Saturday, April 30, 2011

GLEE: "Original Song"

Regionals are once again upon us!

We open this show at Dalton Academy, during a performance of "Misery". When the song is over, they all pat themselves on the back for a great song choice for regionals (which, by the way, they don't end up doing at regionals). Anyway, at the end of the song, Kurt says something that has been bothering me all season. He tells Blaine that Blaine gets all the solos in all the numbers, and that the Warblers are starting to feel like Blaine and the Pips. In fact, during this very number I was thinking to myself, "Why does Blaine get to sing everything?"

Rachel presents Finn with her next foray into songwriting. It's called "Only Child". Once again, it's terrible and once again it's not available on iTunes. Though there is a funny lyric about how she's the "only Berry on my family tree" (that's her last name, get it?).

Sue Sylvester has faked a letter from My Chemical Romance forbidding New Directions from using "Sing" as their anthem at regionals. So Rachel suggests doing original songs again, and this time Finn supports her. Curiously, so does Quinn. She has some ulterior motive, and I don't remember what it is anymore; maybe Finn asked her to be nice? But in the end, the group is okay with that, so they are all assigned to get working on original songs. Quinn and Rachel decide to work together.

Pavarotti, the canary mascot of the Warblers, has died. Kurt is upset, so he asks the group if he can sing a song in his honor. The song he sings is "Blackbird" by The Beatles. It seems a little obvious since it has bird in the title. And actually, the subtext of the song is about a girl ("bird" is English slang), and I'd like to see it that way in something some time. But in this case, the blackbird is also Kurt in a way. This song ends up being a kind of audition in Blaine's eyes, which will lead Blaine to choose Kurt for a duet for regionals. Also of note is that Kurt is dressed all in black for this scene. I do like when the Warblers come in singing back-up. It's a nice moment, and a very nice arrangement for a song that seems to be done a little too often.

Santana is the first person in New Directions to present an original song she wrote. It's an ode to her boyfriend, Sam... called "Trouty Mouth." It's a hilarious sultry jazz song about Sam's big mouth. Sam is embarrassed by it, and her song is cut off in the middle, as Mr. Shue points out it is not a song for them to sing at regionals. But it's pretty funny.

The next original song is even better. It's not quite as funny a gag, but it's still humorous and a very well-written novelty song. Puck wrote the song for Lauren to amend for the "Fat-Bottomed Girls" incident. It's called "Big Ass Heart", and words cannot describe it. Thankfully, all of these songs were made available on iTunes, though it's a shame they weren't included on the CD or on an EP. Again though, it is surely not a song for regionals.

Blaine tells the Warblers' council that he doesn't want to do all the solos for regionals, and suggests Kurt get to sing. They agree. Blaine chooses a duet he can sing with Kurt, and tells Kurt how much his "Blackbird" solo meant to him. Finally, Blaine admits his love for Kurt and how dumb he's been for not realizing it. Then they kiss. I wrote in my notes "somewhere Don Wildmon's head is exploding". The kiss was polarizing, offending some conservative viewers. Victoria Jackson (formerly of Saturday Night Live) tweeted her offense. Her thoughts were quickly branded "homophobic" by the media. As for me, I think they danced around it long enough that I was expecting the kiss. Could have done without two though.

Mercedes debuts her original song, a black anthem to refusal called "Hell to the No". The lyrics are laced with "let me do what I want" sorts of sentiment; very whiny teenager. It is more anthemic, but the sentiment gets annoying quickly. I also tire of the usleless filler slang "to the". Despite the fact that "hell no" is overused, it's more succinct than "hell to the no". Still, it's the sort of song that could be a Top 40 hit.

There's a very funny bit where Mr. Shue asks everyone what their favorite song is, and Brittany says hers is "My Headband." Of course, this leaves me wondering when she heard "My Headband"... Mr. Shue tells them to write a good song they need to write from pain. So they start talking about how Sue Sylvester harasses them; she had filled Santana and Brittany's locker with dirt, and has been throwing sticks at people. So they focus on a theme: being losers.

