Glee returned to FOX last night in the perfect programming timeslot directly following jauggernaut American Idol. I’ll admit I was excited. I have a tumultuous relationship with America’s new favourite show but it had won me over by the time it went off the air this fall. So I was looking foward to its return. I was promised all sorts of goodness: Broadway superstars Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff were guest starring!
But last night’s episode was blah at best and angering at worst. There wasn’t a single musical number that wasn’t entirely standard for the show, nothing new or interesting in any way. I don’t think Puck, the most engaging character, had a single line the entire episode. In general, they ignored the increasingly interesting supporting cast in favour of the unengaging leads (aka Rachel, Finn and Mr. Shue.
The writers of last night’s episode seemed to be working really hard to counterbalance Matthew Morrison’s incredible charm. Yes Hollywood writers, absolutely the thing to do with a beloved character who has just embarked on a relationship with another beloved character is to have them make out with Taye Diggs’ wife. That makes a lot of sense.
I swear this show is determined to have me hate their characters.
Finn proved to have so few brain cells it’s amazing he can walk straight (though, in all fairness, that’s not new information). and Rachel (the girl whom the show is bound bent determined to highlight for reasons passing understanding) was yet again a naive and obnoxious diva (again, not new information, but annoying).
What’s worse, the highly anticipated guest stars were a mixed bag of unexciting. Idina Menzel’s character as the coach of Vocal Adrenaline was actually pretty good. Though Mr. Shuester came off as a dingbat around her, she still proved an engaging character. Broadway’s golden boy, however, suffered a tougher fate.
Jonathan Groff is amazing. He’s gorgeous and charming and in possession of one of the single greatest musical theatre voices of his generation. He also happens to have years of established stage chemistry with his former Spring Awakening co-star Lea Michele and has proven himself capable of playing a lovable but edgy golden boy close to flawlessly (trust me, I saw it live, his Melchior Gabor won over even the doubters). But on Glee he was icky. I know he’s supposed to be charming but untrustworthy, a combo that almost always comes off as slimy, but this was too much. Everything from his too-long hair to his creepy entrance to his pretentious smart-talk to that disastrously showy “Highway to Hell” number to his on-stage wooing of Ms. Michele (Rachel) was unappealing. He was strangely flamboyant when the character shouldn’t have been (again, Glee writers, you need to brush up on basic writing strategies: don’t give a gay actor lines like “you’re even more of a drama queen than me” and expect the audience to believe he’s straight) and it became next to impossible to believe Rachel would fall for it. Oh, and the dubbing that has always driven me crazy crossed the line last night when it masked Groff’s powerful and beautiful voice with fancy orchestration and ridiculous studio-based smoothing and tuning crap. You’ve got a cast of one-of-a-kind singers, let them sing! It’s a shame really, Jonathan Groff is so much better than what Glee made him into. If it weren’t for the palpable chemistry between the two (evident only in their kiss at the end), this first part of his guest arc as Rachel’s ‘boyfriend’ would have been a complete bust.
Shape up Glee! Otherwise I fear what depths you might make my beloved Neil Patrick Harris and Joss Whedon sink to.