Thursday, May 20, 2010

Confessions of a Gleek

I am a self-professed “Gleek”. I have been in love with Glee ever since Sriraj showed me the clip of “Don’t Stop Believing”, a clip I repeatedly saw for a month or so till Asma finally managed to get her hands on the Pilot and gave it to me. Glee is my weekly dose of happiness. Every Wednesday morning, I feel glad simply for the fact that there will be a new Glee episode to cheer me up before the day ends. I have never been this hooked on a TV show and it is unlikely that I will ever be again. Plenty has been written online dissecting the good and bad things about each episode of the show and everyone has an opinion over it. Well, here’s my little bit.

There are many reasons why I love Glee: It is the one of the few shows/movies to really get teenagers today. For a long time, I strongly believed that John Hughes was arguably the only person who understood the teens of his time, or any time. With movies like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off he gave us little gems about the 80s teens: their angst, their styles, their apprehensions and aspirations. Thereafter, mainstream teen movies and shows have settled for a barrage of monotonous scatological jokes and innuendos with sexed up teens providing little insight, if any. Glee is the show of our times that fills that void.

The show displays rare understanding and maturity in dealing with its themes. It wears its heart on its sleeve and uses humour to tread into uncharted territory. Within 19 episodes, it has addressed heavy issues relating to teenage pregnancy, peer pressure, sexual orientation, disability and so much more armed with just the right dose of humour and music. Of course, it does get it wrong sometimes and in those rare occasions, very badly so. However, there are moments, every now and then, when it lets its characters grow; its scenes breathe and its themes resonate so much that I forget everything else and watch magic happen, spellbound.

Glee is also one of the few shows that celebrates the imperfection of its characters. The satirical touch, the gentle mockery and the occasional revelations help make them real and believable despite all the fancy music and choreography. No one is perfect including the star singer, the head cheerleader or the popular jocks. TIts supporting characters are more than just fillers in the background. Slowly, but surely, Murphy is developing each one of them; giving each character a distinct personality and each actors a chance to demonstrate just how much they are capable of. Also, unlike Hughes, the writers give their adult characters more depth and dimensions, consciously avoiding stereotypes. The result is a character like Sue Sylvester. Need I say more?

The song selection is simply stunning. Nearly every major genre of music has found place in the show: pop, hip hop, rap, jazz, classic rock, disco, show tunes, rhythm and blues…you name it and it is there. I love what the recent episodes have done for popularising some of the classic 80s music as well. It is introducing today’s music to an older generation and yesterday’s music to today’s. It is doing for these songs what The O.C. did for the contemporary music. The reworking of songs is usually stunning (“Rehab” and “Mercy”) and the vocals are amazing in places (“And I’m Telling You”, “Dream On”). Every week, the show provides us with something new and fresh to listen to. And even after nearly 100 songs, it still rarely ceases to entertain.

Glee tries very hard to find the balance between its story and its music. The show is still growing, changing and developing. The possibilities are endless. There are episodes where the music is so stunning that all else is forgotten. “The Power of Madonna” is a prime example of that. An excellent homage to the work of Madonna, it had some stunning musical moments (especially “Vogue”) that more than compensated for the ordinary story. The music was overproduced, very much so, but in times like these, it’s so much fun that I couldn’t care less. And then there are episodes where the story is the mainstay and the music is strictly on a need to use basis. The initial episodes are solid examples of this. However, there are the occasional episodes where both the music and story fall in place together to provide us both, the opulent and the poignant. It is in these episodes where the show seems to be the most comfortable. It embraces its musical side without compromising on its characters and story. “Throwdown” and “Dream On” are the best examples of this. The plot is smooth, the song selection is superb and the themes resonate for a long time after the show is over. When the most emotionally poignant moment in “Dream On” is a song sequence (“Dream a Little Dream of Me”), you know you are watching great entertainment, not just in terms of other Glee episodes, but generally.

At the end of the day, like I recently told a friend, Glee is surprisingly honest, occasionally poignant and always fun. These are three things more than most other teen movies and shows that have come out in recent times. You don't need a Gossip Girl to make high school interesting. It's far more relevant than 90210 or American Pie and it's more real and fun than High School Musical can ever be. It makes me laugh, cry, sing and dance every week. I find comfort in the quirks and imperfections of the characters and love them for it. Even in its darkest moments, there is a certain warmth which makes it all worthwhile. I love this show. Give it a chance, and I think you will too.


  1. well said =)
    I think your comparisons in the concluding paragraph are rather uncalled for, though. Twilight and American Pie are not vying to be real or relevant. The former especially, is just another fantasy story.
    Just an opinion, but I think you could choose more 'relevant' sitcoms to juxtapose Glee with. Something like 90210/ The O.C./ Gossipgirl for instance, which are definitely far more irrelevant.

  2. Thanks. Twilight I admit is an exaggeration. But if you see American Pie, it does put up an act about the importance of friendship among teens in between the raunchy humour. American Pie 2 and 3 tried to build on that as well before the series degenerated into a direct to DVD soft porn marathon. However, even there it just never worked on a level the way Hughes' films worked.