Rachel and Quinn find it difficult to work together on writing a song. Rachel still wants Finn, but so does Quinn. There is a scene between them that is fantastic, one of the best written and acted pieces this whole season. Quinn tells Rachel to get over Finn, and Rachel counters that Finn chose her over Quinn last year (which is true, and I kept waiting for that to come up). Quinn counters by painting a picture of a future where she and Finn settle down and stay there in town, but Rachel moves on to bigger things because she doesn't belong there, trying to smack her with some reality. Rachel leaves to write the song on her own. I enjoyed the scene because both girls had valid points and each was understandable in their frustration. That's good TV.

So now we come to the regional competition. Who are this year's judges? One, the TV anchor that Sue had a thing for. Two, a prostitute-turned-nun played by the wonderful Loretta Devine. Three, Kathy Griffin as a kind of nasty Sarah Palin caricature. She was the worst thing about the episode. It never felt like she was playing a character or even an interesting cartoon; just taking jabs at Tea Party-type people. Later on, they use her as a mouthpiece to say how she finds homosexuals repulsive (apparently she gathered that the leads in the Warblers are gay, though nothing in the performance overtly suggests this). It's like it was put there first for Kathy Griffin herself to get on a soapbox, and for Ryan Murphy to immediately answer the viewers who didn't like the kiss earlier. The response basically is "Too bad, and we're gonna make fun of you now." Satire is fine and cuts both ways, but Griffin's character wasn't satirical or funny, and hurt an otherwise strong episode.

Sue Sylvester has chosen her set list for Aural Intensity with a song catered to butter up the judges: "Jesus is a Friend of Mine." It doesn't work; the judges consider it pandering. But the performance is silly enough. It's part Sister Act 2, part Snoopy Come Home (sort of reminded me of that silly friendship song in that movie). I wonder how the students felt about it. Also, how long are the sets for each school? Because I can't believe that they only did this one song while the Warblers and New Directions both get two. ...And why only two anyway? I hope that there is more performance that we don't get to see. Otherwise, it seems like a big day for so little involved. And a lot of rehearsal too. If they only do two songs, why don't they pick them earlier and rehearse the heck out of them? The way these competitions are portrayed on this show is getting more and more unrealistic.

The Warblers take the stage next. They begin their set with Blaine and Kurt singing "Candles". I thought it was a very nice performance, and worthy of the original. There is this point where Kurt's falsetto goes really high and is a bit distracting, but otherwise solid. They follow that up with Blaine leading the group in P!nk's "Raise Your Glass". Now, I'm no fan of the song, but they do it as well as can be expected. It's better than "Hey Soul Sister" which they did at sectionals. But I hate any lyric that includes the word "deal-io", or quotes The Dark Knight for no reason. But the energy is great, with some nice bits of choreography. My favorite part is the little fake-out when Blaine joins the group then jumps out again. ...Though the nitpicker in me wants to point out that you can see people clapping in the audience, but never hear the claps.

Remember how they were all supposed to do anthems? What were the anthems here? I suppose "Raise Your Glass" can be considered anthemic. But I don't think "Jesus is a Friend of Mine" can.

Finally it's time for New Directions and thank God they don't pull the old "walk down the aisles" trick this time. It starts with Rachel performing her original song, called "Get It Right". It's a nice ballad. Unfortunately, the way it was shot was quite bothersome. It began with her at a microphone alone, with a steadicam circling around her. That's fine. But it goes around in one shot for the entire verse, which is three complete revolves. It was just too much, and should have had a cut in there somewhere as I was starting to get dizzy. But I did like when the lights came up and the girls came down to join her. Oh, and the band was onstage! Glad they get some recognition, plus I'm always wondering where the music comes from when they perform.

And bolstered by this first success, the group goes on with the song they wrote together, "Loser Like Me." This is definitely an anthem for losers everywhere. Remember how Glee doesn't have a theme song? Well, I think they just found one, and it wouldn't surprise me if they use it that way next season. They could have used some more showy dance choreography at this level. But the song was good and ebullient. My favorite part is the very end where they throw slushies in the face of the audience, and it's confetti! What a wonderfully brilliant move, and a great way to psych out Coach Sylvester.

