Wednesday, 21 April 2010


An Amazon 5-star review (slightly edited).
This shouldn't work. But it does.

I shouldn't like it. But I do.

Why? Because, against all the odds, it works. Brilliantly. Stay with me and I'll see if I can work out why this tv series manages to appeal to such a mass and wide-ranging audience. Musically alone, it manages to appeal from to those who like show tunes to those who like The Blues and rough-edged Rock (me). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First off, the cast and their roles. I'm not going to mention all of them -and they are all good- just the key cast (and a personal favourite).

As Mr Schue, the leader of Glee Club, Matthew Morrison, an experienced Broadway musicals singer/actor, possesses a rumpled but appealing face well suited to both comedy and drama and he anchors the show to perfection. He's also a skilled adaptable singer who's received some criticism for his rap and what passes these for r'n'b but sounds just fine to me, who can't stand either, and manages to make them listenable.

The production team must have fallen on their knees to praise the Gods of Showbusiness when Lea Michele not only auditioned but accepted the role of Rachel. Michele herself has already attained the status that Rachel aspires to of being a young star of Broadway. She is a gifted light comedy actress and an absolutely stunning singer who could well end up being one of the greats, up there with Streisand and Minelli, only more appealing.

Corey Monteith completes the core triad as Finn, the Tim-nice-but-dim jock with a heart of gold. Like Morrison and Michele, he acts well and sings well and is completely convincing. The likeability of Finn is one of the show's great strengths.

Lesbian icon Jane Lynch is great as the villain, the utterly self-centred unfeeling ruthless enemy of Mr Schue. Chris Colfer is a star in the making for the dignity he displays as the effeminate Kurt, also a great singer. Jessica Gilsig as Mr Schue's wife is so appallingly horrible that I want her to die a slow agonising death every time she's on screen. She's counterpointed by Jayma Mays as the adorable obsessive school counsellor Emma. Lastly (if I tried to mention them all and why they're so good, we'd be here all night -sorry if I've left out your favourite) is Heather Morris as Brittany, a character so dumb she makes Finn look like Einstein. Morris doesn't get much dialogue but she makes the most of it and she has the series' most jaw-dropping line but you have to be on the ball to catch it. Hopefully she'll be featured more in the future.

Okay. so we've got a great cast and strong characters and, let's face it, you probably already know them yourselves. You also know the setup. An idealistic teacher restarts a high school Glee Club ending up with an uneasy mix of outsiders, jocks, and cheerleaders who all have problems whether it's one group being bullied by the other or by having to live up to high expectations, etc. But what they all have is talent and here's where the musical side of things comes in. Again, the show's musical director (and creator) gets it just right with a blend of show tunes, pop songs, and a mix of other contemporary genres, which are often reworked for harmonies, which the cast excel in, and manages to give them an appeal beyond their normal audience (see above; you can find my favourites in the my reviews of the two CDs, but I'll just mention Jenna Uskowitz's lovely rendition of 'True Colours'). The songs themselves are deliberately chosen as a means of making a comment on either a character or plot development.

Add some snappy dance routines which are just about convincing as being within the abilities of people other than professional dancers and you have a great show. The musical numbers are supposedly all performed within the context of the club itself (i.e. the cast don't suddenly break into song and dance along school corridors, etc) but there are a couple of cheats as when Mercedes has a fantasy number (and a great one it is too) after she deliberately breaks the window of Kurt's car and starts singing 'Broke Your Window' and goes into a dance routine with the cheerleaders, as you do.

The writing is as sharp as a razor with strong subplots and snappy dialogue. And this is where I finally mention the elephant in the room which I've been ignoring so far. Glee is outrageously funny and it makes me laugh out loud several times an episode. It's one of the funniest shows I've ever seen and is the only comedy show I faithfully follow except for The Big Bang Theory. But it's also more than that. It's also a drama and it touches on real problems such as bullying, schoolgirl pregnancy, homophobia, marital discord, etc, but it does so by seamlessly blending the different aspects.

On a technical level, it's also excellent. The editing is simply masterful and no scene goes on a second too long. Also the recap at the beginning of each show, often a pain for regular viewers to sit through, is brilliant as the narrator hilariously races through key points in a matter of seconds.

The extras and the only sour note in this review. Most of them are brief publicity pieces lacking any kind of depth. The first four are watchable but skip the rest; believe me, you aren't missing anything. Big disappointment as I was hoping for some detail about how the show was put together.

Finally what makes this into a show that will live long in memory is the seamless way it manages to blend every element together without showing the slightest join. It's an unlikely show to be successful but then so was Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Glee, in its own way, is just as good as Buffy and that is one hell of an achievement. Glee, while an appropriate title, could also be called something else, an emotion that it brings to the viewer.

Glee is a total and complete joy. 

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