TV review: ‘Glee’ still suffering from ‘pitchiness’

By Jordan Berry

TV review: ‘Glee’ still suffering from ‘pitchiness’

By most estimations, “Glee” is one of the most popular shows on television. It cannot avoid being one of the most polarizing as a result.

This polarized nature does not just exist among different audience segments. It is, at its most frustrating level, an uneven experience for individual viewers as well.

The hype surrounding its premiere was astronomical, and for good reason. The pilot provided viewers with something unfamiliar and fresh for television audiences. The fact that its rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” was a constant at the top of the iTunes chart list did nothing to hurt its cause.

Then came the rest of season one and, with it, numerous highs and lows. Whether is was an inconsistent stretch of episodes (the final three, which was one horrible one smacked in the middle of two of my favorites) or the unevenness that could accompany a singular episode — I’m looking at you, “Bad Reputation” — season one no doubt had its growing pains.

I think the biggest issue I have had with the show is the way the characters are handled. Characters have always been the most important part of any show I watch, and it was disappointing to watch the writers squander away numerous opportunities of development in order to cram more songs into an episode.

Also, some of these development moments for our characters felt too over-the-top even for a show like “Glee.” This is not so bad considering the tone of the show. However, since some of these were a little too contrived, it just feels empty most of the time.

Like most shows, I figured “Glee” would settle in and find its groove during season two. If the first three episodes are any indication, I am prepared for another roller coaster of a season.

The season two premiere was a thrill. The introduction of Dot-Marie Jones as the new football coach (aptly named Shannon Beiste) was a great move. She provides another rival for Sue Sylvester (played by the incomparable Jane Lynch) without being some caricature or cookie-cutter character. I am so glad they took care to humanize her character.

But then came the Britney Spears episode. The only redeeming factor for this episode has to be John Stamos. Without him, this episode is just another slushie to the face for its audience, specifically those who want the show to be as good as it can be.

“Grilled Cheesus” was the first PSA-themed episode of season two. Season one had its fair share, most of which were tolerable. This one was no different. Jane Lynch always does masterful work on this show, but she had her brightest moment in this one. Plus, we got our first season two appearance of my second favorite character, Burt Hummel (played by the second-best actor on the show, Mike O’Malley).

But the episode, despite its visceral appeal and strong acting, failed to produce “a total eclipse of the heart” for this viewer, and I am normally the one susceptible to such emotional episodes. The unevenness of the episode stemmed from the show’s inability to offer two conflicting worldviews in a convincing manner. If I wanted rival views unfairly conceptualized, I would turn to any cable news channel.

If I sound harsh or unfair, it is because I want this show to excel. There is nothing wrong with recognizing weaknesses of the shows we love. But this show can be so much better.

Maybe it starts with eliminating the themed shows. I admit some of them are guilty pleasures, but framing characters around the themes has often produced the contrived character development I mentioned above. (However, I will be a complete hypocrite and say there is no one more excited than me about the upcoming “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” episode; it’s a crying shame Tim Curry will not be a part of the magic.)

Maybe it starts with eliminating certain characters. Ensemble pieces are always tricky, since the balancing act never satisfies most people. But if “Lost” can pull it off, so can “Glee.”

“Glee” is on the cusp of something absolutely brilliant. But until the show can iron out its inconsistencies, then “Glee” will fall short of reaching the top spots both in hardware, like the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, and in our hearts.

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