I don't think I need to tell you who won this competition. It's pretty obvious that it was New Directions, and was always going to be. The season has at least five more episodes. Kurt is disappointed the Warblers lost, but Blaine says that in a way he did win because they are together now. I knew this was how they would justify it in the writing and I got it without them having to say that explicitly. I hate that he said, "You did win." Just leave it alone, guys. We get it. Don't get too cute about it.

Anyway, New Directions finally won regionals and are on to nationals in New York. They've got some fun new songs to sell on the internet. But now that the Warblers have outlived their usefulness, what's to become of Kurt on this show? Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

Songs in tonight's episode:
Only Child
Trouty Mouth
Big-Ass Heart
Hell to the No
Jesus is a Friend of Mine
Raise Your Glass
Get It Right
Loser Like Me

Next episode: The show returns from a brief hiatus with an episode focusing on neglected artists. ...At least that's what they claim, but as we know from past theme shows, the promise is greater than the product.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GLEE: "Sexy"

Again, this will be somewhat briefer as I'm working from sparser notes than usual that were written a month ago. But I shall do my best to remember what was going on in the episode.

We revisit the celibacy club for the first time since the first season opened with it. Only this time, it isn't cheerleaders learning to be teases, it's actually about abstinence. Quinn certainly has had a change of heart since her pregnancy (understandably). Though I wonder whatever happened to everyone else who used to be involved in the club's former self.

With this episode, the thread of Brittany's stupidity has finally snapped, and the writers have gone too far. Brittany tells everyone she's pregnant. And why? Get this, not only does she believe that dolphins are gay sharks and that Santa Claus is real and made Artie walk, but also believes that babies come from the stork. See, she saw a weird bird perch in a tree outside her house, and now she thinks it's the stork bringing her a baby. Give me a break. First, this makes Brittany just too stupid for words. That's not funny anymore, that's just sad. If I were Mr. Shuster, my first thought would not be a reproduction lesson; it would be having Brittany's parents arrested for child endangerment. How can they allow her to go on thinking these things? Secondly, I have a hard time believing in the reality of the show that Brittany actually thinks this. Last season, she was there when Quinn gave birth. It was clear to everyone that Quinn had Puck's baby after they got busy, and there was no mention of a stork. Brittany was present when Quinn pushed a human out of her lady parts. And I'm supposed to believe she thinks the stork is responsible?

Anyway, this provides the impetus for Holly Holiday to return to the school and start discussing sex with the students. The preachy message of this episode is how uninformed teenagers are about sex education. Frankly, I think a joke is made of it when it goes this far. It's one thing to think that you can't get pregnant standing up. It's another to think pregnancy is brought on by large white fowl. Anyway, Holly is one of these progressive pass-out-the-condoms, no-such-thing-as-too-much-information types. She makes it her mission to get the kids talking about sexual issues.

She does this at first by singing with the kids the song "Do You Want to Touch Me." The scene is just... uncomfortable. I think someone's clearly missed the boat when a teacher is singing about sexual touching with underage teens. What's the point of this exercise? To make everyone comfortable with the idea of the female orgasm? Or what? The scene felt to me like that "Reproduction" scene in Grease 2. Everyone gets all into the song, but it feels so out of place.

Lauren and Puck decide out of the blue that they are going to make a sex tape, put it on the internet, and gain instant fame like all those other nominal celebrities of our day. It's a stupid idea. But here Ms. Holiday actually does something productive by informing them that it's a bad idea since it could get them arrested for possession of child pornography and registered as sex offenders. This sort of thing does happen with sexting and such these days. So while the storyline felt like it came out of left field to me, I was glad the show was reminding the kids of the world how stupid this sort of thing is.

Meanwhile, the show can't get away from Dalton Academy, so we cut over to the Warblers. They decide they need some sex appeal for regionals, so they invite girls from the private girls' school nearby. They will perform for the girls and their reaction will tell them how well they succeed in being sensual. The girls all love Blaine, of course, and are saddened to learn he plays for the wrong team. Anyway, we quickly find during the episode that Kurt is terribly unsexy. He doesn't know how to be sexy. Blaine addresses this after the performance. Kurt is just sort of uncomfortable. Blaine talks to Kurt's dad, advising him to have a sex talk with his son, which makes Burt reluctant.

