Oh, “Glee”, why don’t I love you?
I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. It’s not the high school setting – I loved both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Veronica Mars” – and it’s certainly not the fact that it’s a musical. Sometimes, it grabs my attention, I get caught up in it, and I start to fall in love with it, but somehow “Glee” never holds my attention beyond the next commercial break, and it’s a little hard to put my finger on the reasons why.
The show, certainly, has flashes of genius. Mercedes singing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” – a song I really, really don’t like – at the pep rally was genuinely moving, even if you could see that particular musical selection coming half-a-dozen scenes in advance. The big chorus numbers are often exciting, even if the musical arrangements tend to pummel whatever song is being performed into middle-of-the-road sludge with a power-pop backing track. Brittany – who finds recipes confusing, thinks dolphins are gay sharks, and doesn’t know how to turn on a computer – is a brilliant creation (and has been getting more and more to do), and Heather Morris’s performance is both flawless and hysterically funny. The relationship between the flamboyantly gay Kurt and his straight-as-they-come father is sensitively and touchingly handled, and Kevin McHale and the writers do a generally good job of portraying the paraplegic Artie Abrams. Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester is a powerhouse villain; Lynch has grabbed hold of the show’s showiest role with both hands, and is clearly having a wonderful time spitting out her character’s ever more evil/deranged one-liners. And the guest stars are usually cleverly cast, and often get the best of the writing.
And yet, and yet… I still haven’t fallen in love with the show, and every week there’s something in it that has me hitting the fast-forward button. This week, it was the excruciatingly self-indulgent vocals in Idina Menzel and Lea Michele’s duet of “I Dreamed a Dream” – it started well enough, but then very quickly took a swan-dive into the land that taste forgot, becoming so unpleasant that I had to hit the button and Make It Stop. The writing for the principal characters is often not as clever as it thinks it is, and some of the central casting is problematic. Lea Michele acts her character perfectly, but pulls ridiculous faces when she sings; part of the problem with “I Dreamed a Dream” tonight was that when she hit a big note she looked like she was trying to poo out a microwave (to be fair, Ms. Menzel, here, must share the blame, since she was equally dreadful). Matthew Morrison’s Mr. Schuster comes alive whenever he sings, which is fortunate because when he’s not singing it’s as if some scientist has found a way to deliver a dose of Mogadon via the technological miracle of television. Cory Monteith doesn’t even come alive when he’s singing, though his adenoidal vocals and ditchwater-dull acting will certainly make you want to contemplate his mortality. The show’s music team have clearly spent a little bit too long watching American Idol and X-Factor, and are rather too ready to apply those production techniques to music that would be better suited to a more restrained approach (and we’re back to tonight’s desecration of “I Dreamed a Dream”). And so on. For everything I genuinely enjoy about the show, there’s another thing that makes me wince and reach for the remote.
And that’s too bad, because I really wanted to love it, and I just can’t. Some of it’s great and a lot of it’s good – but some of it’s flat, and some of it is flat-out bad. I’m still watching, but – to quote a much, much better musical – a lot of the time, I’m sorry-grateful.