fri 18/10/2019

Glee, E4 | reviews, news & interviews

Glee, E4

Glee, E4

What's all the singing about? At least it's not sex

Hark! Whence those sounds of teens moaning in ecstasy? Ah - 'Glee' must be back

As with pornographic films, what those who watch Glee really want is the money shot. There may be far fewer naked people – although the first episode of the second season did have lascivious shots of two shirtless (allegedly) teenage boys – but you still don’t really care about the bits in between the songs, which are all trite teen drama with a smart-mouth twist. No, the moment the plumber (geeky teenager) appears on the scene with his wrench (sheet music) is what gets the nerves tingling.

And so this episode proved, and so probably will the season prove. In case you care about the bits in between the songs, the scriptwriters appeared to have taken one noticeable characteristic for each character and magnified it, so that they are funnier but flatter than last season. Rachel (Lea Michele), the female lead, has gone even more Norma Desmond on us and started to try and kill potential rivals (“It wasn’t an active crackhouse”), while Finn (Cory Monteith) becomes more sincere and Kurt (Chris Colfer) appears to have walked right off the Paris spring-summer 2011 catwalk. Sue Sylvester (the ever-excellent, vinegary Jane Lynch) and Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) team up against the new football coach, but Will is too noble to continue the vendetta. Can we get to the music?

The musical numbers, as described by Mr Schu in a pre-credits vlog, are “25 per cent showtunes, 25 per cent hip hop, 25 per cent classic rock”, which makes me glad he teaches Spanish, not maths, but also adds to the formulaic nature of the show, like a box of Quality Street left over from Christmas. Last night we had Gaga’s "Telephone" in the toilets, "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy as sung by the new quarterback (the actor's name is Chord Overstreet, if you can believe it), "Empire State of Mind" by the full company in the playground, a performance of "Listen" from Dreamgirls with poor diction (this was the strawberry cream) and Rachel performing "What I Did for Love" with the sort of martyrdom complex that leads nowhere nice. There was something for everyone, with the glossy perfection of performance we've come to expect.

So apart from the sex – sorry, the songs – what is Glee for? It feels like a safe suburban sitcom of the Fifties with 21st-century issues. Thus, instead of not being given enough of an allowance to go to the fair, cheerleaders have babies or gay teens come out. No one – not even nasty Sue Sylvester – is beyond redemption. Glee is as much an affirmation of your perfection as going home to mummy, a comfort blanket for the distressed teenage soul. It pretends to be mean-spirited and its characters suffer trials that supposedly make them wiser, but – like pornography – there’s always a happy ending.

Apart from the sex – sorry, the songs – what is Glee for? It feels like a safe suburban sitcom of the Fifties with 21st-century issues

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Oh for heaven's sake! "Safe"? Glee is the most subversive show on television (in the US at any rate), as, under that veneer of wholesomeness and positivity, it has exposed heartland tweens to a wildly gay sensibility and sense of humor they don't encounter anywhere else and which hopefully they will appreciate in later life as a result. Furthermore, it performs an invaluable service by acquainting a young audience with the rich heritage of American musical theater, something they would otherwise have absolutely no interest in. Both these contributions were exemplified in the throwaway line last night when Rachel, in response to Sunshine's introduction of Listen as being "from the film Dreamgirls", hastily adds "it was a Broadway show first".

You're not describing the money shot...you're describing classic pornography action. Solo, couples, group...whatever the scenario or song, there's always a massive amount of predictability, mixed with enough variation to keep us watching...whether it's a new move, an unexpected high note from a performer or the complex choreography of a group scene. The Money Shot is of course just before they collapse in a sweaty, panting heap, the last chords/moans still ringing around the room.

@Ellin I would disagree - its use of the gay sensibility (defined how anyway?) is basically modern mainstream US bitchy comedy. Its themes (disability, homosexuality, race, drugs, teenage pregnancy) are all ways to positivity - everything ends happily. I hope you're right about Glee educating people, but there's a long tradition of high-school theatre musicals anyway. // @Caspar Thank you for your, um, exhaustive knowledge of porn mise-en-scene. But I would say the first chords of a song at least anticipate the money shot and provide sufficient stimulation in themselves. I feel dirty.

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