But have the talk he does. What's odd here is how averse to the whole think Kurt is, when just last episode he said, "Maybe you should educate yourself so that if I have any questions I can come to my dad like any straight son." But he's so against it in this case when his father is TRYING to help him. The discussion ends up mostly side-stepping sex and being about relationships. Part of this I assume is due to the time slot and the audience; can't get too graphic. I think it's an interesting conversation involving how gay relationships are different because of the way men think and then there are two men in that relationship. His point is for Kurt not to get himself into sexual situations impulsively. Though I do wish, even avoiding the mechanics of gay intercourse, a point had been made about protection.

The weird relationship between Santana and Brittany in this episode becomes full-on lesbian. Santana proclaims that she loves Brittany and wishes she would dump Artie so they can be together. Brittany loves her too, but won't leave Artie. Santana is jealous. They sing "Landslide" together as an expression of Santana's feelings. I don't quite get the connection. Is it because of the song being covered by the lesbian Indigo Girls?

There's a weird performance of Prince's "Kiss" in this episode. Is that Will singing in a crazy falsetto? Prince is an appropriate artist for this episode, but I didn't much like this number. No one does Prince like Prince, except maybe the Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

Meanwhile, Emma has been promoting abstinence and wants the celibacy club to perform something that's not all about promoting teen sexuality. Though we learn that Emma is very sexually repressed herself, and that she and Carl are in counseling because they have yet to consummate their marriage. Is part of this due to her latent love for Will? In any case, Carl leaves her until she figures it out.

Emma ultimately does perform a song, and chooses "Afternoon Delight" totally unaware that its is not at all about abstinence. The scene is very funny for that reason. She thinks it's a song about pie, when it's really all about getting busy in the daytime.

Oh, and now Ms. Holiday and Will are an item. Whoopee. pun intended.

Anyway, I wasn't a big fan of this episode. It threw a lot of stuff at the wall and not much stuck for me. Like they chose teen sexuality as an "issue" but didn't handle it in any sort of sensible way for the most part. I really object to the new fully realized bisexual Santana, which will only become more lesbian as the season goes on. It strikes me as somewhat hollow, and an attempt to make the show even gayer than it already is. I'm tired of Ryan Murphy ramming it down our throats (certainly no pun intended). Did someone complain about lack of lesbian content in the show? What started as a one-off joke in last year's finale has become a new identity for Santana, and I don't like it. Where does this fit in with her many heterosexual conquests?

I wasn't sure whether to discuss this here or in a later episode, but I guess I'll do it now. Santana will begin identifying herself as a closet lesbian in later episodes. And the viewpoint of the show seems to be that she is just embracing who she really is. But I think this reading is wrong. Santana has never shown any indication that she is interested in girls in general, only that she loves Brittany. This actually makes perfect sense. She has divorced sex from intimacy, so what she gets from guys is a sexual release, but not a real relationship. Meanwhile, Brittany is her best friend, who she has spent lots of close time with in Cheerios. They stuck by each other when they were ostracized for sticking with glee club over cheerleading. It's understandable for her to love Brittany, and to transfer that level of intimacy that is otherwise lacking in her prior sexual relationships onto her. And I think what's happened is this "gay is okay" society we live in has made her identify these feelings as her own lesbian tendencies. But from what I've seen, I don't think she is gay. I think she just loves Brittany. What she needs is to work out her intimacy issues. Until I see some indication that Santana is after anyone on the ladies' team, I can't see her as a lesbian and I think it is irresponsible of the series to paint it in such reductive light. For all those girls out there who might be confused over feelings for their best friend, and are watching thinking "does this mean I'm gay?" I think the show owes it to them to say, "not necessarily." I think Naya Rivera does a good acting job in this episode, and portrays the inner feelings well, I just don't want the show to lead the character where she shouldn't be. Why do lesbians on TV always turn out being girls who "turn"? I fear the show is becoming too gay for its own good. None of that takes away from a fine performance from Rivera, and at least addressing things seen in prior episodes. I am just really hoping that it ends differently from where it's going right now. Where's the Santana who was jealous about Puck? Who wanted Carl the dentist to drill her? What Santana needs is to be comfortable enough with a man to have the intimacy before the sex. And really, that's an angle that this episode terribly failed to address, when it would have been a perfect opportunity.

