Tag Archives: Glee

Fall 2012 Pilot Review: The New Normal


Premise: David (Justin Bartha, The Hangover) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells, Girls) are a 30-something couple seems to have it all – a loving relationship, successful careers, and a nice house. But when the two decide to have a child through a surrogate mother, things begin to get complicated. They face judgement from several people, they confront their own doubts about their fathering abilities, and they must decide who will be the biological father of the child.

My expectations going in: Medium-low. I’m a big fan of Bartha, and I thought Rannells was great as Hannah’s gay ex on Girls, but the ad campaign put me off. Showing them both as pregnant men was kind of silly and lazy, and it seemed like a cheap tactic to appear “zany”. I half-expected one of them to give birth to a hoagie sandwich in the pilot.

My thoughts: It certainly wasn’t a great pilot, but it was a pretty solid start to the show. They did a good job establishing John and David as a loving, likeable couple with little fuss. Both Bartha and Rannells were charming and funny in the pilot, and they were very convincing as a couple. The fashion-savy, sharp-tongued character of Bryan really walks a fine line in terms stereotype, but I think there’s enough shades in the characterization and Rannell’s performance to duck cliché. Bryan is also strong, confident, and funny – and that’s never a bad thing for a television character to be. Bartha, on the other hand plays a bit more of the straight-man (so to speak), and I already really like his matter-of-fact, slightly neurotic gynecologist character a lot.

I also appreciate the show’s relative frankness (considering it’s on a major network) about gay relationships. These guys aren’t Cam and Mitchell from Modern Family. They kiss, they cuddle in bed, and there’s a palpable sexual attraction between them. It doesn’t feel forced, or like it’s there for “shock value”, and it actually adds to the show’s believability.

And I’d be remised if I didn’t say that this episode had some pretty funny moments. Ryan Murphy is one of the creators, and the pilot at times felt reminiscent of Glee’s edgy-ish first season. Ellen Barkin provides a lot of the humour as the bigoted grandmother of the woman who becomes David and Bryan’s surrogate mother. Who wouldn’t want to watch Ellen Barkin deride someone for his “ridiculous Fozzie Bear impression and self-diagnosed narcolepsy”?

However, the pilot definitely had its problems. Tonally, it was a little bit all over the place. It ranged from broad, over-the-top humour at times (not all of which worked), to attempts at more legitimate drama. I like the fact that the show wants to take a somewhat serious approach to exploring these guys’ relationship, and their doubts and insecurities. And I don’t think that part is bad (though the writing could be a bit stronger). I think they just need to find a way to make those dramatic moments feel a bit more believable with the rest of the show.

Also, the show takes a pretty moralistic approach to the whole idea of a gay relationship. In the pilot alone, David and Bryan face several people who look down on them because they’re a same-sex couple. And I don’t mean to minimize that inequality. Many gay people do face judgement on a regular basis, of course. But I am also hoping the show will decrease its focus on that negativity. First of all, it already got repetitive in the pilot, because I feel most humour involving ignorant, closed-minded people can really only strike one note. And secondly, I don’t want their “gayness” to become the characters’ defining trait. If the show wants people to accept that this type of relationship is the standard for the “new normal”, they should probably not have other characters constantly point out how strange and unnatural they think that relationship is. I think as long as the show finds a balance in tone, though, it’ll be fine.

Chances of Survival?: I predict it’ll make it to a second season If NBC is still propping up Whitney and Up All Night, they probably won’t just toss a Ryan Murphy comedy to the side. It’s already got complaints against it from certain groups, but I think there’s enough charm to pull it through the season.

Will I watch again?: Yes, I’ll give it at least a couple more episodes. Overall, I thought it was pretty good for a sitcom pilot, and I’m interested to see where the relationship between Bryan and David will go. As well, Justin Bartha is super cute, and I’m loving Ellen Barkin.

B-

2010 Golden Globe Nominations

 

Often considered the precursor to the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes announced their nominees at the crack of dawn this morning. I made some predictions for the major film categories beforehand, and I was surprised to see that my predictions were 100% correct for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy, and Best Supporting Actress. I haven’t seen many of the big Oscar contenders yet (like, basically, I’ve only seen Julie & Julia), but I’ve been following this awards season fairly closely. I might post some predictions for Globe winners, or Oscar nominees later on.

Here are some quick reactions to the nominations.

