Friday, August 24, 2012

"Glee" Fills Me With Dread

I have a tendency to fall in love with shows that end up going down in flames either in terms of quality or in terms of gathering an audience.

Most recently, I decided to finally watch "Community" to see what all the fuss was about and literally JUST after I finished watching the last episode of the most recent season, it was officially announced that the show-runner wasn't returning for the next season, effectively dooming it. I just have the worst luck with TV.

Of course, it's better for a show to be given a premature death than for it to grow into something despicable. I'd much rather have "Sym-Bionic Titan" or "Firefly" over the mess that became "Heroes" or "The Simpsons".

Still, it's usually nice to see a show that tries something different succeed with mainstream audiences. It feels good knowing that a genuinely good TV show is getting the attention in deserves because then it suggests that they won't feel the need to pander in order to get ratings.

This is partially why I really don't get "Glee" anymore.

Let me back up for a minute and make something clear so that I can immediately incinerate any lingering respect my readers might have for my taste.

I like "Glee".

"Glee" reminds me of a part of my life that I've largely been disconnected from since high school. I used to be REALLY involved in theater and music during high school, but after graduating I mostly stopped it altogether with the exception of being a Assistant Technical Director for a derivative production of "Company" and directing "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" two years in a row, which I don't think counts. Anyway, my point is, I like "Glee" because at its best, it offers a much more genuine portrayal of high school than you usually get on TV. Notice I said "genuine", not "realistic". Occasionally characters break through and remind me of my own struggles in high school and they might also make me care about a character I probably would have hated if I went to high school with them. The show is usually entertaining, but more than that, it often actually gets me personally invested in the fate of its characters.

Still, it's hard to deny that "Glee" has been going the route of "Heroes" after the first 13 episodes. Characters have become muddled, plot points get repeated ad nauseum, the song choices have largely been reduced to "whatever is on the radio this week", and most episodes are either a "tribute" episode, a "guest star" episode, or a "very special" episode.

I still watch the show, even though the most recent season was, at times, REALLY tough to sit through. Pretty much everything that involved Quinn was a train wreck. The Christmas special was the worst episode since "The Rocky Horror Glee Show". The writers kept second-guessing their trajectory every few episodes. It was largely a mess.

Even so, I wouldn't keep watching it if I didn't like it. The thing about "Glee" is that it's very extreme. When it succeeds, it REALLY succeeds, and when it fails, it REALLY fails. A word I would rarely use to describe the show is "boring". The best word I can think to describe it is "frustrating".

That being said, when I found myself wondering why I'm still watching the show, I just kept telling myself, "Finn, Rachel, and Quinn are graduating." Pretty much all of my problems with the show can be pinned on these three characters, and knowing that they wouldn't be around as much next season (at least in theory) gave me a lot of hope.

You see, when it came to the similarly troubled "Heroes", I was convinced that show would have worked if they just dumped the cast every season, or at least drastically changed the approach of each season. One of its biggest weaknesses was that the characters were clearly not designed to last longer than a season (except maybe Hiro) so they struggled to give the characters things to do and arcs to develop in. "Glee" is suffering a similar fate.

When "Glee" first started, you could tell that the creators didn't expect the show to last. They probably thought it would be another "Firefly" and so they put all of their effort into the first 13 episodes. Then they became a huge phenomenon and they needed to reset character development in order to manufacture more drama and story. That's why Finn, Rachel, and Quinn have basically gone through the same character arcs in pretty much every half-season.

Fortunately, the show had a saving grace. Time was not standing still. Characters would inevitably graduate. So long as the story focuses on the high school, they will be forced to turn some of the lesser explored characters into the primary characters. So while Quinn was, once again, obsessed with restoring her "perfect" life, or while Finn and Rachel were, once again, unsure about the future of their relationship, I just kept telling myself that next season would HAVE to be different.

At least, that's what I hoped.

While the new season is still a few weeks away, and while I'm not following it as obsessively as I once was, I have learned that the first episode is going to be called "The New Rachel".

Strike one.

Look, it's not so much that I DISLIKE Rachel as a character concept. The sort of brutally honest, egotistical perfectionist who is obsessed with Broadway and is irritatingly talented is an archetype that I'm pretty familiar with. I enjoy that part of her character. I DON'T enjoy her story arcs where she sends potential rivals to crackhouses or does pathetically transparent manipulations to improve her personal life, and sadly, that's mostly what she's been doing since the end of the first season.