The episode feels like Carl's honeymoon with Emma: a frustrating disappointment.

Songs in tonight's episode:
Do you Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
Afternoon Delight

Next episode: Regionals are back upon us, and the club is performing original songs. I guess that means Rachel's songwriting has improved. New Directions and the Warblers go head-to-head for a rematch... any guesses who wins?

Monday, April 25, 2011

GLEE: "Blame It on the Alcohol"

I've misplaced my notes for this episode and have no idea where they are. But rather than skip it, I've decided to watch the episode again and take new notes. These reactions will thus be more immediate than previous, and perhaps will trigger some memory of my earlier initial reactions.

As the title suggests, this episode focuses on teenage drinking. Like the great exploitation films that preceded it, it presents situations where otherwise normal kids take a little alcohol, then go completely wild on a downward spiral all at once. While this approach has no basis whatsoever in reality, it follows in the footsteps of classics like Reefer Madness. My one concern is whether this is supposed to be ironic commentary, or just didacticsm couched in scare tactics. It seems kids are binging and showing up to school wasted; Figgis has been suspending students left and right. Mr. Shue rightly points out there has never been a problem like this before. The series takes an opportunity to literally blame it on the alcohol: the new "drinks marketed to kids". They don't specify, but they mean drinks like 4Loko that have caused controversy recently. People claim it's just marketing alcohol to kids, not to mention the pop music of artists like Ke$ha (who Figgis keeps calling her "Key-dollar sign-ha"). Is the show suggesting these things are REALLY to blame, or that Figgis is ascribing blame to them like other reactionary adults? If they aren't to blame, then what IS the cause for it? There must be some in-universe reason why students are suddenly drinking all the time. Really all it takes is one or two kids to make it popular, but I think we need more of a reason in this episode for the start than just blaming it on commercials and popular music.

To combat the problem in the school, Principal Figgis appoints the week "Alcohol Awareness Week" and asks the glee club to perform a song about the dangers of alcohol. We also learn that Sue has taken the job of coaching Aural Intensity, New Directions' competition from another school (she got the job by throwing their existing coach down the stairs).

Rachel's original songwriting makes its debut for Finn. The song she's writing is called "My Headband", and as you've guessed it's about her headband. Why she thinks this is in any way appropriate for the club to sing at regionals, I don't know. This is the sort of goofy nonsense that a starting songwriter might write (that or lyrics like "Baby, baby, baby, oh!"), and it's a hilarious moment in the episode. What makes it is that even though the rhymes are lame and the phrasing awkward, Rachel sings it with such conviction, like any other Rachel ballad. Finn points out how bad the song is. I'd like to add I think it's a shame this song is not available on iTunes. Maybe nobody wanted to write a full version of it. Rachel realizes that she can't write songs about life because she's never really lived. So just like Sandy at the end of Grease, she decides to be bad, by hosting a party with alcohol at her house while her dads are out of town.

This is one of the few times Rachel's gay dads are mentioned. It's funny that the show is so gay-friendly (too much so at times), but we never see them. Perhaps this is due to not being able to get whoever is in the photograph in the first episode. We are however introduced to their basement, which is tricked out with karaoke, a disco ball, and a small stage. It's here that they host their Academy Awards parties. ...Can I just ask what is so stereotypically gay about the Oscars? The Tonys I can understand, but I don't know why people who watch the Oscars have an aura of homo about them in the popular mindset.

Most of the gang shows up to Rachel's party (which was really Puck's idea anyway), though reluctantly. Some wine coolers are provided, but people really want to booze it up. Blaine and Kurt are also present, because how else were they going to get them in this episode?

It's funny that Rachel is a bit less suspicious of Blaine being a spy in this episode than she would have been with anyone else. Blaine, for his part, does try to assuage any fears right away saying he's not a Warbler tonight. ...Though, and I hesitate to mention this, the line is "I'm totally off the clock right now, Rachel" but Darren sort of slurs the word, so at first I heard, "I'm totally off the cock right now, Rachel." I know that's not what he says, but it sort of sounds like it, and given where the episode goes later, it's somewhat appropriate.

