11 Entertaining Ways Music Saved the Day on GLEE7
By Marti Resteghini
11 Entertaining Ways Music Saved the Day on GLEE
American Idol, aka America’s favorite train wreck, is one of the most popular series in the history of television. In fact, it holds the record for the most consecutive years as the #1 series – six! So it’s kind of a no brainer that TV executives would find a way to keep music-obsessed fans happy while the show is off the air. Enter Glee.
Glee, the brainchild of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk of Nip/Tuck, and Ian Brennan (an out-of-work writer who wrote the original screenplay and got his friend to hand it to Murphy at the gym), started out as a single episode set to air after the season finale of American Idol in May 2009. After a debut of 9.6 million people and a relentless summer marketing campaign that left Gleeks clamoring for more, the series came back in the Fall with a vengeance. And the rest is literally TV history.
Although the show is all the rage, personally, I think the show is vapid and cheap. All the characters are, well, characters – cartoon versions of high school stereotypes. There is no story development, and the glee club always has the same obstacles – Rachel is a diva; Sue is jealous; Vocal Adrenaline is too good. Even more annoying is that each competition feels no different than the next. We’re going to Sectionals! We’re going to Regionals! We’re going to Nationals!
That said, although I would not classify myself as a Gleek, I LOVE the show. No matter what your high school social status is/was, there is someone to cheer for. Everything is so cartoonish that you can’t help but acknowledge the “wink, wink” and enjoy the ridiculousness. Then there’s the music. How can you not love a show that is 50% musical numbers and 50% set-up for musical numbers. Quinn is pregnant? Sing a sad song. Finn might be falling for Rachel? Sing a romantic song. Rachel thinks she’s the best singer in glee club. Sing any song.
Glee isn’t the only one that uses this formula. Broadway has made a business out of creating story around a set of songs. Even KoldCast TV’s own series, The Best Friend, a buddy comedy that explores what it would look like to watch a romantic comedy through the eyes of the ugly best friend, sings about stalkers and the big “O” to make “real life” moments more bearable.
But, despite my cynicism, I went ahead and spent way too much time combing through all the episodes of Glee to pick out some of the best moments where music saved the day. At the end of the day, don’t we all wish we could sing our problems away?
Here are my picks.
The Best Friend, Teaser
1. Will decides to go after his dream and helps create the glee club: Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’
When the creators of Glee sat down to write the pilot, they did not want to leave their success up to chance. If they were going to deliver a show about music, they didn’t want to leave any doubt that that was the intent. So, the pilot of the show features 14 songs! In this episode, the director of the glee club, Will Shuester, finds out his wife is pregnant and decides that although glee is the only thing that makes him happy, he can’t be messing around after school now that he’s a dad. Luckily, glee’s cast of misfits have nothing better to do after school and REALLY need a place to go so they decide to practice without him. Their rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ makes him realize that music is more important than babies.
2. Sex convinces the school that glee club might be cool… might: Salt-N-Pepa, Push It
Before the series Glee existed, my friend tried to explain to me that one of the most popular pastimes at many Ivy League Schools is glee club. I told him that just proved that smart kids are not cool. When Glee premiered, I proved him right. The kids in Glee are not cool. And they’re not supposed to be. You’re supposed to love them because of their physical handicap, their diva-ness and their stupidity. But when the glee club found itself with too few members to get funding, they needed to pretend to be cool. And what’s cooler than sex? Nothing. The glee club, aka New Directions, performed Salt-N-Pepa’s suggestive Push It at the pep rally, and although a little awkward, it served its purpose and got people in the mood.
3. An unsuspecting choreographer saves the football team from embarrassment: Beyoncé, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
There was a never a question that Glee’s Kurt Hummel is gay. There is a question, however, of whether or not the actor that plays Hummel is gay. In fact, there is a, now notorious, article written by a gay Newsweek writer about gay actors playing straight, and Glee was one of its targets. Being in the midst of a national conversation is great publicity and frankly, I’m not going to take sides. But what I will say is that Chris Colfer is arguably one of the most likable gay characters on TV. And I think he won that title when he saved the William McKinley High football team from being completely forgettable. After proving to the team that dancing helps you play better football, Kurt gets the team to learn the moves to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) in order to actually score some points in a game.
4. An “old” friend joins glee club to replace Rachel: Carrie Underwood, Last Name
One of the lamest story engines that the writers on Glee like to use is: Oh no, Rachel is leaving the group! I admit Lea Michele, who plays Rachel Berry, is phenomenal. In fact, Time Magazine named her one of the most influential people in the world in 2010, and FHM ranked her #7 on their list of 2010’s Sexist Women. But seriously, Glee club is not going to die without her. And Kristin Chenowith’s cameo on Glee proved it. One of those many times when Rachel quit, Will called on a old friend to replace her at Sectionals or Regionals or one of those. Chenowith’s version of Carrie Underwood’s Last Name proved that everyone is dispensable.
