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Glee 2.01 – Auditions

The cast of Fox's Glee

Grade: A-

Too Long, Didn’t Read: Glee goes back to its roots and finds the right mixture of satire and drama that made it so enjoyable in the first place.

Glee was easily the biggest thing to happen to television last season. A generational phenomena that Fox hasn’t seen since the early days of Idol or The O.C., Glee has spawned CDs, clothing, concerts and even now fiction books. Its fans (Gleeks, as they call themselves) are obsessive and plenty, partly because the message of the show appeals to so many young people: being different in high school really sucks, but you still need to be yourself. Fox put early faith in the show, premiering it at the end of the 08-09 television season after an episode of Idol, creating plenty of buzz for the rest of the summer (Fox will be doing something similar this spring with its new epic, Terra Nova).

But while the first 13-episode of season 1 were critically acclaimed and a hit for the network, the back 9 episodes brought in an even larger amount of viewers thanks to Fox’s marketing genius. High production values. Themed musical episodes based off ageless pop icons like Madonna or Gaga. More famous guest stars. Yet the back 9 episodes were also of a considerably lower quality. There were too many plot lines, the music became forced into the show, there was not enough time with the New Directions members and instead the broadway star of the week or Sue’s recreation of music videos received the majority of the attention.

All indications were that season 2 would continue down this troubling path. The show added 3 huge recurring roles, two of whom would seem in the premiere. Two previously recurring characters now are regulars. There would be more themed musical episodes. And this doesn’t even count broadway actors like Cheyenne Jackson playing the new coach of the opposing glee club.

And even with all that… Auditions is surprisingly solid. Not just solid, down-right terrific. There’s an amazing mix of social satire, self-satire, drama and music that made Glee so fun to watch in the first place. Even the new characters blend well into the story-lines, moving the overall plot forward in ways that could open new doors for the show. It’s all a winning combination that makes a hilariously moving hour of television.

The episode opens with our favorite Jew, Jacob Ben Israel interviewing the members of New Directions and asking many of the characters questions that viewers were wondering. “Your musical selection comes form a drag queen’s iPod” (when given an answer with percentages by Mr. Shue, Israel only responds “100% gay.”). “People want you to stop rapping” (so true). “How has your life changed since the birth of your bastard child?” It’s hilarious, especially with the Jewish-themed microphone, but more importantly shows that Glee is able to make fun of itself. Many critics and fans disliked Mr. Shue’s rapping. Some fans and critics have disliked the song selection . And who hasn’t wanted to ask an asian “how do you get white on rice?”. It’s the type of comedy that makes Glee so much fun to watch.

The mix of satire and drama throughout the episode is well-done, though the first half-hour is a little too focused on humor while that last twenty minutes focuses more on the dramatic elements of the show. There’s small jokes, like “Cheerios Try Outs – No Fatties” or Asian camp that keep you laughing, while Rachel’s stupidity and Sue’s bullying balance the ending. It would be too much to go through every line that elicited a laugh because Auditions gave every character a chance to show off their comedic skills, not just Sue and Brittany.

Another thing about Auditions that was so great was its ability to give Tina and Artie focus even though their plotline wasn’t central to the story. In season 1, it seemed that Tina and Artie would only be given dialog when the A-plot focused on them (the 2 or 3 times that happened). While their story wasn’t as the core of this episode, they were still given plenty of screen time and plenty of laughs.

The new characters were also fantastic additions to the squad. Coache Beiste (it’s French) provided great callous entertainment and a wonderful character to connect with. The only issue here was getting from point A to point B. Beiste is initially portrayed as a big, stupid and belligerent female football coach who names herself the panther and has an arsenal of preposterous metaphors. She is then shown as a woman who is just misunderstood because of her job and desperately wants to fit in. The tension created is extremely real, yet it’s an awkward adjustment in one episode from supposed loathing of this caricature to genuine sympathy for a real character. If there had been a smoother transition, or if her entrance has not been as abrasive this would have been much easier.

YouTube star Charice and newcomer Chord Overstreet star as Sunshine Corozon and Sam Evans. While both have immaculate voices, Charice’s acting abilities are obviously rough, creator Ryan Murphy wrote her part well-enough to combat her inexperience. On the other hand, Overstreet is perfect as the reserved newcomer that will provide an awkward foil for Finn later on.

Musically, Auditions is a bit sparse. It’s not a bad thing though, especially since the storylines for the rest of the season are set in motion during the first episode. What is in there are solid covers are popular songs that mostly work within the framework of the episode and are fairly natural. Rachel’s ballad near the end, though wonderfully sung, is a bit off-message and her bathroom duet with Sunshine is out-of-place (though it seems this scene was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, given the ending).

Auditions is a great season opener that restores confidence in a show that was swallowed by its own success. It returns its use of satire, drama and music to create a show about those lovable losers. And Auditions stresses the show’s main thesis once more: you might be different, you might not be cool, but you still need to be yourself. It’s the only way you’re going to be happy.


One Response

  1. how have I still not seen this?

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