Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sing a Song of Mischance:: Glee on Fox--HS Trials & Tribulations with a Soundtrack


Update on overnight ratings {10 Sept 2009):: Fox's "Glee" pulled in 7.136 million viewers in its fall season premiere with a 3.4/9 adults 18-49 in the ratings and a 3.7/10 with adults 18-34, according to TVbythenumbers.  Those figures stomped NBC's "America's Got Talent" in the demographics, even though it trailed in the total viewer numbers.  --TVWeek, also see TVbytheNumbers


So, since Federer staved off a US Open-ending scare by Soderling a little after midnight Eastern time, I caught the new Fox show, Glee.  Click here to watch online {not viewable outside US without a proxy server}. I must admit, I was skeptical of the concept translating beyond niche.  Plus, there's good niche and bad niche, with Cop Rock being bad niche.  Yeah, Bochco is an idiot::
Even if one is unaware of the whole high school musical phenomenon and general pop culture singing infatuation, the show works on several levels and is a brilliant concept if executed well.  Why?  Well, it takes the fertile, yet cliché prone terrain of high school and develops conflict and characters that draw the viewer in.  The brilliant part is that the covers of pop songs create ancillary content, serving as additional vehicles to draw fans in...virally.  


I didn't wait for news of the overnight ratings to blog this, but I'm hoping no matter what that Fox gives this show a chance to find its audience.  Ryan Murphy can be hit and miss in my book.  Some episodes of Nip/Tuck work {I never have figured out its schedule on CTV in Canada} and his adaptation of the hilarious Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors was wildly uneven.  Murphy likes edge, but it takes a deft hand to pull it off.

I can see the Fox execs. seeing the show as a way to tap into the hybrid youth/young female market with the snark of Gossip Girl and the song-fueled sturm & drang of High School Musical, avoiding the downerness {albeit well-crafted downerness} of Veronica Mars and the exhausting chatty Pattiness of Gilmore Girls.

I know a lot of people love Heather Havrilesky over on Salon {link is to a review of Glee}, but I don't get her take on things most of the time.  I sort of chalk it up to a critic trying to find interesting things to say about a medium rife with blander than bland pablum.  She loved Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, the sadistic cheerleading coach "heavy"::
"Lynch is almost painfully good at milking laughs out of every one of Sue's caustic lines -- which are consistently brilliant. Whether she's referring to the show choir as an "island of misfit toys" or bragging condescendingly about her celebrity status under her breath ("I'd love to stay and chat but I have a satellite interview. That's an interview, by satellite"), Sue is pure nasty genius. Her scenes with show-choir director Will (Ryan Murphy) are particularly inspired."
No!  The Lynch lines were dispensed in the script like canned laughter, interjecting caustic wit with the subtlety of a Jackass-style kick in the balls.  Which I'm glad I brought up, as I think Jane Lynch has great talent and should be doing more physical comedy on the show.  I thought she had a great presence in Judd Apatow's 40 Year Old Virgin {Source:: Hulu, not viewable outside US without a proxy server} that went far beyond her dialogue::


That said, I'm not saying to can the witty dialogue, just dial it back.  I wish the writers on the show {and in comedy in general} would give her more physical comedy to do, not in a tired slapstick way, but tapping into her skills at commanding presence and use of body language more.  The "mean" dialogue can be a trap, turning Sue Sylvester into a caricature talking head of insults looking for unworthies to poop on, Triumph-style.

While several critics mentioned the sex and subversiveness of the show, it seemed pretty tame to me, but I'm not one to shock easily.  What I've seen of 2 episodes was far less sex-obsessed than, say, Judd Apatow's Undeclared.  It can drift into quirky, such as guidance counsellor Emma's {Jayma Mays} germophobia, but it doesn't lapse into precious.  


I'm rooting for the show and will be monitoring it through the season, although most shows I've followed on blog or for teaching classes since 2006 have been cancelled.  I'll leave you with the pilot's arrangement of Journey's iconic "Don't Stop Believing"::


Which made be think of Seth MacFarlane's rendition for Family Guy::


Twitterversion:: newblogpost::Fox's #Glee serves up quirk&song where HS musical meets GossipGirl.Link 2 watch episodes{inUS}. http://rhizomicomm.blogspot.com @Prof_K


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