It's evident that Rachel doesn't know how to party, and people quickly decide to leave. Puck suggests breaking into her dads' liquor cabinet. And so they do. And before you can say Reefer Madness, everyone is sloshed, half-naked, and jumping around like an idiot, cut to Far East Movement's "Like a G6". All except Finn, the designated driver, and Kurt who is trying to impress Blaine -- which apparently means dressing like Dudley Do-Right. Seriously, what is with his ensemble?

One of the cleverer, best moments of the episode comes when Finn breaks down the various drunken archetypes present at the party. They are
Santana -- the weepy histerical drunk
Lauren and Quinn -- the angry girl drunks
Brittany -- the girl who turns into a stripper drunk
Mercedes and Tina -- happy girl drunk
Rachel -- the needy girl drunk
Everyone does great with their acting to their respective categories (and the writing is good here too). It's observant humor that's pretty true, and I like that.

Rachel gets a game of spin the bottle going. Does anyone actually play this game outside of books and TV shows these days? Rachel's spin lands on Blaine... and they get into it. As Rachel tells him, "Your face tastes awesome." Kurt is weirded out.

And then Blaine and Rachel hit the stage for some karaoke. Like any drunk theater geeks, they pick a bad '80s pop song, in this case "Don't You Want Me". Even though the song is bad, the vocals are great, especially since this is the only time we've ever seen Blaine sing outside of the Warblers. I like Rachel's jumping; she really goes all out in the moment. There's a quick cut-away too to Puck wearing Lauren's glasses which is just the sort of thing that might happen here. I didn't notice it the first two times I watched the episode.

The next morning, Kurt's dad finds Blaine in Kurt's bed, and that makes him understandably uncomfortable. We later learn that Kurt brought him over because he was too drunk to drive home.

Back at McKinley the gang is all very hungover, and Artie passes out bloody marys to ease their suffering. Gotta say, bringing alcohol to school with cups for everyone is not only stupid but pretty suspicious behavior right now knowing how things are at McKinley. If I were Sue or Figgis I would be all over that in a second.

The gang performs "Blame It (on the Alcohol)", suggesting it as their song for Alcohol Awareness Week. Their is heavy MTV-editing in the visuals, more than usual, but perhaps that's appropriate. They've got these couches on giant turntables on the stage, leading me again to question where the money comes from for all these fancy things every time they rehearse. The use of the song was obvious, not only from the title, but because upon its release was a song that had many parents angry that it was glorifying drinking to their kids. I wonder how those parents will feel when their kids are listening to the Glee kids sing it on the album.

Mr. Shue says the song is inappropriate because it glorifies drinking, but commends them for their acting, almost believing they were drunk (observant, Will). The kids say there's no songs about the dangers of alcohol and accuse Shuster of being a hypocrite because adults drink and then tell kids not to. What I do like in this scene is that they make it about more than just driving. That's always the issue for some people. It seems whenever I argue for lowering the drinking age, the opposition always says something about teen drivers killing people. News flash: driving drunk is illegal for everyone already. Mr. Shue points out alcohol poisoning, which does kill people. And it's this sort of thing we should be teaching our youth about. Forget whether alcohol in itself is good or bad, the binge habits of teenagers can and do kill. The episode touches more on responsible drinking than most, so I'll give it that. It's still unrealistic on the whole, but I'm glad they broadened the issue.

Rachel calls up Blaine (on her princess phone, which says "princess" on it. That's all kinds of appropriate) and asks him out. Blaine agrees to go, which bothers Kurt. Blaine talks about how he isn't sure if he's gay or not because kissing Rachel wasn't awful. Kurt is horrified, considering how he looks up to Blaine as a gay role model. And I LOVE that the show delves into this territory. I love that it bucks the "I was born this way and have always known I was different" thing that it usually presents. I love that Blaine calls out Kurt for bigotry. And a part of me really wishes that Blaine had come out of this episode realizing he was straight, if only because that would REALLY blow the lid off television treatment of homosexuality. At the start of the scene, Rachel puts on a record (yay records!). It's Carole King's album Tapestry. This is appropriate since Carole King features in the episode thematically, with Rachel unsure she can write songs like that. The song playing is "So Far Away". But what bothers me is that it's still playing while Kurt and Blaine are in the coffee shop after Rachel has hung up. Are we to believe the coffee shop just happened to be playing the same song too? As coincidental as that might be, it also plays right through the cuts between the two locations, making the diagetic feel nonsensical. Sorry to point out the illogic of the edit, but it bothered me.