  • I was thrilled to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt nominated for (500) Days of Summer, and for the film to be nominated in the Best Musical/Comedy category. It’s my favourite film of the year so far, and I’m glad that people haven’t forgotten about it in the deluge of big Oscar movies.
  • The biggest surprise, for me, in the film categories was probably Tobey Maguire’s nomination for Brothers. I’m sure he’s good in it, but I’ve heard very little talk of awards for his performance. The iffy critical reviews didn’t seem to help his chances, either. I would have expected to see Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker (who I had predicted), Viggo Mortensen for The Road, or Johnny Depp for Public Enemies in the fifth spot of the category (Clooney, Firth, Bridges, and Freeman were obvious nominees) long before Maguire. But I like when the awards shows keep things interesting with some surprise nominees.
  • Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon, and Meryl Streep got double nominations (and in Streep’s case, it was two nominations in the same category!) And even though I’d been expecting it, I’m really confused as to why Bullock got nominated for The Proposal (I haven’t seen The Blind Side, so I can’t judge the validity of that nomination). She was fine in it, but I thought that category had so many other stronger contenders. I would have rather seen Amy Adams (for Sunshine Cleaning, or even Julie & Julia), Zooey Deschanel (though she was the weaker of the duo in 500 Days of Summer, she was still good in it), or Maya Rudolph (Away We Go) nominated instead.
  • Though I haven’t seen their performances yet, I’m still glad to see these actors nominated, just because I like them J: Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Homes), Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria – wasn’t expecting that one!), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Julianne Moore (A Single Man)
  • I don’t follow the Television awards too closely, but I was really happy to see Glee nominated for Best Comedy, and to see Lea Michelle, Matthew Morrison, and Jane Lynch all nominated! Pretty good for a show in its first season.
  • When did it become a rule that Julia Roberts has to be nominated for a Globe for every film that she makes?
  • I think that the Best Picture – Musical or Comedy category is a lot of fun. I like Julie and Julia, really liked The Hangover, and loved (500) Days of Summer. I have no idea who’s going to win this category, since early reviews of It’s Complicated and Nine seem a bit mixed.
  • Could this be the year that a woman finally wins Best Director at the Oscars? I think Kathryn Bigelow has a good shot for The Hurt Locker. I’m sure she’ll get nominated, but she’ll have tough competition in Jason Reitman, James Cameron (who also happens to be her ex-husband), and even Clint Eastwood. It should be an interesting race.

To read the full list of Golden Globe nominees, click here.

Review: Glee’s fall season

As the title would suggest, last’s night’s fall finale of Glee, “Sectionals”, saw the McKinley High glee club finally perform at the first level of competition. It seemed like a logical point for the series to temporarily leave off at, and the episode satisfyingly tied up some loose ends, but it will be a long wait until the show returns in April (yes that’s right, April) of next year. In the meantime, I thought I’d give my thoughts on the first 13 episodes of the hit Fox show. I’ll be talking about different storylines from all of the episodes, so if you haven’t caught up on the series yet, you might not want to read much further.

Glee earned some great buzz for its pilot, which originally aired after the American Idol finale, last spring. Momentum continued through to the fall, when the show re-aired the pilot, and had its “series premiere”. I think that one of the things that caught people’s attention most about the pilot was the satirical, surprisingly dark edge to the show. With pot-dealing teachers, gay dads, and slushies to the face, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be some second-rate High School Musical.

With such a strong pilot, I was uncertain as to whether the show was going to be able to keep up with the sharp writing. For the most part, it has. I can always count on seeing a one-liner from last-night’s episode of Glee as someone’s Facebook status on Thursday morning. But while the humour of the show is still there, but I do feel like Glee has become a bit uneven in tone throughout the season. I think that part of the problem is that the show set itself up for dramatic situations that weren’t consistent with its otherwise tongue-in-cheek style. When Will Shuester’s wife, Terri, faked being pregnant, and schemed to “adopt” cheerleader Quinn’s unwelcome baby without Will’s knowledge, it was played as an exaggerated, humorous situation. Which is was. But then it was inevitable that Will would find out at some point. Which he did. The show may be a satire, but it still has some basis in reality, so obviously they couldn’t have him laugh the bizarre situation off. And while Will’s freak-out in last week’s “Once Upon a Mattress” seemed very realistic (and it had some surprisingly good acting from Matthew Morrison), the kitchen scene felt more like it was from an episode of The O.C.

That being said, I have no problem with a little melodrama, which is fortunate, because there was plenty more of it this week when Rachel revealed to Finn that he was not, in fact the father of Quinn’s baby (the honour goes to Finn’s best friend, Puck). Finn’s subsequent blow-up was undeniably intense, and it added some great tension to the already exciting episode. But I couldn’t help thinking, when did this show get so serious?

