Does Glee Need Fixing Already?

(HEAVY SPOILER ALERTS FOR GLEE AND JUSTIFIED, BE WARNED!!!)

Remember Stewie Griffin’s compliment sandwich on Family Guy? That’s what I’m going to do with Glee’s season finale last night.

Here’s the first piece of bread:

don't you guys ever come through the stage?

don't you guys ever come through the stage?

For the last year, I’ve done nothing but give you reasons to watch Glee, with good reason.

The show followed up one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen with a season full of emotionally and psychologically challenging TV. Every episode is a jackhammer pounding at feelings you have, whether you want to admit it or not. At the same time, it’s funnier than just about every sitcom on the air right now, with humor crafted from places you also may not want to admit you have.

After one season, it’s already shot itself into the exclusive group of must-see shows — with Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, for me — made by people who clearly understand what good TV is all about. It’s nothing short of groundbreaking.

Unfortunately, there’s some raunchy bologna in the middle, stuff that has been worrying me for a while and was magnified in last night’s season finale:

Too many characters. If you spent this year becoming a fan of Kurt, Artie, Santana, Brittany, Mercedes, Terri Schuster or Emma Pillsbury, well, in last night’s finale, you were SOL. No time for them, thanks very much. The show went back to basics and stuck with its biggest plotlines of the year — winning glee club regionals, the Rachel-Finn love story and Quinn’s baby. That means there’s only enough air time for the essentials — Will, Sue Sylvester, Finn, Rachel and Quinn. Emma was around just long enough to remind us that at one point, she and Will were an item (even though we haven’t heard about the two of them for a month). Puck had some lines, but more as window dressing than as a character. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with shifting some people to the back, especially in something like Glee that is decidedly an ensemble show. But when you spend weeks building a character and encouraging viewers to become invested in their fictitious lives — Kurt and Mercedes especially — you have a certain level of expectation for season closure. Did Kurt and Finn make up after Finn dropped that double f-bomb? The conspiracy theorist in me worked overtime coming up with this one, but did the exclusion of Glee’s minor characters have anything to do with those characters being the minorities on the show? Those five featured last night are the most lilly-white of the bunch. The ones missing meaty roles in the season finale were the minorities, the ones that gravitated to glee club because they had nowhere else to go. People identified with those characters because they knew exactly how they felt. Now the message being sent is that there’s no room for them in glee club — or Glee — either. That’s probably reading waaaaaayyyyyy too much into it. I’m just sayin’.

The song selection. Some pop culture songs are sacred and shouldn’t be touched in future movies or TV shows. They were done so well the first time we saw them in a movie, we can’t hear those songs without recalling its previous use. We’ve gone over this before, and I spent all of last summer calling out the people who think it’s OK. One of those sacred songs is Bohemian Rhapsody. Or have the Glee producers never seen Wayne’s World?

That’s not to say the Quinn birthing scene wasn’t spectacular — it was. And it worked perfect with Jesse doing Bohemian Rhapsody. But it only worked perfectly because the writers wrote it that way to fit with the Queen song and I kept expecting Dana Carvey to pop out and start banging his head. In the history of music, there are something like 7 bazillion songs. Find another one that hasn’t been done before, please. And from what I understand, Somewhere Over the Rainbow has been done in some movie before. Oh wait, now I remember, it was in one of the 10 MOST FAMOUS MOVIE SCENES OF ALL TIME!!!

That one actually makes me mad because the lyrics didn’t really fit that well into the scene. I’m starting to think the Glee people are PopRox readers and specifically chose those two songs to make my blood boil.

Then they went from the ridiculous to the sublime — there has to be some kind of healthy medium between using a song that’s been done famously already and using a song that exactly zero percent of Glee viewers recognize. 1967’s To Sir with Love to mark the most emotional scene of the year? Let’s get a do-over on that, shall we? On the bright side, you — YES YOU — can be the first one to add the Glee reference on the To Sir with Love Wikipedia page.

Remaking moments doesn’t work. And when those scenes are set to the same music, they’re just cheesy, unoriginal and reek of desperation. Movie sequels do this all the time and it drives me bonkers. I kicked the chair in front of me seeing Speed 2 opening night when Jason Patric did the whole “relationships that start under intense situations” rap with the little deaf girl. So I’m not a fan. Glee creator Ryan Murphy already did it once this year in the season finale of his other show, Nip/Tuck, when he used Art Garfunkel’s All I Know to end the series. The moment directly reflected a nearly identical scene from six years before that I consider to be one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen on TV.

The season 2 finale, 2004:

The series finale, 2010, though it’s missing the final dinner scene:

I let it go then, because there was a distinct point to it that family will always be family, no matter what you’re going through and no matter how you define it. It’s a point I would have gotten without being beaten over the head with one of Sue Sylvester’s Cheerios trophies, but whatever. Luckily, the Don’t Stop Believin’ scene from last night was kind of a throw-away rather than a plea for remembrance of bygone days. But it still seemed kind of desperate, and worse, it knocks the original from the pilot down a few pegs in my eyes. So let’s try to avoid that next year, huh?

still a top 5 show, despite my suggestions/complaints

still a top 5 show, despite my suggestions/complaints

That was the bologna, and probably a two-week old piece of ham too. So here’s the other important piece of bread from the compliment sandwich — these aren’t criticisms to try and keep you away from the show. If you missed it this year, I highly recommend catching the rebroadcast of the season Thursdays on Fox this summer. If you don’t like the musical aspect of it, feel free to DVR and fast forward. As much as I ripped the season finale, even it had some great moments. It could have went the cheesy way of Friday Night Lights and had the club win regionals, but it did the right thing of having them lose because Vocal Adrenaline was better. And Aural Intensity? That’s going to be my new fantasy baseball team name by the end of the day. So it wasn’t all bad. I just don’t want to see a near-perfect show go through a sophomore slump, so I’m trying to help head issues off at the pass. FINALE GRADE: C+. SEASON GRADE: A- (the first half was an A).

Go ahead and try to find 1,200 words on the Glee finale somewhere else, I dare you!

hero? villain? we're still not sure.

hero? villain? we're still not sure.

So here’s a quicker review of the Justified season fiale on FX. I was pretty much out of this show after the fourth episode. I just don’t have time or interest for procedurals unless they’re done so innovatively — Pushing Daisies and Nip/Tuck come to mind — that I can’t look away. By the third episode, Justified reeked of your standard cop show procedural, no different from Criminal Minds or CSI. With Tuesday nights already crowded, I bailed. As a Timothy Olyphant apologist for years, when Tuesdays started to clear up, I found myself gravitating back toward Justified for the last four weeks or so. Now, I’m glad I did to the point where I might actually seek out Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard, the short story the show is based on. The reason I stuck with the show the last month, surprisingly, wasn’t for Olyphant or his Raylan Givens hero character — it was for the villain-maybe-not-so-villainous turn of Boyd Crowder played in Emmy-worthy capacity by Walter Goggins. Not a second of his screen time in the last month has been wasted. His scene in church last week should have been so over-the-top and cliched it should have made me want to pee on my TV, but Goggins made it special. The Boyd character easily could have been your standard “I’m the bad guy, you’re the good guy, so I kill you” TV villain and after the pilot, it looked like it was headed that way. Didn’t happen. Boyd developed a second life all his own that kept people guessing whether his religious conversion was for real or not — do we even know the answer yet? Raylan doesn’t. Now since the show killed off all its other villains last night in its Old West-like very good season finale, Boyd now has the stage all to himself and it will make for an interesting second season. FINALE GRADE: A-. SEASON GRADE: B-.

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