Thursday, October 13, 2011

On TV shows that aren't meant to be watched as marathons: Glee

Okay, so the problem with Netflix is that when you find a show that's available in full seasons, the temptation exists to watch them, well, in full seasons. You tell yourself you're going to watch two episodes, and then it's late but there's time for one more, but that one was a two-parter and now you have to watch the second part, and before you know it you're asleep in front of the TV, dreaming that you're sitting at a piano and Lea Michele is circling you like a shark, and you wake up screaming.

And as you watch, little things start to jump out at you: Rachel says something obnoxious in three... two... one... There. Mr. Schue hands out an awkwardly conceived theme assignment in three... two... one... There. Accompanist(s) appear without warning in three... two... one... There. After-school-special moral in three... two... All things that would seem quasi-natural (natural for a musical-comedy TV show) one episode at a time become annoyingly predictable in sequence.

So no, Glee isn't meant to be watched as a marathon. There are just too many tropes that are hard to ignore when they're stacked on top of each other.

1. Finn and the drums. For some reason, Finn Hudson always ends up on the drums. Always. He's on the drums. He's singing and on the drums. He's singing and on the drums and then… walking away from the drums. That other guy is on the drums, and somehow Finn is back there playing too. And Finn knows all of two rhythms. Finn, just give John back his drumsticks and go back to singing in a tenor that's kind of disconcerting from a man of your size. Give him--Finn, give him the sti--Drop it. Drop it.

2. Poop notes. Lea Michele/Rachel Berry is passionate about her music. So passionate, in fact, that each high note has to be laid like an egg. Watch the way she squats down, squints her eyes, and wails out that note--it's equal parts "feeling the music" and "needing more roughage." (Now that Blaine has transferred to McKinley, we see more of Darren Criss's approach, which involves squinting his eyes, wrinkling his nose, and turning his head in the classic, "Jesus, God, who beefed?")

3. Asian kids are Asian. Things that Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang (unrelated; dating; because all Asians are named "Chang," right?) talk about: Asian food, Asian couple's counseling, "Asian kiss[es]," getting an "Asian F," and Asian Santa Claus. And something about tea made from panda hair. Because they're Asian!

3a. Mercedes is big and black. And sassy! Had you noticed? She sings about weaves and tater-tots and says "hell to the no" a lot. (Also: Kurt is gay and wears designer clothes and sings songs written for girls!)

4. The Grand Piano Derby. Put Rachel, Finn--frankly, put any of the kids up next to the grand piano and they'll end up circling it over and over and over as they sing like they're looking for an opening to pounce. I'm just waiting for the day poor Brad finally gets uncontrollably queasy and barfs on Rachel's penny loafers.

5. Nude erections. Say it. "And now, some song weakly shoehorned into the theme of the week, performed by the Nude Erections." Say it out loud.

Glee remains fun--just in measured doses. Keep at least a week between episodes, and you might not notice the constant barrage of "Lauren Zizes is fat, but she thinks she's super hot!" jokes and find the character kind of cool and entertaining. And we have to give Sue Sylvester credit for her Tupperware-esque shelf life: Even an episode that's stale as vending-machine crackers can be perked up with a cheerleader cannon and a reference to her time in Special Forces.


zenbubba said...

New Directions would be an outstanding name for a gay bar

Chuck said...

Couldn't disagree about small doses more. I resisted the show, but my youngest daughter kept telling me I had to watch it. so it was on Netflix, like you said, and the wife, let's try it out. A week later, and we had blown through 22 episodes, and signed up for free week of Hulu+ so we could blow through another 22. Then we had to get little IV drips one episode at a time. I prefer the overdose without commercial interruption.

Everything you say about the stereotypes and the formulaic script is true. Still, the shows are fun. Sue Sylvester is a hoot. That's the way Chuck "Cs" it.

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