I just returned from my parents house, and a Glee Fest!!!
Every time I return for extended time with my parents (at least three nights), my mom and I usually have a marathon session of “thoughtful television,” often an entire season of something on DVD.
Since I am often exploring the intersection of Popular Culture, Religion and Ethics, I discover (much later than many people) that there are particular shows with a lot to say. Nothing’s better than sharing these shows with someone you care about (poor Darlene, my wife, is subjected to many a TV show and DVD purchase).
Since I don’t make it back to Chicagoland that often, my mom gets to watch the best of the lot. If she takes a liking to the first episode or two, we’re off to the races. (Truth be told, it was my sister, and then my mom, who introduced ME to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, arguably the best of these shows in the last 20 years).
Last time, mom and I made it through the entire series of Firefly (sadly easy to do, thanks a lot FOX!!!) This time, we watched my new favorite show, Glee. My mom loved the show.
What was shocking, however, was that my dad watched every episode with us. My dad usually falls asleep within the first 10 minutes of a TV show or movie. The few times he actually drifted off, he actually got upset with himself for missing some of the show!
The singing talent of the cast Glee is undeniable: from entertaining solos to the heartfelt ensemble numbers.
What makes Glee for me, however, is the compelling storylines and characters.
Take, for instance, the character Kurt, and his father, Bert Hummel. After Mr. Hummel’s first appearance, a verbally rough encounter with his son, my dad exclaimed “what a jerk.” Little did he know that we, the audience, were being set up for a breaking of a stereotype... The powerful scene where Kurt comes out to his dad is such a wonderful surprise. Glee certainly uses stereotypes, but sometimes in unexpected ways. After the unexpected happens, you realize the complexity of the character, so the results feel true.
It’s not a perfect show. Terri Schuester was completely overdone (both in acting and dialogue). While I think it’s great that the wise Mr. Shue has faults and doesn’t always say the right thing, I think he’s a little too clueless regarding some of the trouble he gets leading Emma on during the first half of the season.
The rewards however, the characters interactions with one another, along with the clear cost of keeping secrets from those you care about, make Glee’s faults well worthwhile.
The episode that truly won me over, however, was Wheels. The subject was insensitivity. The initial focus was Artie and his wheelchair. The episode demonstrates well how good people can be so sensitive in one case, and clueless in another (the kids reaction to Artie, Mr. Shue’s reaction to Kurt singing a girl’s part, and Artie’s obsession with Tina’s stutter). The episode is weaved together wonderfully.
Yet perhaps the best part of Wheels is that Sue Sylvester’s humanity is finally shown. Sue is a great villian. People just love despising her, thanks to clever writing and great acting. But with “bad guys”, I always want to see some complexity. I want to understand why they are who they are, and my favorite villains have the potential for redemption on some level. This episode contained the first sign of such a thing in Sue. She didn’t instantly become likeable: in fact, she even became more deplorable. But this example of her humanity was not lost by the writers, and the later payoffs have been powerful. (Don’t worry Glee fans, I’m sure we’ll get more of delightfully horrible Sue next season!!!)
Ultimately, Glee is a show about joy, self-worth, friendship, mentoring, leadership, and fidelity. In my opinion, it is hands down the best show currently on television, and I look forward to bringing another season home to my parents, (but my hunch is, by then, they will have already watched it!)