Are you watching Glee? Could you let me in on the joke?

Photo By watchwithkristin on FlickrPhoto By watchwithkristin on Flickr

If you’re not familiar with Glee by now you must be living under a rock.  After all, the hit TV show has not only garnered a huge fan base, but has spawned albums and a tour.

But I don’t get it.

I don’t just mean I dislike it, though I do, I really have no idea what the hell it is supposed to be.

Is it inspirational? A musical? A comedy? If you’d agree with any of the above, we must be watching different shows.

I’ve heard the writing described as “smart” and “funny.”  Jane Lynch is funny, but Jane Lynch is the only one who knows she’s on a comedy. And because Lynch’s character is so over the top, everyone else is just underwhelming.

If you look at a show like The Office or Parks and Recreation, you see a cast full of weirdos, being really weird.  They’re hilarious and really well done.

But Glee feels like an after school special.  I am half expecting them to suggest “Hugs Not Drugs” – or at least I would be if they weren’t so preoccupied with trying to cover pop songs.

I don’t hate musicals like The Guardian’s Stuart Hedge.  In fact, I really like good musicals (Grease, Wicked, Chicago, The Sound of Music, and Mama Mia even).  But Glee isn’t really a musical, it’s a karaoke show based on a bunch of kids who are supposed to be misfits… or losers… or something (they’re no Breakfast Club).  I guess I’m supposed to be able to identify with them, but I don’t.

And yet, with the exception of the general musical haters, I seem to be mostly on my own on this.

Needless to say, I was pleased to see the dissent starting from gossip blogger Lainey:

They just sing at each other. And look really great doing it. But when you break it down, really, it’s just one long music video with Sue Sylvester occasionally flinging a zinger.  . . .  what’s stopping me from listening to the original versions of every song and saving an hour of tv time in the process?

The masses might not have been with me at the beginning, but at this rate they’ll be with me in the end!

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5 thoughts on “Are you watching Glee? Could you let me in on the joke?

  1. Nailed it. Sometimes the writing is clever – particularly when Lynch is in the scene. Before the mid-season football break there seemed to be a genuine plot, and many of the actors seem to be able to sing genuinely enough, but lately it feels like they’re just trying to awkwardly write their way from one pop karaoke number to the next. If there were any original pieces in the show at all, then I might consider it musical comedy. Right now it’s more like serialized American Idol. But isn’t that more or less what glee club was in high school?

    Of course, it makes my girlfriend happy. So, yeah, it’s alright.

  2. I think the bottom line is made pretty clear in your post. The show has spun off Tours and Albums. The show is about the music! I think the audiences are connecting to the accessible musical being presented direct to their homes.

    I’ve only seen one episode, and it didn’t really blow my socks off. However, I really did enjoy the music portions. I’ve seen much flimsier stories presented in a musical and the ones you mention happen to be “best-of-breed” with both great music and stories. That said, while watching Glee I was more or less waiting for the next song to start.

    Now whether or not you want to listen to the originals is your own choice. Glee’s arrangements are fare more creative than your average cover and the music video dancing segments are fun to watch. And if you walk into it with that perspective and an innocent need for a passable coming-of-age story, I think you come out ok.

    (Lastly, “Rock of Ages”, “Jersey Boys”, and “Mamma Mia” are all successful musicals that make use of cover songs. That would make Glee as much a musical as these shows in terms of original music. Connecting to the story or characters will be up to each individual person’s demographic and personal taste.)

    1. Oh Kev, I didn’t expect this from you! 😉

      The trouble I see with thinking of it as just a musical is a) it clearly wants to be more and b) the music isn’t done as well as it should be if it is going to be a musical show. The singing is fine, but it is not magnificent. The singers in stage shows are much stronger and much more interesting to watch. Maybe that is why movie versions of stage shows aren’t as good – they just can’t duplicate the feeling of seeing it live.

      To make a musical good, the songs have to advance the story (Mamma Mia is questionable, I know). There are plenty of musicals that totally suck because they singing without necessity.

      In Glee, they sing pop songs. Let’s not kid ourselves here – those songs are not about the lyrics in most cases. So if the music doesn’t help the story, and the singers are blowing me away? What’s the point.

      At least in American Idol they are just about covering songs. They’re not always the most interesting, but it is about the singing only. There aren’t any attempts to make me laugh at Sue Sylvestre’s jokes or weird story lines.

      You’ve gotta know what you are if you’re going to be any good. Pick one, Glee.

  3. Agreed the difference between a good musical and just singing songs is the creative use of the songs to advance the story. So I think we are now agreed, then, that Glee is a musical, just not a very good one if put into that genre. To be fair, it’s a weekly TV show. Neither the budget nor the timeframe will match the expectations or output of a full blown musical – live or as a motion picture. To give credit to the singers, they are singing a rather wide variety of music and while may be falling flat on your TV, if given a live performance they might fare a bit better when compared to Broadway or American Idol. For what it’s worth, I rather enjoyed the cover of Van Halen’s “Jump” with their replacement of the opening synth with a vocal chorus.

    Given what it is, a weekly glee-club recital with a story, I think Glee is doing a fine job though it may not be living up to the standards or expectations of musical drama. And let’s face it, if you want the semblance of a musical on your TV and without the overdone pomp of American Idol, then Glee is in a class of its own.

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