Oct 15, 2010

TV 2010: No Glee in Blogville

As I have written recently, I have been working on my writing.  This has been through reading a lot of books, visiting some other blogs, and seeing what my favorite writers say about how to improve your writing.  To a person, every one of the great writers I follow say the same thing.  "To be better as a writer, you must write every day."  Malcolm Gladwell, Peter King, Bill Simmons, Stephen King, Chuck Klostermann.  They all preach that.  I am always nervous about writing too much on my blogs - because that means that people who follow me have to READ my increased output.  This is compounded by the fact that this blog gets forwarded over to Facebook - where the Notifications get put onto my News Feed.  That means all 650 friends have to see "David Staples posted another useless Note." So I have tried to spread out my writing onto my three blogs.  One day each week is on the blog for my fantasy football league.  (If for whatever reason, like you are insane, you want to visit that site - you can follow this link.)  Then I post on Darth Fatso off and on.  And I send really long emails to people.  That still leaves a lot of writing unaccounted for.

I have ideas for stuff to write, but I usually decide it is too stupid to post.  Well, no more, my friends!  I will no release the beast of idiocy that I have kept bottled up inside.  Be prepared.  That means TV reviews, discussions on meaningless movie "what ifs," and my long gestating article on why modern tithing sermons are not biblical.  The floodgates are about to open.  Get in the raft and grab your lifejacket.

To begin, I thought I would take a look at the current TV season.  I watch a decent amount of television.  It is my chance to unwind at night.  I also can justify it by saying it is research for all my Defender Ministries teaching materials.  One show that we have always enjoyed has been Glee on FOX.  I even talked about the show last year, during its stellar first season.  I thought the teen story lines were very realistic with what kids struggle with.  The music and choreography were phenomenal.  And the underdog trying to make a splash season storyline resonated.  I felt it slipped in the last nine episodes, almost a little too proud of its success.  But I figured this season would put the show back on track.

I was wrong.

To be honest, I have been very disappointed by this season for several reasons.  First of all, the characters that were so rich in the first season have been reduced into one note stereotypes again.  This show broke stereotypes.  Every character was being pigeonholed by the other kids in the school, but the viewers realized through the story that there were many layers.  The label didn't cover everything.  Finn was the superstar jock - but he also wanted to sing and was very sensitive.  Quinn was captain of the cheerleaders and president of the celibacy club - but she was pregnant.  Artie was handicapped - but he was a romantic and performer.  Rachel was the driven and talented annoying girl - who desperately wanted to fit in and get the guy.  Each character looked like it was going to be one thing, but there was a twist.  Mercedes was the sassy black girl - who was actually the most encouraging person in the group.  Tina was the goth girl that loved the geek.  Puck was the bad boy athlete that wanted to do the right thing.  And Kurt was the gay kid with the rough edged loving mechanic dad.

But something happened.  Now, these characters have all reverted back to those stereotypic labels.  The growth they had last year seems gone.  Quinn is back to being obsessed with getting back on top.  Puck is surly.  Now that Rachel got the guy, she is whiny and annoying.  Artie is just a lonely wheelchair dweller. Tina is Asian - like that's it.  Brittney is the dumb funny girl.  Santana is the sex crazed cheerleader.  And Kurt, oh Kurt, he has become something else.  He is still the gay kid.  But he is angry and rude and awful.

That leads into the second problem.  The show used to be focused on Rachel.  Her drive to stardom, quest to capture Finn's love, mission to find her mom.  The show worked that way.  We hated her diva-in-training attitude.  But we saw there was so much more behind the scenes.  Now, though, she got what she wanted.  She got Finn and found her mom.  So now she has been reduced to the whiny driven girl and placed on the sidelines.  The competitions that drove the group are gone.  They mention Nationals, but they haven't done anything to prepare for it.  Now, it is Kurt's show.  Everything spins around him.  And he is not a good enough character to be in that role.  It is NOT because he is gay.  It is because he is angry and rude to everyone.  He pushes away everyone who cares about him.  He's been hurt over the years and mistreated for being different and so he is taking it out on everyone.  He just assumes everyone is going to be that same vicious bully from years past.

But these people are his friends.  They have defended him and been there for him.  He has no reason to be so ugly.  Finn spurned Kurt's advances last year.  And Kurt is punishing him for it - even though Finn has put his own reputation on the line more times than anyone for Kurt.  If anyone has proven his true friendship, it is Finn.  But Kurt is acidic to him.  He is also unbelievably awful to the teacher - even though there is nothing to justify that.  So far, Kurt has been ugly to everyone, even his own dad.  It makes no sense.  I don't like his character any more.  I feel sympathy for him sometimes.  But mostly I think he is being unreasonably mean.  But, I don't feel that anyone can say that because of his homosexuality - he can't be presented as a negative character.  We, as the audience, MUST be sympathetic to his plight - even if he doesn't deserve it.

This brings us to the third problem.  The show has been so preachy this year.  One of the things I admired about Glee in the first year was its ability to address difficult topics in a subtle and graceful manner.  This year, it has become a musical afterschool special.  The biggest theme is the one of tolerance.  And it is being jammed down our throats.  In the first year, we grew to love the students.  We empathized with them as we watched them trying to live their lives and deal with their struggles.  This year, the show seems to have abandoned the storytelling so much in favor of making statements.  I thought the religiously themed show was very well done.  But it was a statement show.  All of them have been.  You could plug anyone into the story - it doesn't have to be these characters.  And the show is suffering for it.

The last problem is that FOX realized there was a lot of money in this show.  The music sales from season one made executives drool.  So now everything is about how to generate more money.  The songs used to be an organic element of the storytelling.  They were part of the group's rehearsal or something to communicate emotion.  Now it is "how do we twist the story to fit this song idea."  The theme nights are killing the show.  Last year's Madonna themed episode was so well done and entertaining - and such a cash cow - that the creators have tried to duplicate that.  We had a Brittney Spears episode this year.  The thing was a mess.  It made no sense.  Most of the music was due to dreams.  The story was ridiculous.  The group goes to the dentist?  REALLY?  Now there is a Rocky Horror Picture Show episode coming up.  STOP!  Just go back to telling great stories punctuated with music instead of selling albums.  The show is an hour long music video.

Yes, the music is still really good.  I just am not that attached to it.  It used to be that I remembered the scene as the music played too - which made it better.  You ever do that?  Picture something as music plays?  When I heard "Bust Your Windows" on the CD, I remembered Mercedes and the cheerleaders singing to Kurt as she smashed his SUV because he was lying to her.  This isn't the first show to do that. Lost was a master of this.  (I can't hear "Make Your Own Kind of Music" without picturing Juliet getting ready for book club.)  Whenever I hear "Bleeding Love," I see the dance routing with Mark and Chelsie from So You Think You Can Dance.  With the exception of Kurt's amazing performance of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" from this season, most of the music was just kind of there.  It doesn't have emotional weight.  And neither does the show any more.  It is being reduced to a stereotypical teen show - with really good singers and political overtones.  Broadway presents John Hughes via Bill Maher.  I hope things get better soon.

No comments: