Glee – “The Purple Piano Project”

Glee – “The Purple Piano Project

When Glee started I was surprised by the tone. Beneath the veneer of pop bubbliness there was a real sense of bitterness. The show about high school outcasts coming together wasn’t shying away from the fact that no, this would not solve all their problems. They would be excluded most of their lives (at least as long as they stayed in small-town Ohio). They had dreams of stardom that they were all unlikely to believe. They were faced with the destiny of being average in a society that tells everyone they’re special (which, as The Incredibles pointed out, means no one is). There was a real darkness lingering beneath the surface… of a show called Glee. It was kind of awesome and wickedly hilarious. Then the show pussied out. It became the mask. It became the “misfits banding together” inspiration bullshit it had started out subversively mocking. That good period was really just the first half of the first season. I’ve been watching ever since in the hope that THAT show comes back. It still throws a few laughs but every time the character learn some kind of lesson the saccharine tone elevates my blood sugar to dangerous levels. Even the show’s resident bully, Sue Sylvester (played by veteran of Christopher Guest comedies Jane Lynch) because softer and more humanized as the show went on. Where did the show’s balls go?

I don’t know. I watched the season premiere and it contains the faint shadows of the show’s former brief-lived glory. When the show shit all over Rachel and Kurt’s dreams with that crazy-looking chick in the red beret, I thought the cynicism that drew me in had returned, but the next scene had a teary-eyed Rachel being reassured by Kurt that they can do it after all. Why can’t the show be mean anymore? Its meanness was its most endearing trait. Plus as the show went on and on Rachel Berry turned into a more and more horrible person (sending Sunshine Corazon to a CRACK HOUSE?!?) so watching her fail is something I always enjoy. Rachel’s just as horrible to other people as Sue but it’s okay because she apologizes? Or is it just because she can sing we’re supposed to overlook all that? Either way we all have a reasonably good idea that Rachel and Kurt are not going to college in New York. They’re end up attending some nearby UC Sunnydale-like school that no one has ever mentioned before.

While the whole clumsy “the purple pianos are a metaphor for us” storyline was ri-god-damn-diculous, flashes of meanness still make themselves apparent. Since the beginning of the show Will has said he would not turn anyone away from the glee club so I’ve wondered how it was that no one who ever really sucked showed up before. Inspirational teacher Will Schuster crushing some tone-deaf girl’s dream was nice to see for once. Not everyone can do everything. Artie’s probably not going to climb Mt. Everest, and Sugar ain’t going to be winning any singing trophies. Blaine transferring to McKinley is sweet but what parent in their right mind lets their teenage son leave their elite private school for adolescent “love?” Santana got called out for her bitchiness, but you know it’s not going to last. She’s going to learn some kind of valuable lesson and then be welcomed back with open arms. She’ll be nice for a while until the writers realize she’s boring that way and make her a bitch again. Quinn’s apparently a Paramore-style poseur punk now. I’m not going to lie, she looks pretty hot in that get-up but the “I’m so rebellious” attitude struck me as majorly disingenuous. The biggest laugh of the night for me was Emma handing Rachel and Kurt a pamphlet called “Me and My Hag.”

The episode (directed by Eric Stoltz apparently?) didn’t really do much to boost my confidence. Character consistency seems out the window. But fuck it, it’s a cheesy musical. How were the numbers? Well, my main rule about musicals is that the musical numbers should reflect some emotional or narrative development in the story. Glee does this maybe about half the time. The rest of the time you get jazzed-up versions of “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead” or “Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” medleys. By the way, where does that band ever come from? One minute they’re not in the cafeteria, the next they’re there, set up, and ready to play “We Got the Beat.” (Also, do we really need to resurrect the old Go-Gos vs. Bangles debate?) On the plus side, during Blaine’s rendition of “It’s Not Unusual” he did the Carlton dance. That made me happy. That’s the problem, though. Glee keeps peppering in little bits of snark (Sue passing “Anyone white” in the congressional polls) or references to my late-80s-early-90s childhood and that keeps me tuning in, but it buries it under sooooo much sentimental bullshit and inconsistent character development. I’ll tune in next week anyway out of some horribly misguided sense of hope. Damn you, Glee.

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