Coach Bieste notes that Will is depressed, and offers to take him to a cowboy bar she frequents for stress relief. So they go, and Will rides a mechanical bull. He does a lot of drinking. And of course on this show, when theater people drink, they sing. (actually, from my experience, this has a certain authenticity). Who would have thought we'd get Coach Beiste singing on this show?

Rachel and Blaine's date went well, from her point of view. They went to a screening of Love Story, dressed in character. As Kurt says sarcastically, "That's not gay at all..." Kurt says that what Rachel and Blaine have is only due to the alcohol. He tries to tell Rachel that Blaine is gay and only one of the many men she will date who will turn out to be gay. But this scene also caused me some concern. Rachel says she and Blaine have a lot in common, to which Kurt replies, "A sentiment expressed by many a hag about many a gay." Can they say that? Did he just use the word "hag"? If you don't know the reference, women who have strong affinity for homosexual men are sometimes called "fag hags". Thus, "hag" denoting a woman and being used in this case solely for the rhyme. So to me, it seems odd to use "hag" when it clearly conjures the word "fag" to mind, and we all know how that show feels about THAT word. Just like those who are offended at calling certain shirts "wife-beaters", I think "hag" in this context is troubling. If you can't say "fag", then you can't say "fag hag". Plus, you can tell they were dancing around it by using the word "gay" as a noun in that sentence. I don't get it.

Will comes home from the bar VERY drunk, tries to grade some papers that way (giving everyone As), then calls Emma to tell her in very slurred sentences how he loves her. ...or at least he thought it was Emma he called... The next day Will apologizes to Emma but she has no idea what he's talking about. Turns out he called Sue Sylvester.

Kurt and his father have a discussion about how inappropriate it was for Kurt to let Blaine sleep over without asking. Burt says its no different than Finn bringing a girl over; he wouldn't allow that either. Kurt argues that he's not okay with the gay issue, leading to one of the funnier lines of the night. Mr. Hummel says, "I don't know what two guys do when they're together. You know, I sat through that Brokeback Mountain. From what I gather, something went down in the tent."

The series finally delivers on the promise of "Brittany/Britney" that Brittany would be performing a Ke$ha song. She says "Ke$ha's been a cultural icon for weeks" which is the sort of passing satire I wish the show did more of. The group is doing "Tik Tok" for the assembly. They are all nervous, so Rachel passes around some booze to loosen them up backstage. What is it? Whatever was left in her dads' liquor cabinet; brandy, vermouth, port, scotch, some Kool-Aid and crumbled up Oreo cookies. And cough syrup. Way to go out with a bang. The performance is going well, with Brittany doing splits and all, until Rachel's cocktail catches up with her and she vomits in Rachel's face. This leads Santana to vomit as well. What I don't get is why the music suddenly cut dead when she vomited. It's effective, but makes no sense. Everyone is silent, as Brittany covered in her own sick tells the school to drink responsibly.

Sue gets on the school PA system and blames Will for the spectacle. She plays his drunken message to the entire school, thus publicly shaming him. The whole club is called before Principal Figgis, who congratulates them for their "special effects" at the assembly. Turns out that the school has been scared straight, and so the group is commended. Watching it again, if they could have faked it that way, it really would have been a VERY effective end to a performance of "Tik Tok". If I didn't think it was real vomit, I'd come to the same conclusion as Figgis. A sudden, horrible abrupt end to a party song would be a good way to shake up the student body. Though Figgis is still an idiot since that auditorium would have smelled awful.

Mr. Shuster has the glee club sign pledges not to drink again until after Regionals. Can you say Dazed and Confused?

Rachel kisses Blaine (while they are both sober) at the coffee shop, and it convinces Blaine that he is gay. The world is back to normal. I like that Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move" is playing underneath the whole scene. Rachel, for her part, now has life experience: a love affair with a guy who turned out gay. Songwriting gold. Yep, back to normal.

