant's dress" or something like that. She means ant-hem. See it? The problem is at this point he hasn't even written the word on the board. This is a gag that only works with the written word and doesn't play audibly. So while I'm sure some writer thought he was being clever, it makes no sense, really exposing the dialogue as being written, and hurting the suspension of disbelief that we call television.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the haircut caught up with us. Sam decides to win Quinn by performing like Justin Beiber. Why? Because Beiber was hot at the time, and he has his stupid haircut. So Sam puts on a purple hoodie, combs his hair, and sings "Baby". It's not a bad performance for what it is, it's just not a good song.

In my notes I have written, "Does this episode look dark to anyone else?" I haven't seen it again, but I seem to recall it looking just sort of murky, and I don't know why.

The other boys try to get in on the Beiber fever as well. At this point I'm wondering when the anthems are going to come in, and why it's been so Beiber heavy. I worry that the Justin Beiber stuff will terribly date this episode. It's very hard to gauge pop phenomena for staying power, but you can usually get a feel if there's artistry behind it. The Beatles had glimmers of being more than a boy band about them. You don't want to choose something that's too tied to a cultural zeitgeist. Up to this point, Glee has only referenced big name, established artists, or when they've done something of a theme show it's been in a broader context (like the Lady Gaga show). But here it's just "let's do Beiber because little girls like him". And I worry that will date this episode faster than a mention of LonelyGirl15. What's next, a Hannah Montana episode? This was the first time I thought audiences five to ten years from now would have trouble getting the reference. It reminded me of when Punky Brewster was all into DeBarge. My foresight suggests to me that DeBarge had more staying power than Justin Beiber ever will, 3D concert film and all.

Rachel (was it Rachel?) and Mercedes perform "Take Me or Leave Me" from Rent. I'm a little surprised that Rent hasn't crept into this series sooner. What is written as a fight between lesbians loses all that context for a kind of diva showdown. I have written down "not good". I remember my sister liked it, but something about the performance didn't grab me. Maybe it was the way the song was cut, or just the sort of lackluster feel to it. I honestly don't remember what I was thinking. But it might have felt no different from any high school karaoke performance of the song. Likely I thought the girls oversang it (tends to happen with those two), and I don't like the way the dragged out the ending. I mean, not the worst thing ever, but it was an odd song choice to begin with and I don't think it did either of them any favors. Gotta go Simon Cowell on this one.

There's a scene where Will and Sue visit some sick kids and sing with them. What do they sing? The classic Sunday School jam "This Little Light of Mine". What I loved about that scene was how normal it was. That is precisely the song they would sing, that's how they would sing it, and it got the right feel without getting too maudlin or mawkish (guess this is practice-your-vocabulary edition of this blog).

The big girl Lauren (that's her name, right?) performs a song as well in the episode, choosing the classic "I Know What Boys Like". It's a good choice for her since it's mostly talking on pitch, and exudes overconfidence. The moment is fun for what it is.

Sue is brought into the glee club as a way to keep her out of her depression. It's not till near the end of the episode that Sue points out what I wrote several notes ago: none of these songs are anthems! Why aren't the kids doing the assignment? This is for regionals! They HAVE to do an anthem or they are disqualified. So Sue makes the suggestion of "Sing" by My Chemical Romance. We see it performed (with Sue as a singing member of New Directions) and it's clear that THIS is an anthem. It's not the best song ever (it was playing at Dunkin' Donuts today), but not bad, appropriate for the theme, and they perform it pretty well. But what was with their outfits? Was it supposed to be grunge? The whole club was dressed in what I can only describe as lumberjack chic. It distracted me from the song since the costumes had nothing to do with the song, and kept making me think of Monty Python.

The club decides "Sing" is a good choice for regionals, but Rachel suggests maybe the best thing to do is to write an original song to catch the other teams off-guard. Everyone votes her down. There was a whole subplot in this episode that I had completely forgotten that had Rachel trying to regain her popular status in the school. She hired Brittany to set trends and attribute them to her, but all the glory kept going to Brittany. Like Rachel would tell Brittany to wear a dorky unicorn sweater like Rachel always wears, then everyone would think it's cool because Brittany did it. It was somewhat humorous. All this played into the original song idea, with Rachel also using it as a way to regain respect. Privately, Finn tells her that he thinks it might be a good idea, and that the only way to prove it is for Rachel to write her own original song and show them all. What will happen next?

Favorite line: "Who's more rock and roll than Justin Beiber?" It's funny because just about anyone you can think of is more rock and roll than Justin Beiber.

Songs in tonight's episode:
Somebody to Love (not to be confused with the song of the same name they did in season 1)
Take Me or Leave Me
This Little Light of Mine
I Know What Boys Like

Next episode: The show takes on teen drinking.

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