Around the Water Cooler: “Glee,” The Season 5 Premiere (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Glee” currently airs on network TV, specifically on FOX, Thursdays at 9:00 PM.

What: “Glee,” a musical comedy about a high school show choir or “glee club,” the show choir members’ quest for acceptance of themselves and each other, their reflections on their place in the world and in their maturation, and their attempts to survive the minefield that is high school (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/glee/summary.html).

When: The Season 5 premiere aired on Thursday, September 26, 2013, on FOX at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in fictional McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, though it also travels to New York City to follow some of the characters who have graduated high school since the series began.

Why: As a theatrical person, and traditionally an eccentric in my own right, Glee initially appealed to me on many levels.  The bigger question is: why am I still watching it?  This question is addressed below.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Glee is purely a guilty pleasure for this viewer anymore.  It’s no secret that, like many of Ryan Murphy’s other creative efforts, the show has veered pretty heavily off the rails, becoming heavily pedantic, didactic to a fault, and ridiculous as the seasons wear on.  In many ways, the appeal for anyone over the age of 16 is going to be the sheer mindless nature of it all as well as the evolution of some of the core characters, such as Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), the three characters currently seeking their fame and fortune in the Big Apple.

The biggest question right now is how the show will deal with the real-life death of Cory Monteith, the actor who played Finn Hudson, Kurt’s step-brother and Rachel’s longtime love interest.  Despite the tragedy of Monteith’s early passing, Finn was, in many ways, the character who provided the heart for the show.  He was sweet, earnest, occasionally dim, but always inspirational, and he provided a steady tempering force for the always over the top Rachel.  His loss will certainly be felt.

Of course, then there is the “new class” of characters that were introduced in season 4, including Marley, Ryder, Kitty, Wade/”Unique,” and Jake Puckerman, the brother of Noah “Puck” Puckerman (Mark Salling). Whether any of these characters become as interesting as the original class still remains to be seen – it certainly has not happened yet, though Kitty’s attempts at being the replacement Quinn Fabray are admirable in terms of her sheer bitchiness.  In addition, Brittany (Heather Morris) is now gone, and she was the most consistently comedic force for the show, providing her uniquely out-there observations and jaw-droppingly mind-numbing one-liners (and I already miss Lord Tubbington and Fondue for Two).

The fifth season premiere was the first of two episodes centered on the music of the Beatles, and the auto-tuned arrangements, though, for the most part, loyal to the original songs by the Fab Four, were cringe-worthy for this Beatles loyalist.  The developments from the premiere include Rachel’s continuing quest for the lead in “Funny Girl” on Broadway, Blaine (Darren Criss) lavishly proposing to Kurt after they decided to get back together (completely with a didactic commentary on gay marriage), and Artie (Kevin McHale) and Kitty’s new and unlikely romantic relationship. In addition, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) has become grumpy and, with help, has gravitated toward newly single Sam (Chord Overstreet).  Ne’er do well Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) has returned to the school following Becky Jackson’s confession that she furnished her own gun in the overly dramatic school shooting episode from last season, and she has decided to make Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) her new target, framing him for several illicit activities, resulting in her taking over his job while he works as a janitor.   While she does not plan to fire newly minted Cheerios Coach Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes) or Mr. Schu (Matthew Morrison) yet, she charges them with winning respective national championships at risk of losing their jobs in the future.

The action remains ridiculous.  The transition from scene to song (particularly in themed episodes like this one) is still disjointed and abrupt.  The characters are still caricatures of larger stereotypes…and yet, it’s hard to stop watching.  Like a train wreck – with attention deficit disorder.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) How will the show deal with Finn, in lieu of Monteith’s death?

2) Is Kurt really going to marry Blaine, or were the doubts he expressed to his dad going to interfere?

3) Who is that actor that Rachel was reading with in her audition?  He looks familiar.

4) The best performance of the fifth season premiere: a loving homage to one of the Beatles’ first UK singles, “I Saw Her Standing There,” where Blaine plays the part of Paul (complete with left-handed bass and trademark head waggle), Jake plays the part of half-Black John, Sam plays George, and Ryder plays Ringo.  The screen also reverts to black and white.  The performance was cute.  The worst rendition: Rachel’s “Yesterday” at the top of the episode.  If I never hear Lea Michele sing it again, it will be too soon.

5) Will Glee really last for two more seasons, per the last negotiation with FOX?  Personally, I think the fifth season should be the last, now that many of the original characters have left.

6) Why was Mercedes (Amber Riley) in this episode and given absolutely zero lines?

PARTING SHOTS

Glee has almost attained “jump the shark” status because it’s become so uneven, so by rote over the top, and so formulaic, in that it keeps following the same formula that it created in season one, with less success, over and over and over again.  Without Finn Hudson, much of the heart of the show will be lost.  I will continue watching (I loathe the Beatles tribute, though) but probably out of sheer morbid curiosity and nothing more.  There really is very little left to enjoy from the show, aside from the occasional funny exchange or forgotten song, rearranged in splendiferous auto-tune.  Blaine’s proposal to Kurt was quite moving, though.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Glee is contracted for two more full season with FOX, including this one.  Ratings have steadily declined since characters started graduating high school, and there aren’t as many releases to iTunes of the music.  Will FOX honor the two season order?  The answer is unknown, but the show will at least be around until Spring 2014.

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