Monday, February 7, 2011

Glee: "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle"

* I apologize for my long leave of absence from this blog - I've had a rough week-and-a-half since I last wrote on here. But I'm back, so rejoice! *

It shouldn't be all that surprising that Glee landed the posh post-Super Bowl spot this year. The show is a massive pop cultural phenomenon, garnering big ratings for Fox and having produced more hit singles than the Beatles, according to Billboard. But the juxtaposition of the biggest sporting event in America and a show about a rag-tag bunch of singing-and-dancing high schoolers is a bit odd, at least on the surface. On a thematic level, though, Glee pairs quite well with the Super Bowl: in the latter, we love an underdog story, such as scrappy upstarts like the Green Bay Packers riding a five-game winning streak to win a title that few thought would happen at the beginning of the season. And isn't that exactly what Glee is all about?

But football fans and Gleeks probably don't intersect much, and the show seemed to realize that by making this extended episode something for everyone. It starts off with the show's most elaborate performance yet, as the Cheerios don blue wigs, bikinis, and sparkling cone bras as BMX bikers perform various stunts behind them, all set to Katy Perry's "California Gurls." It was a decent opening number, and though it ostensibly kicked off Sue's subplot for the episode, in reality it was obviously meant to keep viewers from changing the channel once the game was over, a spectacle simply for spectacle's sake (and with 26.8 million viewers last night, the show's best numbers ever and the highest-rated scripted show on any network in three years, it certainly paid off). From there, things broke off into two plots. First, the tension between the football team and New Directions came to a head when Coach Bieste and Will decided to have the former join the latter, in an attempt to build unity before the big championship game. Meanwhile, Sue decides to buy a human cannon for the Cheerios to use at Nationals, with the intent of firing Brittany out of it.

A lot happens in "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle," but surprisingly, its not a Ryan Murphy episode (this really is stunning to me, seeing as how this practically demanded his bigger-is-better sensibilities). Instead, Ian Brennan scripted this one, making for an odd episode for him. The good news is that there's some very interesting character moments here, especially with Karofsky. He was brought into the forefront this season for the sole purpose of bullying Kurt, but last night he became the most interesting character of the show. He visibly wrestles with his conflicting feelings, enjoying the acceptance of the glee club but rejecting it out of anger and a need to remain "normal." I'm hoping against hope that the show continues to make him interesting without carrying the "angry closeted kid" personality too long.

Other than that, though, there really wasn't much going on here, character-wise. Will is mostly there to break up fights, Finn plays the tragic leader, and everybody else mostly runs on autopilot. I wasn't terribly fond of the entire Sue subplot; this season Sue has been devolving from brilliant comic creation to unrealistic, only-in-sitcoms wacky woman. There's not much about her anymore that's believable, which is what made her so terrific in the first place: despite the hilarious quips, she was a person that we could relate to, or at least knew at some point in time. She's not grounded like that anymore, though, which is quickly becoming a problem.

The football that was played in this episode was also a bit of a problem. This is not a show that's supposed to be about sports, so maybe it can be forgiven a bit. But having the girls come out to play for the team in a moment of "anything you can do I can do better," only to have them drop to the ground at the snap because they're afraid? Way to make a feminist statement. And the action wasn't believable or excited, but, again, Friday Night Lights this is not.

So how were the performances? More hit than miss. Rachel and Puck's "Need You Now" was a lovely piece. But the guys, in zombie makeup, performing "She's Not Here" by....The Zombies? A decent performance, but lame joke and completely unnecessary filler. The same can be said about "Bills, Bills, Bills," which was nothing more than an excuse to shoehorn Darren Criss and Chris Colfer into the episode (not that fans will complain). But the "Thriller/Heads Will Roll" mash-up that served as the episode's climax was easily the best number the show has done in a long time. Maybe it was the inspired song selections or the excellent choreography, but they sold it perfectly.

Overall it was a good episode, mostly thanks to the performances rather than plot or character development (I know I should be at the point where I've given up on waiting for that to happen, but I just can't give in yet). The show hasn't obviously used its time off to retool itself, sticking with an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, but its popular enough at this point to where, from a commercial point of view, why should they?

- I'm glad no one shot cream from their breasts in the "California Gurls" number.

- For those who don't know, the title is based off of "The Super Bowl Shuffle," which was a pop hit song recorded by the 1985 Chicago Bears, who would go on to win the Super Bowl. You can check it out below:

Chicago Bears - Superbowl Shuffle
Uploaded by jpdc11. - Explore more music videos.

- Another way you can tell it wasn't a Ryan Murphy episode: the phrase "Super Bowl" was only used once, as opposed to every other sentence.

- Katie Couric was totally wasted in this episode. I can't even tell if her scene was real or if it was supposed to be a fantasy sequence.

- Wit 'n' Wisdom of Sue Sylvester: "You don't go in that cannon and this routine will be all boom-boom and no pow. And that, Brittany, is so two-thousand and late."


Simon said...

The Hockey Team development made me laugh.

Jason H. said...

I'm pretty sure that's the first time the hockey team's ever been mentioned. And I feel like it may be the last.