What Makes Glee So Special?

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  • Trent
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    #221730

    I know that this topic can apply virtually to any show, but what makes Glee so special? Why is it so different from all the other (better) Fox scripted shows that bomb with ratings, like Arrested Development and Raising Hope (I know Glee has been going down in ratings but they’re still much higher).

     

    I personally think that Glee is horrendous in every field except directing and Jane Lynch. The writing is below mediocre and it just seems overacted by most of the cast.

     

    What makes it so attractive to viewers? Is it the singing? Is it the Broadway appeal? Please tell me.

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    EmmyLoser
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    #221732

    As an unabashed Gleek, I can tell you that I really enjoy many aspects of the show: many of the characters, the singing, most of the time the writing, most of the cast . . .

     

    That said, I was extremely surprised to see the show become such a hit.  I thought it would find a small niche audience and chug along for a while as a little show that could.  I love musicals, and I love that they can be extremely wacky and melodramatic but emotional and heartfelt at the same time.  From what I read online, it seems like at least half of the people who watch the show don’t even like it.

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    Spenser Davis
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    #221733

    I think it pulled off something that no one really knew would work — covering hit songs, multiple tunes every week. Sure, the success of American Idol and more recently The Voice proves that TV audiences enjoy watching singers compete. But a series about high schoolers trying to pull off chart-toppers, created by the guy from Nip/Tuck? It sounds like something that could’ve failed miserably. But it struck what I like to call ‘the chord of cool,’ when it found the perfect audience at the perfect time.

     

    I’m not a fan of the show, I’ll admit. The characters aren’t very interesting to me, the stakes are relatively small, et cetera. The only thing that made me watch half of the first season on DVD was the character Sue Sylvester, a terrifically venomous biatch created by the talented Jane Lynch. One line really sold it to me:

     

    “I will buy you a kitten. I will let you fall in love with the kitten. And on a cold dark night, I will sneak into your house, and punch you in the face.”

     

    I was consistently laughing at her performance, and I’m glad that she got an Emmy for it. I don’t think she needs a repeat win this year, but she is certainly the show’s stand-out. Other aspects of the show, like the leaps in logic, were palm-to-forehead worthy (hiring a pregnant woman to be the school nurse despite a lack of qualifications?).

     

    That being said, I think that Smash on NBC this Fall will hold my interest a whole lot more.

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    Daniel Montgomery
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    #221734

    I watched “Glee” for the entirety of its first season and then its second season premiere and the post-Super Bowl show, and it’s hard to argue with most of your assessments. What kept me coming back for as long as I did:

     

    (1) Lea Michele – No matter how bad the show around her got, I could happily watch her sing the phone book.

     

    (2) Occasionally inspired casting like Mike O’Malley, Kristin Chenoweth, and Idina Menzel.

     

    What finally drove me away:

     

    (1) Bad writing. And the show is especially bad when it’s sentimental; I don’t know what kind of spell the show casts on some viewers that makes such painfully trite, cornball dialogue acceptable to human ears. Remember the episode where Mercedes learned to accept her body? Or the one where Rachel met the paralyzed football player and learned about the preciousness of life … or something. Oh brother.

     

    (2) Reptitive storytelling. OMG! Is Glee Club in trouble? Is Sue plotting against Mr. Schuester? Are the Glee clubbers fighting to be accepted for who they are? Are they battling a powerhouse rival club from another school? Yes, yes, yes, and yes — because it happens every week.

     

    (3) Inconsistent characters. Characters hate each other one week, love each other the next, have little to do with each other after that. A character is committed to Glee club one week, about the mutiny the next. The show isn’t populated by characters, but plot contrivances in human form.

     

    (4) Inconsistent tone. The show veers wildly from dark (and often mean) “Election”-style satire to sentimental mush about acceptance and love and commitment and other things in Hallmark cards. Neither tone works (too broad and cartoonish no matter which way the pendulum swings), and they are especially problematic when the show combines the two.

     

    I thought maybe the show would settle down at first, keep doing the things it was good at and sort out the things it was bad at, but it eventually became clear that Ryan Murphy just has a certain style that isn’t going to change. It was there in “Popular,” and it was there in “Nip/Tuck” — subtle as a sledghammer, with scattershot story and characters.

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    Conrado
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    #221735

    I must say Jane Lynch was tremendous as Sue Sylvester in the first season, but this year her character has been probably the most problematic and the show tends to fall on its nose when she’s around. 

