There is no denying the "Glee" format is unique; there really has never been anything on TV quite like it. But, after watching the last night's installment, critics were quick to attack the episode as further proof that this season has turned a once cutting-edge high school dramedy into what Variety's Brian Lowry called a “One-hit wonder.”
The novelty of coming home to a cheesy musical every Tuesday night has worn off, and these days, each new episode feels like a long drawn out Public Service Announcement. While this is testimony to some weak script-writing, it also shows how limited "Glee" is as a show; at this point, it is so far from reality that it is practically comic.
For those of you who haven’t watched last night’s episode, Coach Beiste confesses to her colleagues that she has been hit by her husband, and even admits that she can’t leave him because she’s worried no one will ever love her: domestic abuse PSA. This was accompanied by a sub-plot of Puck in danger of not graduating, and Rachel and Kurt auditioning for a school in front of a humorless judge (cameo by Whoopi Goldberg).
While the episode was ok, critics have been annoyed by yet another 40-minute "Glee PSA": We've already had episodes about texting while driving, teen pregnancy, underage drinking ... Personally, I’m surprised that they didn’t feature Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" as the domestic abuse song.
Part of the show’s appeal from the start was the novelty of it; cheesy music, some top 40 hits, copious amounts of autotune and impromptu flashmob, all made for an evening well spent. Even if the acting is really bad, it is entertainment that beats the "X-Factor" any night.
But, the minute a serious issue comes up, we start complaining that the show is lecturing us on what we should or shouldn’t do. And no one enjoys being lectured to, especially when the lecture is coming from a fictional singing TV show.
The PSA themes of Glee are reminiscent of the "Saved by the Bell" era in which every other episode talked about the dangers of smoking or drinking. But, the difference between "Glee" and "Saved by the Bell" is that "Glee" touches upon subjects that you would never hear about on "Saved by the Bell" — teenage pregnancy and domestic abuse. (Plus, on "Saved by the Bell" no one spontaneously bursts into song.)
What is clear is that "Glee" is now presented with big challenges in terms of what it can do as a show: Either there is a story line and the producers have to pick the song choices to fit, or they do a special themed episode and somehow fit in a story line using a limited selection of songs.
Timing also plays a huge part in the show, and "Glee" uses top 40 hits in a bid to attract more viewers. Examples of this include the Whitney Houston tribute following her death, and a performance of Rebecca Black’s "Friday." "Glee" is now constantly following trends, a fact that frustrates what the show first set out to do which was celebrate being different. Now it seems that "Glee" is following the rest of the herd by singing what everyone else is singing at that moment.
As the show panders to what audiences love musically things become even more difficult. While I wasn’t a huge fan of last night’s episode, I do not mean to say that I don’t think they should stop doing episodes based on serious issues. Rather, just that more thought needs to be given to the story writing and the song choices, especially given that there will be an upcoming fourth season.
But as Lowry said, TV would be much duller place without "Glee." And even if some of the song choices are off the mark, we do still have a place for it on our TV guides.