5. A deaf glee club teaches the cast that it’s all about the music: John Lennon, Imagine
If you don’t watch Glee, then you don’t know that Vocal Adrenaline is the devil. They are New Direction’s nemesis. Basically, they’re just a really good glee club. Not misfits who have nowhere else to go but honest to goodness entertainers. They don’t need big hair or sex to win either. But it took a school of deaf singers to communicate that to the glee club. In order to compete against Vocal Adrenaline, the team looked feverishly for ways to up their game. But after they tried all the gimmicks, it was a simple, touching rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine that made them realize that music was all they needed. Awww.
6. Glee makes it into the yearbook: Van Halen, Jump
If you’ve ever been in a yearbook, then you know that it’s a completely unimportant event – unless you’re still in high school, then it means everything. When the glee club’s page in the yearbook is threatened by lack of funding, they take matters into their own hands. Rachel captures the opportunity for the glee club to perform in a mattress commercial. Although the photo actually brought more ridicule into their lives, they got a bunch of free mattresses and some sexy pajamas out of it.
7. Rachel takes on sectionals all by herself: Barbra Streisand, Don’t Rain On My Parade
AfterEllen.com went as far as to call Lea Michele a “perfect storm of hotness.” Although she doesn’t have the sexiest numbers on the show, she does kill when she attacks the big songs. In the mid-season finale, the team has no director and Finn has gone AWOL. But Rachel thinks she can go it alone. And she kinda can. She introduces New Directions at Sectionals with a solo of Barbra Streisand’s Don’t Rain On My Parade. In my opinion, this number proves that Michele will have a long career on Broadway after everyone has forgotten about a little show named Glee.
The Best Friend, Episode: The Big OMG
8. Olivia Newton John, Let’s Get Physical
As manly as Sue Sylvester is, she still wants to feel sexy. And as mean as she is, she’s still necessary. Without evil, there is no good. Without William Hung, there is no American Idol. In this episode, the club decides to win the school’s respect by humiliating Sue. They find a video of her singing along to Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical and post it on YouTube. Although it initially works, it completely backfires in the end. Sue gets a call from Olivia who is looking to revamp her image and wants to include the new YouTube sensation, Sue, in her new version of the video. Although this is not a point for Team Glee, it’s a point for Sue. And who doesn’t love tracksuit-wearing, one-linering Sue Sylvester?
9. Vocal Adrenaline proves they deserve to win: Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
Like Sue, Glee needs Vocal Adrenaline. And as much as we love our glee cast, we have to admit, they’re not always that great. But every time we’ve seen Vocal Adrenaline perform, they are REALLY good. Somehow, failure brings the glee club closer. And for that, a victory for Vocal Adrenaline, is a victory for Gleeks. There is no song more strange and more cool than Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. But when Vocal Adrenaline sings it, you realize that not only is the song incredibly challenging, but it’s also a great piece of music.
10. Glee club attracts new members, again: Alicia Keys Featuring Jay-Z, Empire State of Mind & Lady Gaga Featuring Beyoncé, Telephone
I already said it. I love Glee. But we already did the episode where Glee club recruits!!! Still, this was a great episode that did expose us to some great talent – even if Rachel’s diva status did sabotage the whole effort and hand Vocal Adrenaline another spectacular singer.
11. Brittany S. Pierce proves Glee is HOT: Britney Spears, Slave 4 U
There’s glee. There’s karaoke. Then there’s Brittany S. Pierce. You could smell the ratings stunt a mile away when Glee announced they were doing a Britney Spears episode. Once the episode started and dumb-as-a-paperweight Brittany admitted that she hated Britney Spears because they shared the name – Brittany S. Pierce – I groaned. But when we entered her own version of Spears’ Slave 4 U music video, I was left speechless. Although the club has attempted to be sexy in the past, there has never been a hotter musical number than actress Heather Morris’s shaking her goodies in this episode. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more of Morris’ character from now on.
The Best Friend, Episode: Stalkers
The Best Friend, Episode: Working Girls
Marti Resteghini is VP of Network Programming and Acquisitions here at KoldCast TV. Formerly, as vice president of development and production at Warner Bros.-based production company, HDFilms, Resteghini oversaw the development, production and distribution of feature films, television and new media content across multiple platforms. In this post, Resteghini produced many high-profile Web series including “Chadam,” “Creepshow: Raw,” based on the 1980s cult classic feature film, and Crackle’s “The Jace Hall Show.”