I really do enjoy the show overall, though. Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester is arguably the best part of the show. Her biting, relentless quips are always hilarious. The writers have done a bit to humanize her (“Wheels” contained an unexpected, poignant moment when Sue visited her mentally challenged sister in the facility that she lives in), and I like that all of the characters are starting to become pretty three-dimensional. One of the season’s best episodes came early on, and it centred on Kurt, New Directions’ flamboyant soprano. His reluctant fight to join the football team in order to prove himself to his dad was handled with the just the right balance of humour and human drama, as was his eventual coming out to his father. That storyline was revisited later in the season in “Wheels”, when Kurt’s dad received hateful phone calls about his son, and Kurt had to decide whether or not to compromise who he is to give his dad some peace of mind.

While Kurt’s storyline has been carried out nicely over the course of the season, a few others have felt a bit more fragmented. There are a lot of characters, so obviously not everyone is going to be the star of every episode. But there have been so many one-episode storylines that don’t seem to go anywhere. The Tina/Artie romance seemed to stall before it even got started. And Kristin Chenoweth’s debauched character was a lot of fun, but she arrived and left in the course of an episode. Same goes with the Rachel/Puck romance, and Rachel’s crush on Mr. Shuester. Some of the storylines work as being self-contained episodes, but those kinds of complicated relationships probably would have been better served over the course of a few episodes.

Although I’m not really a fan of musicals, I always enjoy Glee‘s performance numbers. Maybe it’s because they’re actual performances on a stage, so it makes sense in the context of the show. With the talented cast and fun song choices, it’s not surprising that Glee, and its musical numbers, have become such a hit. Here are five of my favourite performances of the season, so far (with links to the audio on YouTube):

  1. Don’t Stop Believing (“Pilot”) (We first heard it at the end of the first episode, and I think it was the moment that a lot of people were hooked on this show)
  2. Somebody to Love (“The Rhodes Not Taken”) (You can’t beat Queen)
  3. Hair/Crazy in Love (“Hairography”) (Great mash-up. It reminded me that “Crazy in Love” is a stellar pop song. “It’s your boy, Artie!”)
  4. Don’t Rain on My Parade (“Sectionals”) (I’m not a huge fan of Rachel’s singing style, or show tunes. But this number, from last night’s fall finale, was undeniably impressive)
  5. Sweet Caroline (“Mash-Up”) (Puck’s voice is great, and I liked his “impromptu” moment to shine)

Can Glee Succeed?

Glee

Two nights ago, I watched the pilot episode of Glee with some friends. This episode was first shown after the American Idol finale way back in spring, but they’ve been showing it again in preparation for the “series premiere” next Wednesday. Two of my viewing companions had already seen the pilot (for one of them, it was her third time watching it), and I was a bit perplexed by their addiction to a show that has only one episode, so far.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the show. It’s been getting good reviews (judging by the hyped-up commercials), but it also looked a bit too High School Musical-y for my liking. But I went in with an open mind, and was pleasantly surprised by the pilot.

It started off with some of your usual high school cliches. The bullies are dumping some poor murse-bearing lad in a dumpster, and Jane Lynch is a drill sargent in a jumpsuit who’s terrorizing the cheerleading squad. And then you’ve got Will Schuester, the bright-eyed young Spanish teacher who’s determined to save the school’s glee club. But while High School Musical basks in such cliches, Glee definitely has a darker, satirical edge to it. There’s blackmail, teachers getting fired for inappropriate behaviour with students, and a general lack of the G-rated merriment that’s to be found in the High School Musical franchise. That’s not to say that it’s an especially racy show, but Glee is just a little less naive.

And then there’s the singing. Glee is not a musical – people don’t break out into song while doing the dishes, thankfully. But the pilot featured several musical numbers put on by the glee club. And while these numbers could have broken up the show too much, I really enjoyed all of them. The cast features several very talented young singers, and it’s really fun to listen to them take on “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Also, a rival school’s glee club had quite the production of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, which was bizarrely hilarious.

Both the adults and the young stars of the show are well-cast. Matthew Morrison is very likeable as Will, the glee club leader who seems a little bit out of his comfort zone. Jayma Mays is a germaphobic fellow teacher, and makes a charming would-be love interest for Will. The two stars of the glee club, Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) are a lot of fun, too. Though the two of them could be boiled down to stereotypes, the show is already fleshing them out  into fully-formed, fascinating characters. And I have to admit, my heart was shamelessly fluttering for Finn by the time the credits rolled.

I’m not entirely sure if an hour-long satire that’s so focused on musical numbers will be able to find a big enough audience, since musicals (Viva Laughin) and well-written shows (Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, etc) don’t usually fare too well with TV audiences. But I think that Glee’s positive buzz and sharp writing will help it acquire a devoted following. I’m usually reluctant to watch new shows, for fear that they’ll either be terrible, or be cancelled as soon as I begin to get attached, but I’ll definitely be tuning in Wednesday nights for Glee. And I might just be tuning into to watch the “tweetpeat” (whatever the hell that is) of the pilot tonight at 9.