November 16, 2010

Episode Review: GLEE, "The Substitute"

It was bound to happen. Glee gave us an episode that I just didn't care for from start to finish. "The Substitute" did have some entertaining moments, but overall it was a weak installment that really didn't add anything to the overall series.

McKinley was hit by some monkey flu that put both Principal Figgins and Will out of commission, which allowed two substitutes, Sue for Figgins and Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) for Schue, to fill in. Along the way Sue banned tater tots, Holly permanently replaced Will as New Directions coach, and Mercedes got in trouble for acting out because she's not happy with Kurt's new found friendship with Blaine. By episode's end, Will was back because Holly couldn't hack it as a disciplinarian, and Mercedes realized she needed new people in her life. Sue, on the other hand, was still the principal.

That one paragraph synopsis made "The Substitute" sound a lot more interesting than it really was because the narrative really didn't flow or make much sense. To be honest, while I understood what was going on, I'm still trying to figure out what the episode was really about.

What was frustrating for me as a viewer was the promise of the Will/Holly storyline. It really could have caused Will to see the errors of his ways, and helped him get his life back on track. To some extent it did just that, but it wasn't in a convincing manner. Paltrow's character was supposed to be the polar opposite of Will, and the fact that his students gravitated towards her should have caused Will to loosen up and figure out a new way to reach them as a teacher. Instead, he was back to normal and nothing really changed. All of the Will/Holly stuff was much ado about nothing, and it kind of felt like a giant waste of time.

For some reason Mercedes' first and only real storyline this season had to do with tater tots. Out of all of the students, she was the most affected by the banning of the deep-fried deer poop, and she started acting out. For the longest time I had no idea where this plot was going, but thankfully we were spoon-fed the message. Apparently, Mercedes felt isolated because Kurt was hanging out with Blaine, and she had no one else in her life. This led to her substituting tots for Kurt. Maybe it's because I cannot understand the concept of using food to replace something else, but I just felt this whole subplot was nonsensical and the weakest of the bunch.

OK, forget about the actual storytelling. Let's get back to what was really important: Gwyneth Paltrow. One of the major criticisms that people love to make about Glee is how it relies too much on guest stars. Usually, I don't buy into this disparagement because shows like Chuck and How I Met Your Mother have been worse offenders when it comes to stunt casting, but I didn't feel Paltrow added that much. It wasn't that Paltrow's performance was lacking, she did a fine job with what she was given, but the actual character didn't click with me. The whole "cool" teacher bit was played out, and making her quirky and free-spirited reminded me of Dr. Molly Clock from Scrubs. I did appreciate how they tried to flesh out the character towards the end of the episode, but it was too little too late. That being said, I'd rather have Holly Holliday back than April Rhodes.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • On the music front, "Make 'Em Laugh" (I'm always in favor of more Mike Chang) and "Singin' in the Rain/Umbrella" were fun. On the other hand, the Chicago number felt out of place and forced.
  • "Conjunction Junction" was all kinds of awesome.
  • Sue got in some good lines, but as always she was just the spark that led to the rest of the storylines in the episode.
  • Sick Baby might be the worst role playing idea ever.
  • On that note, I'm going to try to block out the whole Terri subplot from my mind.
  • Still not enough Finn, Rachel, Brittany, or Quinn for my liking. Although Rachel's scream when Santana went after her was funny.
  • "There's gotta be a Journey song we haven't done yet."
  • I would've liked seeing the New Directions kids going to bat for Mr. Schue more if we had any build up toward those moments, and if they didn't go back to complaining seconds later.
  • Glee's made fun of John Stamos and Britney Spears just to bring them on the show; Lindsay Lohan must not be far behind.
  • "I'm Mike Chang."
I'm a self-confessed Glee apologist, but even I can't defend this episode. There just wasn't enough elements that I enjoyed this time around. "The Substitute" didn't sour me on the series as a whole, but it did open my eyes. I can't excuse Glee's bad behavior forever, and I might have to reevaluate why I watch this show if it continues down this path. Hopefully, next week's "Furt" will be a step-up.


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