     

    As someone who really loved the pilot and the first half of season one, I’m really disappointed that the show has become such a travesty of itself, being happy with doing whatever stupid story they come up with just to throw it away the next week.

    I can’t work out what is it that makes people like Glee, since the episodes which I think are the best (the ones that focus on the kids like “Duets” and “Silly Love Songs” this season) are the ones that fans of the show say they didn’t like. (at least the fans I know).

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    EmmyLoser
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    #221736

    It’s true, Sue Sylvester was a great standout of the show in season one, but in season two was really just way too much for the most part.  My favorite episodes have been the ones like Duets and Silly Love Songs, where, as mentioned, the focus is mostly on the kids. 

     

    The show is pretty easy to attack because some of the themes or messages are so obvious, but that doesn’t make them bad, as far as I’m concerned.  The show does always deal with a lot of the same issues, but that’s the basis of the show.  There’s kind of a Saved by the Bell vibe to it, which some viewers obviously would hate. 

     

    Character inconsistency is probably the show’s biggest problem, but I think it’s gotten much better.  I also think the show has been much too reactionary.  It would be a lot better off if it were produced in a bubble, with no idea of what the audience was saying about it.  That’s lead to overkill of characters like Sue and Kurt and a muddling of what I think was a clearer show concept originally.

     

    But I still love the show, and there are elements of every episode that I really, really enjoy.  And the ending stretch of the second season was the strongest string of episodes since the first part of the first season. 

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    Spenser Davis
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    #221737

    (3) Inconsistent characters. Characters hate each other one week, love each other the next, have little to do with each other after that. A character is committed to Glee club one week, about the mutiny the next. The show isn’t populated by characters, but plot contrivances in human form.

     

    (4) Inconsistent tone. The show veers wildly from dark (and often mean) “Election”-style satire to sentimental mush about acceptance and love and commitment and other things in Hallmark cards. Neither tone works (too broad and cartoonish no matter which way the pendulum swings), and they are especially problematic when the show combines the two.

     

    I thought maybe the show would settle down at first, keep doing the things it was good at and sort out the things it was bad at, but it eventually became clear that Ryan Murphy just has a certain style that isn’t going to change. It was there in “Popular,” and it was there in “Nip/Tuck” — subtle as a sledghammer, with scattershot story and characters.

     

    Yes, absolutely. Inconsistency is the show’s biggest weakness. And in a serial television program, that is huge. If a character we grow to love reacts in a way that is out-of-character, it takes us out of the show’s spell. I hear so much trash talked about Everybody Loves Raymond, one of my favorite television comedies. People said that it was the same scenario every week, and that Raymond was an egocentric that you didn’t want to root for. Not only is that, in my opinion, false, it also isn’t crediting the show with its strongest asset: It’s consistency. If Debra messed up a pot roast, and Raymond’s mother walked in, you knew she wasn’t going to give a passive aggressive critique that would spark the conflict. It was what I liked about the show so much. They had the characters figured out.

     

    Glee doesn’t. I remember early in the show, Rachel mouths off, says something about the dim-witted football player Puck. Then, the next episode? They’re making out. Why this change? The show never says. Maybe because they’re both Jewish? Whatever. I wasn’t buying the relationship; if I as a viewer am not buying it, nothing involving it will keep my attention, and I’ll switch back over to Hawaii 5-0.

     

    I also remember “Wheels,” I think it was, the episode when they tried to talk about Sue’s sister, blah blah blah. It was such a ham-fisted attempt to make the character likeable. I could feel Ryan Murphy whispering into my ear, “See? She ain’t so bad.” It was pretty awful, and yet that is the episode so many people site as one of the show’s best. I don’t get it.

     

    I will, however, also credit the show with one killer quality — Their cast albums rock. They truly do. Just like Blu-Ray players and Avatar being sold together, iPods should be sold with the Glee album already on them. They fit together that well. I will never say otherwise, no matter how much I dislike the show.

     

    As for Ryan Murphy’s inconsistent writing, just look at how far Nip/Tuck went off the rails to get a feel for what Daniel and I are talking about.

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    EmmyLoser
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    #221738

    I’m not trying to make anybody like the show, and I’m not even saying that most of these critiques are false per se, but I think they need to be taken in context. 

