Review: ‘Glee’, Series One

The phenomenon that is ‘Glee’ has finally come to an end in the UK, and what a spectacular end it was after a slightly mediocre second half of the first series.

Having already been commissioned for both a second and third series, ‘Glee’s’ unique formula has certainly proved to be immensely popular, with its combination of pop music and soap opera-esque antics moving in new directions (sorry, had to) that other shows had only ever tried and never pulled off especially successfully. The use of familiarity in the musical numbers to express situations that (most of the time) we could actually have experienced in our own lives allowed the shows creators to balance the unrealistic showmanship (like the piano guy who seemed to spend his days wandering after the Glee club in the hope they’d need his services) with heartfelt stories that struck the right note with the audience.

On the other hand, the post-sectionals half of the series seemed to lack the sparkle it once exuded, instead randomly inserting equally random songs into the show instead of tying it with the ‘theme of the day’. This was particularly highlighted when the show actually linked the songs to the themes again, particularly in the case of ‘Dream On’ and the Journey medley at regionals. The Lady Gaga episode was a specific disappointment for me, particularly in light of the magnificent costumes the cast wore (except Finn’s shower curtain number, it would probably best if that was burned), as they failed to live up to Gaga’s own exuberance and popstar presence and seemed entirely disjointed (I mean, who can explain why ‘Poker Face’ was a fitting farewell song for Rachel and Shelby?), unlike in the earlier Madonna episode which effectively encapsulated everything the Queen of Pop stands for.

The characterisation, however, was superb throughout: none of the characters seemed to lose themselves or head in directions that were unexplained or simply badly written. I thought the exploration of Kurt’s struggle to place himself within a man’s world was one of the stronger roles to explore, especially with his dad’s role as the protective yet slightly distant parent grappling with his identity and its clash with his son’s personality. I feel Rachel was let down slightly towards the end, as she simply became a vocal commodity instead of a character, and more screen-time for her failed relationship with her mother, Shelby (played by the wonderful Idina Menzel) would have helped expose her vulnerabilities more; instead, the finale saw her humbled without a real exploration of her mother’s motives or even her home-life with her adoptive dads.

Sue Sylvester, of course, was the superstar of the series, and again I feel like this was another character left trailing behind in the second part, ignored for the issues when, actually, her comical interjections would have both lightened the mood and shown that life really does go on. Jane Lynch’s timing and gentle changes in intonation ensure Sue’s character was maintained despite her irrationality in the face of Glee. And just when you were wondering how on earth she became an educator, she stands up to Olivia Newton-John and co. to tell them that, despite the level of competition, the various Glee clubs are still just kids that are trying their hardest. It was incredibly apt that she chose not to tell Will she voted for him, allowing the rivalry to be maintained instead of compromised.

So I will be tuning in for my ‘Glee’ fix when it returns with its anticipated second series, but hopefully the length won’t compromise the talent next time by dragging both the character and the songs further than they were meant to go.

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