It's over, okay?
The arms I’m bidding farewell to are the many arms that embraced people in this episode: Santana’s round Britney, Kurt’s round Rachel, Rachel’s round Sunshine, everyones’ round Mr Shue. It was the exact opposite of Seinfeld’s ‘no hugging, no learning’ mantra. There was nothing but hugging and learning, in fact. And so, sad as it is to say ta-ta to a show one has followed from the start, I won’t be looking for a consoling hug from anyone. Unless Puck’s available. We’ve grown apart, Glee and I. It would be undignified for me to follow it slavishly into the next season by purchasing a Sky package or, more realistically, downloading it from some dodgy site. No, it’s time to let it go. If for no other reason that my credulity that these seasoned hoofers are school-kids is already stretched to screaming point.
This last episode was a microcosm of everything that makes Glee so great and so terrible. And alas, as with most episodes, the latter outweighed to former.
There were some terrific moments. The show being set in New York, it was inevitable that the score would be Gershwin and lifted straight from Manhattan, but hey, it worked. And how nice to hear the gorgeous opening bars of Rhapsody in Blue without having to listen to Woody whinging about his seventeen year-old girlfriend.
I know we don’t watch Glee for its gritty realism. I accept that in real life, high schools aren’t crammed with elderly-looking kids who all have Broadway-standard singing voices. A certain suspension of disbelief is vital in Glee-land, we understand that. But the writers mess with this too much, provoking even uncritical fans into yelling at the telly, ‘AAARGH! That’s just SO unrealistic.’
This week I give you:
- An all-boys school in which gay students are not only warmly welcomed, but are leaders of the pack.
- An epidemic of students – female as well as male – imagining the football coach to stave off premature arrival, and calling out her name, yet!
- Coach Beiste claiming to be forty.
- Puck returning from juvenile detention centre with an orange tan and a certain plumpness around the cheeks. Did he have some work done while in there?
- The least plausible make-out scene ever in the history of television (between Tina and Mike).
So wrong it's right.
I checked the credits to see if two writers shared this week’s episode, as the main storylines were of such differing quality. But no – step up, lone writer Mr Brad Falchuk, clearly a fellow wrestling with the effects of strong medication. He holds responsibility for the Grilled Cheesus debacle, but also wrote the wonderful Preggers episode in Season 1, in which the football team did All The Single Ladies. In this current episode how could the same person who gave us the superb storyline between Kurt and Dave-the-Bully also give us the face-palmingly awful Coach Beiste plot? I’m afraid I have no answers, only questions.
Can you have too much glee? I don’t honestly know, but Glee seems to be a little short of glee right now and suffering from diabetes-threatening levels of sugar instead
Three story strands were woven through the episode: Rachel losing her voice through laryngitis, Kurt trying to win his dad back from Finn and Puck trying to get his popularity back after losing his mohawk (it was shaved off after his mother found a mole on his head while washing his hair).
Puck got all the best lines. Talking to Santana about losing his hair – “They maimed me over a freaking mole. I feel like that guy who lost all his hair, then lost all his power.” Santana: “Samson?” Puck : Agassi.”; working out that dating Mercedes could make him cool again: “Get ready black girl from Glee club whose name I can’t remember right now. The Puckster is about to make you his.”; When his initial bid to persuade Mercedes to date him is failing: “I’m a sex shark. If I stop moving, I die.”
And having turned a bit Robbie Williams (confession reader, it might not be cool, but I do love the Robster), with a hat and a Sammy Davis Jr song, he wins Mercedes over. (Frankly, I like him a lot better without the dumb haircut – I’m hoping the writers find a reason to stop the damn thing growing back.) This puts Mercedes on a collision course with a possessive Santana and cues a passionate sing-off of The Boy is Mine and near-fisticuffs in the rehearsal room. Thankfully Mercedes dumps Puck – because she is too good for him – leaving the writers room to set him up with someone else next week.
Reminding us why she is the star of the show, Rachel blew the competition away with her superb rendition of Don’t Rain On My Parade. It’s good she’s resisted doing Barbra till now; this was the perfect moment for her to demonstrate how well she suits that power-house, roof-raising, put-the-show-on-right-now performance that usually only Babs can get away with. It was wonderful. I had a tear in my eye, for god’s sake! Rachel explained she could do it as a last minute thing because ‘I’ve been working on it since I was four’.