I'm not so much against the idea of bringing Rachel back into the show in some fashion, but what I absolutely don't want is for the bulk of her story to be about whether or not her relationship with Finn will work. I am TIRED of that story. I don't CARE. Yet, that's what they seem to KEEP DOING.

The problem is, the producers of "Glee" seem to think that they need to pander. They forgot that they massively succeeded with their first season not because of stupid love triangles or pointless drama, but because it tried to be different. It knew what it wanted to be and it didn't care if people liked it or not. In fact, it probably expected people NOT to like it. But now they're trying to have some sort of strange mass appeal that I think is actually self-defeating. It even seems like they will often rewrite the direction of their show based on the reaction of their audience, which sometimes works when mitigating huge missteps, but also tends to create rather large plot-holes. They try WAY too hard to be popular, which really makes no sense since they already ARE popular. It's pathetic.

Of course, I'm HOPING that the next season will in fact be a breath of fresh air. I'm hoping that we'll finally get to focus on some new and underused characters and give the show a chance to evolve somewhat. But they're making it very hard for me to keep hoping.

Since I REALLY like to punish myself (and because I have a strange addiction to offbeat reality TV) I decided to watch the latest season of "The Glee Project", where they put a bunch of kids through the ringer in order to find one that will be a new character on "Glee". In the last episode, we were left with three kids. A really talented American Muslim girl with a great personality and a lot of sass, a really talented girl in a wheelchair who was ACTUALLY disabled and had a really bubbly, fun personality, and a really talented and attractive bland white guy.

Personally, I thought this was a no-brainer. In fact, one of the other kids stated it pretty perfectly. While she may not have been the most talented actress, the Muslim girl would take the established perception of Islam in America and burn it to the ground, offering inspiration to thousands of girls who are grossly underrepresented and widely misunderstood. The positive impact of including a character like that in a mainstream television show on Fox would be admirable and inspirational and that's kind of what "Glee" is all about. If not her, then the girl in the wheelchair would have been the next logical choice since one of the biggest complaints from the disabled community about the show is how the actor who plays Artie (the kid in the wheelchair) is not actually disabled, and this girl would offer a more genuine perspective. Plus, she's adorable. Anyway, either of the girls would have been great, in my opinion.

So who did they pick?

The bland white guy.

Strike two.

OK, don't get me wrong, the kid is talented. He probably was the most talented person in the competition. But the show isn't really about talent.

As they said in the last episode of "The Glee Project", the main inspiration for the competition was Chris Colfer, the actor who plays Kurt. Originally, he auditioned to play Artie and wasn't right for the character, but because they really liked him and they felt like the show needed a character like him, they wrote a new character for him. And while he certainly improved a lot over the course of the show, Chris Colfer was probably the least talented actor in the show for the first season. He had trouble staying in tune, his voice was very wispy, and he very clearly struggled through a lot of his solos. Next to Cory Monteith, he was probably the most frequently auto-tuned character. But in a way, that's what made him so popular. He came off as a genuine portrayal of a gay theater kid in high school because that's basically exactly what he was and about where his talent level was. And exposing a character like Kurt to mainstream audiences was unquestionably a good thing.

The thing is, I feel like if Chris Colfer had tried out for "The Glee Project", they would have picked the bland white guy over him because he was more talented or professional or "a star".

You know what, "Glee"? You ALREADY cast a "star". Sam Evans, the character played by Chord Overstreet. He's talented, good-looking, and has a Beiber-cut. And you know what? Most viewers don't give a shit about him! Granted, he's improved since the last season now that we know what kind of character he's supposed to be (the "poor kid"), but he's largely really boring. He doesn't come off as genuine or interesting. Sure he's a good singer and a good actor, but I really don't think he'll ever make me give a crap about him.

So what do you plan to accomplish by casting ANOTHER bland white guy? I'm not saying he can't be an interesting character, but he certainly can't be a groundbreaking character and he certainly can't be a character that real kids can relate to.

The bland white guy was the safe choice, and that is the attitude that bothers me the most about "Glee". They seem more interested in playing it "safe" then actually making a good show. They seem to just want to maintain their ratings in order to keep selling their covers of pop songs.

I'm sorry, but I'm at my wits end with this show. If the first episode of the next season just seems to be a retread of the same old shit but now we have to contrive reasons to involve the alumni as well, I'm officially out. I've probably been way too patient with the show as it is.

"Glee", you're on notice.

1 comment:

  1. This. Glee needs to at the very least, decide whether it doesn't care about for continuity, or it does. Right now? It just infuriates me.

    Aylin and Ali were both fanfuckingtastic. I haven't even bothered to watch the season finale because B-whatever won.