REVIEW: Glee – The Complete First Season

Glee has become somewhat of a phenomenon since it debuted on FOX last May. In the course of a single season, Glee has seen several awards, including a Golden Globe for “Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy,” the cast has gone on tour, sang the national anthem at the World Series, performed at the White House, been picked up for two more seasons, and released four studio albums, which broke a record previously set the The Beatles in 1966 for shortest time between first week number one releases. Maybe “phenomenon” is an understatement?

I was introduced to Glee in May of last year by some coworkers who were astounded by it’s pilot episode, mainly the cast’s rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” At the time I wasn’t too interested, but when September came and everyone started asking me if I had seen the newest episodes I decided to catch up. Since them I’ve been hooked, making sure I watch every episode the night it airs, purchasing all of the albums (except “The Power of Madonna,” more on that later), and jumping at every bit of Glee news I could find. I had officially become a “gleek,” and for good reason.

A lot of people have compared Glee to the High School Musical series of films because they have pretty much the same premise. I myself have never seen the High School Musical films, but I can’t imagine Disney allowing such adult content into their movies. In season one alone, Glee covered homosexuality, drug use, teenage pregnancy, infidelity, divorce – essentially what most normal highschoolers would encounter in their years. And they do it all while providing a flowing, unique story and memorable music numbers. For the first part of the season, at least.

The first part of the season, comprised of the first 13 episodes (or, “Road to Sectionals,” if you will) was the highlight of the season. During this time, Glee was still picking up steam, getting people hooked and leaving them coming back for more. It also had a pretty fluid narrative, with a lot of different stories all weaved into one. The song choice, though sometimes odd, all seemed to fit into that story. A perfect example of this is the episode “Ballad” where Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) sings “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka. The story came first and the songs were chosen to compliment it. And when the final moments of “Sectionals” roll past, you feel as if it was the season finale for the show, rather than just a breaking point.

After the winter break, when Glee returned in April, the show had already become an international sensation. Now they didn’t have to try so hard to get anyone’s attention. They had already gotten it and were running free. This is where we saw a wide variety of celebrity guests. Neil Patrick Harris, Molly Shannon, Olivia Newton-John, Idina Menzel, John Michael Higgins, and the return of Kristen Chenoweth all appear, mostly briefly, in the nine-episode span, and mostly for no apparent reason. I mean, was Molly Shannon’s character really necessary to mock Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch)? Anyone could have supplied that. Usually when a show casts so many guest stars they’re trying to draw in ratings. Clearly Glee didn’t need that, so what gives?

Also, during this part of the season, the show lacked a main story to drive it along. Sure, we had the mother drama with Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Shelby Chocoran (Idina Menzel), and there was a little bit of a love story with Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), but there wasn’t a common theme between the episodes. Other than Regionals, which didn’t get nearly enough attention or build-up as Sectionals did, and ultimately Quinn Fabray’s (Dianna Agron) baby, there wasn’t anything to look forward to in the actual season finale.

What the show did have during the second half was an overabundance of music. Glee without music is pointless, but there’s only so much I can take. While the show averaged about three to four musical numbers in the first 13 episodes, it averaged roughly six musical numbers in the following nine episodes, most of which were thematically chosen. One episode was devoted entirely to Madonna. For what reason? That episode brought nothing of note to the story of the show. It did, however, give the creators a reason to have Sue Sylvester sing, which they repeated only once and I hope they never do it again. Jane Lynch does an amazing job in the show, but because of her comedic insight, not her singing voice. Then we had a Lady Gaga themed episode, though they only sang two of her songs, one of which, “Poker Face,” had no reason to be sung between the mother-daughter duo of Rachel and Shelby. I personally would have gone with “Brown Eyes.” It would have fit the slower tone they decided to go with, and would have fit the context just a little bit better.

The second half of the season did give us a few good things, however. Matt Rutherford (Dijon Talton) finally had some speaking roles, and Brittany (Heather Morris) and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) had a lot more appearances, the latter of which actually got to show off her vocals in “The Boy is Mine” during the “Laryngitis” episode. And anytime Brittany opens her mouth is the best moment of the episode. I’ve read online that the shows creators want to give those two girls a larger role next season, and I really hope they do, as well as for Matt and Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.).

Overall, I’ve enjoyed Glee from the beginning, despite some of the many setbacks the show started to have towards the end. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, I suggest you do. A DVD of the first thirteen episodes is already on sale, and a complete season DVD will be available September 14 in the US. Hopefully over the next two, already-announced seasons we’ll see the show grow a little more and try not to forget what makes it great.

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