The rest of the episode couldn’t live up to this. Plenty of storylines came to an end: Finn discovered the truth about Quinn’s baby; Glee Club realised Sue had leaked their set-list; Will left Terri; and Emma didn’t marry Ken. But none of this was surprising – we’d either been told or guessed. Certainly none of it had the sheer excitement of Rachel running down the central aisle of the auditorium, belting out ‘I’m gonna live and live NOW! Get what I want, I know how!’ Might have to watch it again in a sec.
Mercedes did have one belter of a song, but it wasn’t as impressive as her colleagues implied with their awe-struck expressions. The best part was before she began, tossing over her shoulder to Cool Piano Man, ‘Do I even have to tell you what song?’ He immediately started playing the opening chords of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, which apparently is a standard but I’d never heard it before, and wouldn’t be sorry if I never heard it again. No-one else had much chance to shine, a shame given it was the last episode.
Even Sue seemed subdued, and too easily crushed by Principal Figgins. She had one great put-down, to Will, of course: ‘I’m reasonably confident you’re going to add revenge to the long list of things you’re no good at, right next to being married, running a glee club and finding a hairstyle that doesn’t make you look like a lesbian’. Good to see her getting in one more dig about the poor man’s hair. Their chemistry is terrific; I keep hoping one of them will grab the other and deliver a great big snog, though Will saved that for Emma. His loss, I think.
Thank god for Kurt and Sue Sylvester, I cry, and not for the first time. Without them, and the baaaaad girls from Jane Addams Academy, this episode would have been just too grim. The scene where the kids from the deaf school sing Imagine, and the McKinley kids barge in to join them (why? Did they think we couldn’t handle it sung by a deaf kid?) was just horrible. I barfed all over my Radio Times. I’m a big John Lennon fan, but Imagine is one of the most toe-curling songs out there. Why did the deaf students have to be represented in such a patronisingly uncool way? Their song, choreography and school uniforms – all uncool. This is definitely not the episode to start with if you’re planning to introduce a friend to Glee (though I guess it would be sort of weird, anyway, to begin at episode 11, so forget I said anything). Bad, Glee, very very bad. We’re going to fall out if this sort of thing continues.
Let’s focus on the good bits, as Gok Wan says. I loved the sassy Jane Addams teacher (played by singer Eve), who insisted on calling their group ‘show choir’ even as the girls were wiggling barely-covered bottoms and flicking their hair around like pole-dancers. I adored Aphasia (crazy name, crazy girl), who pinched Will’s wallet like a modern Artful Dodger. I very much enjoyed Brittany explaining how hairography works (‘you pretend like you’re getting tasered. It’s like cool epilepsy’); and I was rather taken with Will, up to his elbows in grease after working on his new car, saying ‘I feel like I’m in a Springsteen song’.
But really, it was all about Sue and Kurt. Sue had two great scenes. The first, when she boasted about her coaching prowess as reported in Splits, and curtly asked Will to return the magazine though he hadn’t gone near it. The second, her attempt to collude with the other schools’ teachers. To the affronted response of, ‘Who do you think I am?’, Sue said smoothly, ‘That’s a very good question because I’ve forgotten both your names.’ She’s just so deliciously true to herself.
This was another gloriously Terri-free episode, making me insanely optimistic that the writers have come to their senses and just quietly dropped the whole fake-pregnancy thing. Please, next time we see Terri, can she be filing for divorce on the grounds that Will is too good for her, and moving to Acapulco? Well, as Glee tells us, a girl can dream.
As can a boy with a very high voice. Kurt’s lifelong ambition to sing some crummily boring song from Wicked was nearly fulfilled, when he and Rachel battled it out with their high F’s. But Kurt blew the top note, and thus threw the audition, claiming it was so his dad wouldn’t have to live with the inevitable taunts. Er, hell-o? Kurt even breathes in a camp fashion. How would singing a showtune humiliate his macho dad any more than he is already, a million times a day? More likely Kurt suddenly realised what a rotten song it was, and decided not to embarrass his pa with such a shoddy musical choice.
The main theme this week was raising money for an Artie-friendly bus. Will insisted the club not only hold a bake-sale, but that the students spend a week in a wheelchair. All this was very well-handled; the many petty indignities faced by wheelchair users, the unthinking way disabled people’s opinions are assumed, rather than sought… I’m making it sound humourless but it wasn’t at all. It was rather moving, particularly Artie’s Dancing with myself. It would be a sour able-bodied meanie who didn’t enjoy the final dance – the entire Glee Club doing wheelies in their chairs, full of esprit de corps.
