Friday Night Lights: The Musical! or Glee‘s After-School Sing-a-long
I’ll just get this out of the way from the get-go. (1) I’m taken aback by how good Lea Michele looks in denim and perhaps annoyed by how good Rachel looks in her glee costumes, while looking so doofy in her own clothes. Perhaps we’re simply supposed to accept that just as their voices sound better than they would in real life, the performance costumes make them all look like bigger, better, and sexier versions of themselves. (2) “Enjoy it while you can, Weezie” wins for best (yet still offensive) line of the episode if not the season.
Wow. I’m just really a bit flabbergasted. I feel like the “powers that Glee” (PTG) are really trying to combat complaints of minimal plot development. After last week’s most excellent narrative-filled musical numbers, my hopes were high that they could maintain momentum this week. It looked like they might be able to pull it off, but then it became Glee meets Friday Night Lights. Say it ain’t so! Anyway, to me it seems as if they’re amid a generic struggle. The musical—old school, at least—is not known for its riveting narrative development, but instead lets the music do its talking. Last week worked just that way. “Run, Joey, Run” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” projected the show’s burgeoning love triangle through what it does best—dazzling video-esque numbers. So, kudos PTG.
This week they almost scored with the same tactic. They came ever so close to doing what musicals do well. It looked as if the episode was really embracing the traditions of the genre. “Jessie’s Girl” provided a fabulous mix of show-number and personal development soliloquy. (And, come on, it’s “Jessie’s Girl.” It made my day at least 5% better by its mere inclusion.) The episode did an amazing job of using the duet (until they ruined it). Secondary players took center and deftly blended musical integration and glee club performances. Mercedes and Santana’s duet of “The Boy is Mine” melded a fierce narrative moment with classroom performance and then allowed the action to ultimately transcend the bounds of the song as the girls continued their catfight. (It was a little bit Dreamgirls.) Mercedes spontaneously joining Puck in “The Lady is a Tramp” was a touch of integrated perfection. Kurt’s bookended solos—“Pink Houses” and “Rose’s (Kurt’s) Turn”—provided painfully poignant moments for a guy who has surely had some narrative high points, but doesn’t generally develop very far within the narrative. I particularly liked the latter number (no offense, Mr. Mellencamp) and the lurky way his father appeared. It felt very old school, when someone’s true feelings come through in the solo and a love interest happens upon the scene. The following moments between father and son were heartbreaking, heartwarming, and all around fabulous. (Equaling that extremely touching moment was Kurt asking Brittany, “what do boys’ lips taste like?”)
Then it happened. TPG tried to kill the episode. While they had been using musical integration beautifully to project inner turmoil and relational conflict to a level perhaps heretofore unaccomplished on the show, they went one step too far. They betrayed the old school version of the genre and went very special episode. They tried to make the narrative go too far, too heartfelt, and well, just too weird. Everyone knows what I mean. The plotline with the paralyzed ex-football player was just uncomfortable and exploitative, and by trying to fit him into the Glee format TPG created a giant, awkward, and offensive intrusion on an otherwise touching episode. I’ll simply leave some questions here. Why did we need that plotline? Really, tonsillitis = total paralysis? Was it supposed to be Rachel’s version of Sue’s sister? Why did the poor guy have to be naked in the 2nd scene? Why is he the only guy not to have an overproduced voice (so he’s not only trapped in his damaged body, but he’s also trapped in his ill-sounding and unenhanced voice)? Why does Rachel not sound, act, or move like Rachel in that scene? Did Lea just know how bad it was? Why do they leave a nice group number (that almost allows you to forget how uncomfortable you just were) to return to the narrative-killing scene and the worst vocal stylings since early episodes of American Idol? If they want us to pretend that the over-production is “real,” perhaps they shouldn’t point out that it isn’t. Use your head, PTG!