More showing, less telling: ‘Glee: The Complete Second Season’ is still worth singing about
by David Goldberg
Ryan Murphy and the producers of Glee have mastered complex musical arrangements, harmonies, choreography, and glitzy costumes. Unfortunately, they still have trouble with basic storytelling devices. But through the inconsistencies, Glee’s second season still offered many sparkling moments.
Musically, Glee’s second season is packed with gay magic. This year featured the Britney Spears tribute episode, a “Rocky Horror Glee Show,” and renditions of such classics as “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” What’s more, these covers were good—sometimes better than the originals. When Lea Michele channels Barbra Streisand on “My Man,” she really reaches her inner Barbra. And the co-ed cover of Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It (on the Alcohol)” far surpasses its maker’s version. There are few platforms that embrace and interpret the works of almost all our favorite icons. There may not be again for a while, save for your local drag show.
Glee’s original out character, Kurt (Chris Colfer), was central to this season, as he battled bullying and sought to carve out his own identity. Colfer’s intense performance earned a well-deserved Emmy nomination for the part.
Unfortunately, Kurt’s character went to the point of being annoying—very often. It seems that Kurt can’t break a nail without complaining about how hard it is to be gay in high school. We get it!
It seems that the writers of Glee cannot escape the pressure of holding up TV’s homosexual torch, and neither can Kurt. They have not yet learned that the best lessons and inspirations are shown and not necessarily told. Just like its prized gay teen, Glee is young, naïve, and often over the top. Its inspirational potential to young gay viewers cannot be challenged. But its delivery should be.
Fortunately, Kurt was one of many gay characters this season. Darren Criss skyrocketed to teen stardom of cosmic proportions when, as dashing gay Warbler Blaine, he nailed Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” As the apple of Kurt’s eye, Blaine has proven that one doesn’t have to be straight to be an American obsession.
Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris), who usually serve as saddles for the male Glee Club members, pushed their constant flirtations with each other to the forefront this season. Both girls struggled with labels, social status, and emotions as they reconciled with their girl-on-girl love. Unlike Kurt, who seems to always have the answers, these girls were confused, excited, and frightened by their budding attractions. For once, Glee felt real.
In some ways, season two improved on many of Glee’s assets, but in others, it stumbled and crashed. A 24-episode season is simply too much for this sophomoric series. Storylines were either dragged out or resolved far too quickly. In the span of one episode, teenagers flirt, fight, fall in love, and break up again. Characters and plotlines vanished and rematerialized, testing the viewer’s patience and allegiance. There are many show-stopping single episodes on this DVD, but as a whole, there is no consistency or development.
While Glee may have some structural housecleaning to do, the attention it is gaining is critical for its gay viewers, actors, and characters. Jane Lynch, the out lesbian darling who plays the series’ sinister villain Sue Sylvester, is hosting this year’s Emmy Awards. Now isn’t that worth singing about?
Glee: The Complete Second Season (which includes 10 extra features) is available September 13 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (foxconnect.com).
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.