Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jordan's Review: Glee, Season 1, Episode 20: Theatricality

I am a Lady Gaga fan. I think she's doing some very interesting things with pop music and with performance, I think her fashion choices are raised to the level of modern art, and most importantly, I think her music is very, very catchy. So when I heard that Glee was doing a Lady Gaga episode, my first question was, of course, "Howes to can Glee screw this up?" The show manages to wreak havoc with a lot of good material, and over the course of this season the show has pretty much convinced me that it can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time it wants to.

"Theatricality" is another episode built on a premise that is just fucking stupid if you think about it for 30 seconds. This week, Figgins believes in vampires and then irrationally associates this ridiculous belief with being Goth and so bans Tina from dressing how she likes. Instead of suing Figgins for discrimination, or trying to get him fired for being clearly insane, Tina decides to participate in this week's horribly contrived Glee assignment: dress up like Lady Gaga and sing one of her songs. At this point, the episode promptly forgets that its a Tina episode until the last thirty seconds and goes off on a bunch of tangents that aren't really related at all.

First of all, Glee immediately gets to work on dropping one of its few promising storylines. It seems Idina Menzel's Shelby, who concocted an elaborate plan to get Rachel to find her literally last week, has decided that she doesn't want to be in Rachel's life anymore. Let's ignore the fact that Rachel, Quinn, and Mercedes were apparently friends this week (I feel like the writers just draw characters' names out of a hat to decide who are friends in any given week) and just focus on the idea that this storyline was entirely squandered. Shelby and Rachel could have developed a meaningful relationship over the course of a few weeks, or they could have failed to connect and abandoned their efforts, but for the storyline to just be so transparently dropped was flat out silly.

That's ignoring the fact that the show basically ignored its Gaga concept. Unfortunately for Glee, not just anyone can pull off Gaga, and the cast clearly couldn't make it work. The "Bad Romance" cover came off as incredibly forced and robotic, basically just forcingthe cast to go through the pre-established Gaga dance routine and failed to pull it off. And the idea of a mother and daughter dueting to "Poker Face," a song that's about fucking someone and thinking about somebody else is beyond creepy. Had the writers thought for even a minute about the story they were telling, they could have had Rachel sing "Speechless," a song about parental issues and the fear of abandonment, but instead they had Shelby croon at her daughter about "bluffin' with my muffin." Why? I can only imagine because the recording of the cast of Glee singing "Poker Face" will sell better. And that has clearly become a factor in the writing of the show.

One thing about this episode worked though. The relationship between Kurt and his father yet again provided by far the most powerful scene tonight, and Mike O'Malley's defense of Kurt after Finn called his decorations "faggy" was a powerhouse scene that packed a real emotional punch. That Kurt's dad was so quick to abandon any pretense of bonding with Finn, and in fact kicked him out of the house, at a hint of hate speech from Finn was dead on and truly moving. O'Malley has come a long way since his days on Yes, Dear and he is giving a consistently excellent performance as Kurt's Dad. If the show were just about those two characters, I would be honestly invested and actually excited about where the show could go. As it is, Glee just continues to turn out shitty episode after shitty episode. I loved the Kurt and his dad scene, but the rest of it is a giant train wreck. And that isn't at all surprising at this point.

Grade: C

Notes:

-If you were born in 1994 (as these characters are supposed to have been, as scary and unrealistic as that is), I don't think your choice of masculine band is KISS. I'm not even sure you know who KISS is...

-Is that black kid a new character or just another shell of a background character?

-Rachel on the paino guy: "He's always just...around..."

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