     

    For one thing, this is a show about high schoolers, and they really are inconsistent!  It’s a problem, I agree, but not to the degree it’s being made out to be.  The show is criticized for being heavy handed in some areas, but I find it a little ridiculous how the people making these same critiques are unwilling to draw conclusions about the characters behaviors, most of which do make sense.  The cited example of Rachel and Puck illustrates my point perfectly: Rachel starts dating Puck because he’s a dumb football player, just like the object of her affection, Finn, so she’s attracted enough, and because it’ll obviously make Finn jealous.  These are the kinds of things that, to me, don’t even need to be said, but I hear complaining about it all the time.

     

    And my second point is that it’s a musical comedy.  The themes are not subtle.  They can be cheesy.  These things tend to happen in a genre predicated upon characters singing songs about their feelings.  Harping on these things is akin to complaining about the poor dialogue on Jersey Shore, or that character arcs in movies rarely develop for more than a couple of hours.  It’s part of the genre.  It’s not fair to judge it as if it were a sitcom or a drama series. 

     

    Again, I’m not even saying that you should like the show, just that a lot of the criticism hurled at it is unfair.

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    Ronnie Boadu
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    #221739

    My whole issue w/”Glee” more than anything it is not the same show that I fell for in the first part of season 1. Though I will give them that the second season wasn’t as much of a disaster as it was indicated it could’ve been at the end of the first season. The introduction of the new Glee kids, the Kurt story (the brilliance and preachiness), and the spotlight on Naya Rivera and Heather Morris (even though I have issues w/the story) made the season work for me. They must work on two glaring problems Will and Sue especially Sue.

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    Daniel Montgomery
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    #221740

    I actually really liked the Rachel/Puck pairing in season one. It came out of nowhere, but it could have worked if the writers stuck with it and took the time to develop it further, but it was a one-week plot device that was quickly abandoned. A comparable example would have been Xander and Cordelia on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Those two seemed like oil-and-water, but suddenly they were dating. And the show made it plauslbe that they would be together, because it developed their relationship over months of storyline.

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    Daniel Montgomery
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    #221741

    And my second point is that it’s a musical comedy.  The themes are not subtle.  They can be cheesy.  These things tend to happen in a genre predicated upon characters singing songs about their feelings.  Harping on these things is akin to complaining about the poor dialogue on Jersey Shore, or that character arcs in movies rarely develop for more than a couple of hours.  It’s part of the genre.  It’s not fair to judge it as if it were a sitcom or a drama series.

     

    This is one of the most common defenses of “Glee,” and the one that I understand the least. It’s like saying, “You can’t judge this show by normal standards. It’s a musical comedy — it’s supposed to suck.”

     

    As a fan of musicals, comedies, and musical comedies, I take exception to this. Is it unreasonable to expect a musical comedy series to have characters that make sense and writing that isn’t heavy-handed? Is tonal inconsistency supposed to be a hallmark of the genre? Singing and dancing does not absolve you of your storytelling duties.

     

    Compare it to “Moulin Rouge.” That was a musical comedy with big, bold flashes of comedy, and big, aching moments of melodrama. But I believed the comedy, believed the drama, believed the characters and their decisions, and I was moved by the outcome. Baz Luhrmann, in fact, may be cinema’s closest equivalent to Ryan Murphy, except Luhrmann is a lot better at it than Murphy is.

     

    Disagreements about “Glee” always end up going there: People who criticize the show don’t get it, because it’s a comedy or a musical and it therefore should be held to more lenient standards of quality. This makes the assumption that musicals by their very nature are not capable of being as good as any other genre, to which I would counter with “Rouge,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Chicago,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and so on. Musicals can be great. Comedies can be great. Shows that blend comedy and drama can be great. But “Glee,” however, is not great.

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    Trent
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    #221742

    Glee, according to the rules of the ALL of the academies that vote for the EGOT’s, did not qualify to be called a musical comedy until very recently. The rules state that a musical is “a production with an original script accompanying original music created  exclusively for the said production.” This means that, until the original song episode, Glee, technically, was not a musical.

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    Slam
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    #221743

    I agree with most of what’s said above. ‘Glee’ was initially so compelling because it was something we hadn’t seen before. It took music (and great music) and made great covers. It was about underdogs, and rooting for them, and them succeeding. It took incredibly diverse characters and made them interact. Everyone had a purpose or point of view or a specific problem that made them unique, and even unlikeable qualities were shown in a light that worked. The tone worked. It was also geared towards teenagers/young adults. It was funny. It was fun to watch. I still say, from ‘Pilot’ – ‘Sectionals’ was some of the best television of that year. Light as it was, and as much you could completely remove your brain while you watched it. It was so entertaining and no matter who you are, even if it wasn’t your cup of tea, you could probably connect with something/someone on the show.