For what it is, it's not a bad episode. It doesn't have the authenticity of the Freaks and Geeks episode "Beers and Weirs" but it's not awful. Still, they once again missed the opportunity for a perfect song choice, in this case Barenaked Ladies' "Alcohol".

Songs in tonight's episode:
My Headband
(there's some song playing faintly when Kurt arrives to the party, but I can't make it out)
Like a G6
Don't You Want Me
Blame It (on the Alcohol)
So Far Away
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
Tik Tok
I Feel the Earth Move

Favorite lines: "Mr. Shue, first of all that vest is very cute -- you are all kinds of awesome." That's drunk Rachel for you.
"Welcome to Rosalita's Roadhouse, where the men are men and the sheep are nervous."

Next episode: Ugh, Gwyneth Paltrow is back again, and this time the preachy message is about sex.

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"You idiot, we've all got swords!"

Yesterday at the Burlington Mall in Massachusetts, a couple of people nervously claimed to have seen a man with what what appeared to be a rifle. Police were called in. Something like 40 cops showed up. I.C.E. got involved. The mall was evacuated. Wall to wall news coverage of nothing while they look for this suspect. A friend of mine who works at the mall got calls asking how she was. And then the man was found... just a young guy with an umbrella sticking out of his bag.

And the police admit no wrong-doing.

The umbrella was one with a handle that looks like a samurai sword. I could even understand it if people were concerned he had a sword (but let's be clear, nobody is EVER concerned in this state that someone might have a sword. It's just guns that scare them). But no, they thought it was a rifle. Seriously.

So this poor guy is traumatized, feels the need to return his umbrella, and has to live with the guilt of a whole mall evacuating because he decided to go shopping one day in the rain.

I must confess, I too own an umbrella like this. I have one exactly like it. And I've walked around malls with it. You know what happened? Some little kid said, "Look! He's got a sword, that's cool!" That's it. No incident.

Another day I was carrying it on my back and happened to pass a police car stopped at a light (I walk everywhere). He felt the need to lean out the window and ask what it was and where I was going. I assured him it was an umbrella. His response? "You sure about that?" First of all, as I'm the one carrying it, I'm obviously sure about it, you idiot. But I showed it to him and he was satisfied. It was stupid and annoying to be questioned for having a cool umbrella. Besides which, if it were a REAL katana, it would be obvious as the handle wouldn't be one big plastic piece. But I could at least understand one cop who happened to see it just checking. That, while annoying, was him doing his job and not making a big deal of it. But I cannot understand calling in police from all over Burlington and the surrounding towns before anyone's even checked the security cameras.

Now there is talk of outlawing "scary umbrellas" in the state. I'm putting my foot down now. To anyone in the state reading this, stand up for our rights! We already have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. We already have all sorts of ridiculous rules regarding knives and such, as well as non-firing replica handguns. How is anyone any safer if I don't have an umbrella? You know what, we have a Constitutional right to bear arms be they guns, knives or swords. I'm sure that means I can carry whatever umbrella I want. Even if I WERE walking down the street with a sword on my back, so what? As long as it's not out and being brandished at someone, I'm sure we can all live our lives without incident. Enough with the reactionary police state. Enough with the waste of our money and media resources. You and I know that the media were all there at the mall hoping it WAS something juicy like a shooter, which is why the had nonstop coverage of nothing happening for over an hour. Enough already.

Actually, my umbrella was taken by someone at work about a month ago on a rainy day, and I'd like it back. I don't take things that aren't mine. And I certainly don't think the state should be taking them from everyone. Nobody likes their parades rained on, especially when they have no umbrellas. All I'll say is that you can have my umbrella when you pry it from my cold, wet, dead hands.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time to Play Catch-Up

Been away for a long time and Glee is finally new again tonight. That means I have 3 episodes worth to comment on before the new one. Don't know how long it will take me to get caught up (it takes at least an hour to do just one episode), but soon hopefully. I have to find my notes, though I'm sure some of them won't make sense to me now. Oh well. But rest assured, there is more coming.

If I think of anything else pressing to write about I will. And I do sort of want to get back to those Great American Myth essays. Again, time is an issue.

Well, until anything new pops up here I leave you with a random quote:
"If is a word smack in the middle of life. Isn't that deeeeep?" -Punky Brewster