This episode was all about trying to fit together two things that don’t really go. Officially, this meant Ken and Emma asking Will to mash up their disparate wedding song choices. Unofficially, this included every other pairing in the show: Glee Club and Football Club; Rachel and Puck; pork chow mein and Schindlers List; Sue and love; and Ken and Emma them very selves.
The most bizarre coupling was of course the tracksuited Iron Maiden being pranged by Cupid’s dart. What a sight it was: a happy, laughing Sue Sylvester. Not laughing because she’d just annihilated someone with a lacerating put-down, but laughing because she was dancing up a friendly swing storm with her arch-nemesis, Will. I blinked, to make it go away, but they were still there, cha-cha-ing like bezzie mates. What the hell had happened? A lobotomy or… no, Sue was in love: with Plastic Rod, news anchor and sweet-talking sleazeball. Sue threw herself into this short affair with vigour, setting a new standard of sexy talk: ‘You sunk my battleship, Rod. And you sunk it hard.’
A giddy, tender Sue was a thing of joy, though not as splendid as evil Sue, who resurfaced abruptly once Rod had cheated on her and, what’s worse, embarrassed her over the understated red Zoot suit she thought might work for a date.
It was a Sue-packed, Sue-licious, Sue-pendous episode. Terrifying in black shades and a matching black trackie, Coach Sylvester stalked the corridors of McKinley School like Gary Cooper in High Noon. Except not on the side of Good.
Revealing the depths of her hatred for Will’s curly hair (‘I can’t help but picture birds laying sulphurous eggs in there’), Sue set about splitting Glee Club by pretending to be the minority kids’ friend. Watching her tick them off on her fingers was a joy. ‘Wheels, gay kid, Asian, other Asian…’.
Of course, her dastardly plot failed, but not before we’d had an excellent sing-song in Hate On Me, and a rather dull one from Rachel with No Air. When Sue tried to stage a walk-out from this latter performance on the grounds of boringness, I had some sympathy.
Then Continue reading
When my moment finally comes, and I am called to the Great Reckoner in the Sky (Desert Island Discs, I mean), my dilemma will be which songs to choose from Cabaret. So I was in showtune heaven this week, as Rachel and April went head to head on a tingly version of Maybe this Time. It wasn’t quite Liza, but it wasn’t half bad.
April, played by the versatile Kristin Chenoweth – last seen as a sensible media consultant in The West Wing – had been wheeled in by Will, partly because she was a charismatic fire-cracker of a performer who could replace Rachel, but mainly because Will had the hots for her back in the day at school. I have a secret affinity with Kristin, because we are exactly the same height (quite small – in fact the same as Judy Garland, to bring us full circle, except obviously I can’t sing and Liza lets the side down by being a bit tall at 5 foot 4).
Kristin sparkled as a boozy, tarty, tiny washed-up cougar. She had all the best lines: ‘Can I get you a drink? I just cracked open a fresh box of wine’. When accused of being ancient by the assembled Glee clubbers, she slurred, ‘Old, huh? You guys look like the world’s worst Benetton ad’, which is completely accurate. To Rachel, also complaining ageistly about her: ‘Talent doesn’t age, sweetheart’, with the naughtiest sidelong look in the history of sidelong looks.
Of course, Continue reading
Will’s new man-band, ‘Acafellas’, resembled a Full Monty tribute act, playing to alco-popped slappers down the Ilford Palais. His abrupt dumping of Glee Club in favour of performing came from nowhere, and was hung on a too-visible hook marked, ‘Will needs to boost his confidence’.
Another slightly forced move was mean boy Puck joining the group, for the unlikely reason of wanting to meet ‘cougars’. Cougars are everywhere, all of a sudden. If only I’d known the term when I worked at the Students’ Union a few years ago, I could have styled myself a cougar – miaowww! – rather than a saggy older woman. Anyway, why does Puck need to join Acafellas in order to meet other people’s mothers, when he’s at high school, surrounded by them? I know it was merely a device to get him singing, but these things keep me awake when I should be getting my cougar beauty sleep.
The least surprising outing in the history of telly was quite sweet. Honestly, Mercedes, has there ever been anyone more gay than Kurt? It was great Kurt had more screen-time, as his funny little face is extremely watchable. Top marks this week go to him, and to the cheerleaders, for brilliantly never being seen in any outfit other than their rara skirts and knee socks. Go Cheerios!
The storyline about a famous singer didn’t resonate as I’d never heard of him. Continue reading