August 30, 2012

Episode Review: GLEE, "Pilot"

With the Season 4 premiere of Glee only two weeks away, I’ve foolishly decided to revisist the show’s first thirteen episodes as a lead up to September 13. The reasons I’ve decided to do this to myself are two-fold. First, I need something to write about, so why not complete my Glee recaps. Secondly, I want to see if that first batch of episodes was as good as everyone remembers.

Over the last three seasons, Glee has gone from quirky underdog to a pop culture phenomenon to a punchline, and it’s become en vogue to mock the show rather than admit to liking it. Even though I’ve had issues with some of the past episodes, I've still enjoyed watching Glee and consider myself a fan, but I never thought that it's flawless. Nowadays, when people want to cast stones at the musical dramedy, they point out that it hasn’t been as good as those first thirteen episodes, but I remember rolling my eyes just as much then as some do now. So, what better way to prove that Glee’s still decent than by pointing out who messy it was to begin with?

Ideally, I’d be recapping every episode as if I watched it for the first time, but since I’ve marathoned each season multiple times, it’s going to be hard to be objective knowing what I know now. Also, the goal is to crank out one of these write-ups every day until the premiere, but we’ll see how long that lasts. OK, enough babbling  Let’s get to “Pilot.”

After the current glee club director gets fired after inappropriately touching a student, Will Schuester decided to take over as a way to inspire students as well as to re-live his glory days. He was able to assemble a rag-tag bunch of talented misfits, headed by the ambitious Rachel Berry, but he quickly realized that his group does not have the juice or support to be successful. With the glee club at risk of being killed once and for all, Will cut a deal to keep it going. If his group showed at regionals, then it could stay but if it didn't then he'd give up for good. Principal Figgins accepted the proposal, but Will put himself in a corner because he didn't have enough performers.

Will went to the cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester, to see if she'd be willing to let some of her Cheerios join, but he was faced with the harsh truth that high school's a caste system and the popular kids wouldn't risk their reputations by joining the glee club. Not to be deterred, Will asked the football team for members but didn't get any takers. That was until he overheard the quarterback singing in the shower. Since desperate times called for desperate measures, Will planted marijuana in Finn Hudson's locker and blackmailed him into joining glee. Finn went along with it, but it didn't take long for his popularity to take a hit. He had to deal with the other cool kids getting down on him, but he decided that he didn't want to be a high school burnout for the rest of his life, so he stuck with glee and with football.

Finn was not the only one who had to deal with the harsh realities of life as Rachel was also picked on for being different, and Mr. Schue had to manage living with a high maintenance wife who insisted on living above their means. When Will found out that he was going to be a father, he made the tough choice of giving up teaching and coaching glee in order to get a better paying job. His decision to leave didn't stick though thanks to the guidance counselor (who had a crush on him and tried to convince him to follow his passion) and his students who reminded him that he was already where he belonged.

I remember being really excited for Glee after watching the pilot, which was a gamble at the time since it aired months before its premiere date but that's almost become common practice today. The reason I was so pumped up was because the show took a very familiar setting and story and made it feel fresh. Now, Glee didn't invent the high school musical, but it was so much more than sugary, cotton candy like its Disney predecessor, and the biting satire didn't hurt either.

Yet, that familiarity was one of the reasons why the pilot worked so well. Most of us went to high school, so we already knew about the time, place and angst, which helped set the scene. Today, the show gets crap for using stereotypes, but they were always present and they were a short-hand to help the audience understand these people in the fastest time possible. If anything, I'd argue that the characters on Glee are more archetypal than stereotypical, but that's merely semantics. What it comes down to is we all know the overly ambitious girl, the jock, the diva and the cheerleader, so we don't have to figure out motivations, desires and so forth and so on. Remember, this was a one-shot episode that had to sell an entire story in less than an hour.

At first glance, Glee wasn't anything more than a typical high school show, but the music was the hook and the pilot was one of the best examples of this show nailing it. Right off the bat, we got a mix of show tunes, pop music, R&B and classic rock. I remember thinking while watching the first episode, that it was good but not great, and then "Don't Stop Believin'" started, and I knew that Glee was going to be something different and special. Admittedly, the music has taken over, but can you blame it for exploiting its most unique feature? Probably.

On the music front: Remember when Glee used actual music instead of just covers and when they'd let the actors sing for real? Those were the days. Man, Vocal Adrenaline's "Rehab" might still be one of my favorite numbers this show's ever done. Another notable song, Rachel's "On My Own." Sure, it couldn't match up with Joey Potter's version, but Lea Michele still floored me. And of course, there's "Don't Stop Believin'," which still makes me choke up from time to time.

Other Odds and Ends
  • Wait, Will used to speak Spanish?
  • We need more Sandy Ryerson, although I don't know if his storyline would fly in this post-Sandusky world.
  • What's "my space?"
  • I wonder if Ryan Murphy is going to go all George Lucas and digitally insert Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell into the picture in Rachel's locker? For the record, I had no problem with their casting. People in pilots get replaced all the time.
  • So, was it ever decided if Finn and Quinn's shipper name was "Finn" or "Quinn?"
  • I miss old-school Vocal Adrenaline. They were legit before they became the Bizarro New Directions.
  • "Being a part of something special makes you special, right?"
  • "Oh god, don't you love a good monkey?"
  • "Wait, I had a football scholarship? To where?"
  • "Priority #1, 'Help the Kids'"
  • "They're Balinese."
  • "I wonder if they have Sour Patch Kids?"
Was the pilot perfect? No, but at least it was risky and fun, and for a second there I was sure that Glee was too good for TV and destined to join Firefly in the pile of FOX shows that were before their time. Ultimately, I was wrong, but the debate about whether or not it should've ended after its initial 13-episode run could rage on. At the end of the day, I'm happy that we've gotten four seasons of this show, but I have to admit that it never quite recaptured the magic that was displayed during its opening number.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Updates Via E-Mail