Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Glee: "A Very Glee Christmas"

I've mentioned before that one of the things I like about Glee is that despite its efforts to be edgy and boundary-pushing, its really the most earnest show on TV since 7th Heaven. However, the show doesn't like to boast that earnestness, but tonight it made an exception to show how piously reverent it could be toward the holiday spirit. There's no time for subversion when its time bring the Christmas cheer. The only problem is, Glee has plenty of Christmas, but little cheer.
Here's the story: Brittany still believes in Santa Claus, so it's up to the glee club to make sure that belief isn't shattered. But when she asks Santa to make Artie walk again, the stakes are raised. Also, Sue rigs the staff Secret Santa so that she's the recipient of all the presents, and Rachel is desperately trying to get back with Finn.
Given the cheeky nature of Glee, it would have been fun to see what the show does with the Christmas special format, hopefully putting its own spin on it by lovingly mocking both the saccharine schmaltz of those specials and its own heart-on-our-sleeves earnestness. Instead, all of the various plots felt stale and worse, dull. The show decided to go all-out on the Christmas spirit, but it decides to be so reverent that New Directions seems less like a high school glee club and more like a pious choir of saints, led by "I love Christmas, so don't make fun of it" Finn. The problem with this approach is that it sucks all the, well, glee out of the show, as if Christmas were a time of rigorous, dead-serious righteousness. There's no joy to this world, apparently.
Then there were the plots themselves. Its no surprise that Brittany would still believe in Santa, but it felt like a one-liner that was stretched to an entire A-story; there just wasn't enough there to carry a whole episode. And the big finish, with Artie walking thanks to Israeli technology, was a terribly disappointing moment that rang false; it could have been a sincerely moving moment, but the fact that it is a literal deus ex machina that we'll probably never see again makes it seem contrived and, frankly, stupid. As for Finn and Rachel, just because it's so obvious that they were going to be together, I'm kind of glad he keeps rejecting her. Its the kind of move that could (and should) push both characters to new, unexpected places. Do I think they'll make good on this? Of course not, but its still worth hoping for.
In a recent interview, Modern Family's Ed O'Neill stated that he believed Jane Lynch didn't deserve her recent Emmy win, saying, "I love Jane, I really do...but I don't think she should have gotten the Emmy for that part. [Sue Sylvester] is just a one-note character." I have to agree with a part of that. Based on last year's Sue, Lynch completely deserved the Emmy: she was a comedic tour-de-force, and Sue was a character who had depth. This season, however, Sue has become a source of malice and great non-sequiturs, but nothing else. Tonight, her antics were painfully obvious for her character, starting with the rigging of the Secret Santa and moving into her painting herself green to become the Grinch. It was very silly, but it was also a major problem: it was completely Sue without being Sue at all. Its her attitude forced into a goofy parody that's unnatural to the character herself.
The musical performances were a lot like today's Christmas songs: faithful, pleasant, and boring. The song selections themselves were oddly safe, with little in the way of upbeat songs in favor of mid-tempo ballads and more traditional fare. I was actually surprised that Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" wasn't included (which always reminds me of Love Actually, a guilty pleasure of mine - if you haven't seen it, do so now). Its the second episode this season that's had bland performances, and since this is a show that's hanging on by its musical numbers, that's a disturbing fact. Hopefully, these will be isolated cases.
Will this episode of Glee become a Christmas classic? I doubt it. It aims to celebrate the season of giving, but completely forgets the celebrating part. It should have been a lot more fun than this.
- By the way, it was insinuated that Coach Biest got the robo-legs for Artie. So a school teacher from Ohio was able to obtain and afford obscure Israeli technology within a day: I know I shouldn't be so critical of realism in a television musical, but come on. Has this show jumped the shark? Discuss.
- Finn's quickly turning into the holiday guy: he got a kick out of Halloween too, remember?
- I didn't even mention Kurt and Blaine's duet of the date-rape Christmas classic "Baby, It's Cold Outside." And that's because I completely forgot Kurt was even in this episode. Which isn't good.
- I feel that one day the piano guy is going to have a very, very big moment to himself. What does he even do, besides magically show up to play the piano?
- By the way, there was a recent announcement that in 2012 (the end of season three) the show will graduate its main characters. Let's up they find a new cast of high schoolers rather than following them to college, which has proven to be the Afghanistan of teen shows (for those who don't understand that reference, Afghanistan is known as the "graveyard of empires," since most empires that try to conquer it collapse soon afterwards).
- Also, the show won't return until the Super Bowl episode in February. What do you think: jock rock theme episode?
- Wit 'n' Wisdom of Sue Sylvester: "You're a regular Agatha Christie, except even more sexless."


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Ok, the Agatha Christie line made me laugh, but you're dead on. All I could think was: How many times do they have to tell me Sue has a soul? I *know* she has a soul. I've seen it in every other ep. Also, Brittany may still believe in Santa, but surely she knows the difference between "tan" Snata, Coach Bieste, and her own Coach Sue?

I liked the episode as a standalone, but, like so many "theme" eps (Rocky Horror, Britney Spears?) it doesn't work within the Glee universe itself.

Jason H. said...

I completely agree. Its not enough to just remind us that Sue has a soul - there needs to be a development from this.

I'm really against "theme" episodes for that very reason: despite their efforts, they don't fit into the greater mythology of the show. They need to quit them before the show becomes a cover-band "American Bandstand."