    I don’t know what happened after that. Maybe the ego of the creators got in the way. Maybe it would’ve worked as a mini-series. But ‘Glee’ suddenly became the “IT” show and it just floundered. Inconsistency crept in, and suddenly the characters were unrecognizable from what we’d been introduced to. From ‘Hell-O’ to ‘Journey’ was probably some of the worst television of last season.

    I think the second season was an improvement from season 1, part 2. But it was almost like I couldn’t even pretend that this was once good television. The stench of the bad was still lingering. While certain things worked, certain actors did some really great work, and certainly the music was still top-notch, if I once believed ‘Glee’ to be original and out-of-the-box, I couldn’t even remember what I liked. Hence, I still watch. Sometimes episodes sit on DVR for weeks before I get to them, but I end up watching nonetheless, so perhaps I’m the fool.

    I think ‘Glee’ is already behaving as if it’s in its 5th or 6th season: throwing away plots before we can even digest them, practicing inconsistent behavior with EVERY SINGLE character, and treating the audience like idiots.

    Will I keep watching this show? Probably. The hint of risen-quality towards the end of the season makes me curious what will go down next year. So the answer to ‘What makes “Glee” so special?’ I don’t freaking know.

     

    ……oh, and if someone can find a character on television more annoyingly over-exposed than Kurt Hummel, I’ll give you cookie.

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    Trent
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    #221744

    I feel like they overused Sue Sylvester. Jane Lynch’s opening monologue on SNL where she sang her Glee theme song was right:

     

    “Glee is a show about Sue Sylvester. Sue Sylvester is the star of Glee. Now, yes, there are a few other characters, but Sue Sylvester is the one you wanna see.”

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    EmmyLoser
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    #221745

    [quote=”EmmyLoser”]

    And my second point is that it’s a musical comedy.  The themes are not subtle.  They can be cheesy.  These things tend to happen in a genre predicated upon characters singing songs about their feelings.  Harping on these things is akin to complaining about the poor dialogue on Jersey Shore, or that character arcs in movies rarely develop for more than a couple of hours.  It’s part of the genre.  It’s not fair to judge it as if it were a sitcom or a drama series.

     

    This is one of the most common defenses of “Glee,” and the one that I understand the least. It’s like saying, “You can’t judge this show by normal standards. It’s a musical comedy — it’s supposed to suck.”

     

    As a fan of musicals, comedies, and musical comedies, I take exception to this. Is it unreasonable to expect a musical comedy series to have characters that make sense and writing that isn’t heavy-handed? Is tonal inconsistency supposed to be a hallmark of the genre? Singing and dancing does not absolve you of your storytelling duties.

     

    Compare it to “Moulin Rouge.” That was a musical comedy with big, bold flashes of comedy, and big, aching moments of melodrama. But I believed the comedy, believed the drama, believed the characters and their decisions, and I was moved by the outcome. Baz Luhrmann, in fact, may be cinema’s closest equivalent to Ryan Murphy, except Luhrmann is a lot better at it than Murphy is.

     

    Disagreements about “Glee” always end up going there: People who criticize the show don’t get it, because it’s a comedy or a musical and it therefore should be held to more lenient standards of quality. This makes the assumption that musicals by their very nature are not capable of being as good as any other genre, to which I would counter with “Rouge,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Chicago,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and so on. Musicals can be great. Comedies can be great. Shows that blend comedy and drama can be great. But “Glee,” however, is not great.

    [/quote]

     

    I actually was thinking of Moulin Rouge, a movie I absolutely adore, and a movie that plenty of people had plenty of negative things to say about, when I wrote that.  Rouge and some of the others named are great movies, and I’m not claiming that Glee is as good.  But my point was that I don’t see why an obvious theme pervading an episode or moments and sequences that are knowingly over the top are always associated with poor quality, no matter what the occasion or genre.  What I’m arguing is that there are things about Glee that people knee-jerk react to as bad even though, in the context of Glee, they make sense.  No need to twist my words into sounding like they’re an attack on the quality of the musical genre.

     

    Again, though, I’m not even disagreeing that the show is inconsistent in ways it should not be, and that something happened with them achieving success that made the show change in a way they’re only at the end of this second season beginning to recover from.  But for all the shows problems, I personally still get more enjoyment watching an episode of it than almost any other show on right now.

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