A Review and a Semi-Gleeful Club

1. My Blog Gate post of the week is up, this one a review of Cherie Priest’s novel (or is it?) about werewolves in the Old West, Dreadful Skin.

2. I watched the pilot of Glee last night, and I was strangely impressed. There were some really great performances. The standout was probably Jane Lynch’s gloriously inhumane Sue Sylvester, prima donna director of the cheerleading program, who is shaping up to be Skeletor to Our Hero’s rather inadequate He-Man. It reminded me, in a good way, of Election, as it rendered with ferocious clarity the claustrophobic betrayals and triumphs of high school. Good dialogue, some pleasantly quirky characters.

And the music is good. A little show-tune-y for my taste, but they use it well. For instance, around the middle of the episode the sad-sack glee club goes to check out the competition. The competition puts on a soullessly spectacular performance of Amy Winehouse’s soulful “Rehab.” Our club (the good club, the losers’ club) is devastated, sure that they’re doomed. But it sets up a nice contrast to the club’s episode-ending, heartfelt rehearsal of “Don’t Stop Believing.” If that sounds a bit corny, I’m afraid I’m not really making my point. It is the shocking swollen distortion of corn after years of abusing radioactive mutant killer glowing steroids. It is the Cornball That Ate Schenectady. It is That Corny, Only Worse. And, consequently, not far removed from genius.

But the show has a couple of weaknesses, the most significant one being the hero. Much is made in this episode of his reason for staying on to teach glee club: it’s to recover his glory moment from his high school years. And that’s supposed to be good. But the last thing in the world students should be subjected to is some bozo who can’t adjust to the fact that high school is over for him (or her, as this is an equal opportunity form of bozohood). And, in general, I thought the hero-teacher was the most colorless, shapeless character in the script: even his mercenary principal and his craft-obsessed wife were more interesting.

A potential problem is the competitive structure built into the show. Have you ever seen that Disney movie where a ragtag bunch of losers bands together, discovers the joys of friendship and hard work, and goes on to defeat the Big Rivals in the Big Game? You know, that movie they’ve made approximately forty two billion times? This could so easily become that movie. There were a couple of times in the last half where characters had speeches along the lines of, “I Have Learned an Important Lesson and Here It Is.” A little of this goes a long way.

But it’s clear than the Cheerios will not stand idly by while the glee club usurps their rightful moment in the sun (which is all moments, according to Lynch’s character): open or covert war between the two groups is inevitable. So there will be treachery, betrayal, revenge, pratfalls, humiliation and other, perhaps even more entertaining things. So it could end up being less like Another Damn Disney Movie! 13 and more like Noises Off: the High School Years.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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4 Responses to A Review and a Semi-Gleeful Club

  1. ecbatan says:

    I enjoyed GLEE as well. But it’s poised on a cliff’s edge, much as you suggest. Two-edged cliff, too. It could fall over the cliff one way and become Just Another High School Musical. (Which is the show it is probably trying to parody.) Or it could fall the other way and become mean-spirited and soulless …

    • JE says:

      It might hinge on the stories the younger cast have to work with. If they become too saccharine, or too cold-blooded, the show probably won’t work.

      Still, it’ll be interesting to follow (even if briefly) a show that doesn’t focus on murders, explosions or doctors.

  2. onyxhawke says:

    Yowsers, it sounds as corny as Boston Legal.

    • JE says:

      They don’t have Shatner, which is something of a handicap for the corniness level. But they’re working hard to overcome it.

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