Glee Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Glee
  • Season: Season 1
  • Episodes: 22 Episodes
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-ray)
  • Network: Fox
  • Cast: Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Glee was an extremely popular series that I somehow managed to miss. Unfortunately, the first season is extremely disappointing and at times even painful to watch. The series follows the adventures and misadventures of a group of misfit kids who manage to grow and learn by becoming members of the Glee Club at a small town Ohio high school. It’s an interesting premise at least. Musicals are one of my guilty pleasures, so I really should have enjoyed this show.

Unfortunately, Glee has some of the worst writing I have ever seen. The characters aren’t characters – they are stereotypes: the gay kid, the fat Black girl, the kid in a wheel chair, the dumb cheerleader, the spoiled Jewish brat. The stereotypes are offensive – and represent short cuts in writing. Rather than let us know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair, or overweight, or be raised by two gay Dads, or to be a gay high school boy – this show instead merely gives us stereotypes, especially in the first half of the season. The kid in a wheelchair doesn’t even get a name until ten episodes in. Sue, the cheerleading coach even calls Artie, “cripple”. Now, Sue is the series “bad guy”, but the principal uses the same extremely offensive word to describe Artie, as well as using “budget” as an excuse to deny him basics like handicap-accessible school transportation, a handicap-accessible entrance to the school (other than through the loading dock), and one has to wonder about bathrooms. This is a clear example of Title IX violations (and violations of the ADA) and would get the school sued. But Artie isn’t the only kid treated in deplorable fashion by the writers of this show. Rachel constantly mentions her two gay dads, but we never, ever see them, even when Rachel gets suddenly curious about her birth mother (a surrogate). The show could have shown us Rachel asking her fathers some pointed questions, and gotten real drama and emotion out of the issues of adoption and surrogacy. But instead, her dads are always absent and it’s Rachel who finds her mother, a showbiz diva and show choir coach of the rival high school glee club, Vocal Adrenaline.

The adults in this show are even worse than the kids. At least the kids are likable, especially as we learn more about them (yes, this is one of those ensemble shows that eventually focuses an episode or two on each main character). We have Will Schuester, the Glee Club coach (and Spanish teacher), who is the perfect teacher and perfect guy. He’s married to Terri, his high school sweetheart, a materialistic woman who is more focused on keeping up with the Jones than being happy or letting Will be happy. She even fakes a pregnancy when she fears Will wants to leave her. He eventually figures this out and they divorce. Good riddance, Terri.

Sue Sylvester is the cheerleading coach, she hates Will with a passion, and hates the Glee club. We are given absolutely no reason for this whatsoever. Sue is rude, cruel, mean-spirited, and dumb. She’s conniving as well. The only reason we are given for her hatred of Glee is that they are “taking her budget”, but considering Sue’s champion cheerleaders have apparently the world’s largest budget, she shouldn’t even care about the pennies going to Glee. Sue is also just as terrible to her own cheerleaders as she is to every one else – making fun of the girl’s bodies, firing her team captain when it becomes obvious she’s pregnant, forcing two girls to join Glee as her spies, etc. Sue even gets a commentary spot on the local news where “Sue Sees It” encourages littering and other such drivel. Sue might be interesting if we ever learned why she hates Will (I mean, What did he do – ignore her in high school? Tell her she couldn’t sing and kick her out of the glee club?), but since we don’t – she becomes a cardboard villain. The only hint we get is Sue is jealous of Will – which makes no sense at all. Late in the season, Will finally takes their rivalry to her and gives Sue a well-deserved dose of her own medicine.

Other characters include Emma, the OCD guidance counselor who is not so secretly in love with Will. Or “has a crush” might be more accurate, because when they finally start dating, she pulls way back. Emma is likable, but written as weak and a bit dumb because of her OCD (which has her constantly cleaning the teacher’s lounge, and using wet wipes on her grapes before eating them), so she becomes a caricature rather than a character. The gym coach loves Emma, and even convinces her to marry him as a “second choice” since Will is unavailable. Needless to say, the marriage falls through and we never see the gym coach again. The principal rounds out the characters – he’s relatively fair, though he ends up under Sue’s thumb when she drugs him and takes sexual blackmail pictures of the two in bed.

The only thing Glee has going for it are the musical numbers. The singing and dancing are fantastic, as is the Broadway Musical Film style choreography. I was continuously impressed by the singing, dancing, and song craft in this show. At times, it is obvious (at least on Blu-ray) that the characters are lip syncing, but it’s a minor issue. I’m used to musicals with bad (or no) plots and good dancing, but it’s a lot harder to overlook bad plots, weak characterization, and extremely bad writing for 22 hours rather than two or three. Even though I know some of the actors from The Flash and Supergirl were eventually on Glee, I will not be buying more of this series. I was very disappointed, and that’s sad, because I really wanted to like it.