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glee
the worst show you can't stop watching
by michelle von euw
10.11.10
music

Despite what the Emmy voters and popular press may tell you, Glee is not a good television show. I know; I’ve watched every episode.

I am a connoisseur of TV. I appreciate and celebrate television shows as an art form. I champion the creativity and the intellect it takes to achieve a good series. I will talk to you about the brilliance of The Wire and Everwood; I will describe in great detail the perfect arcs of season one Veronica Mars and season two Buffy the Vampire Slayer; I will tell you how David Lynch and Chris Carter shaped modern television and how Mike Fleiss and David Kelley almost broke it.

So I speak from an informed and qualified place when I tell you that Glee suffers immensely when compared against almost any other scripted show I’ve put on my TiVo, and probably plenty that I haven’t. Plots are ridiculously overwrought and needlessly anachronistic; from week to week, new ideas are shoehorned into whatever songs have been cleared for use. Characters are constantly beat back into their own stereotypes: the dumb jock, the unpopular diva, the quiet Asian girl, the slutty cheerleader, the flamboyant gay boy with a great wardrobe. We are supposed to trust that a man who cannot even figure out that his own wife is faking a pregnancy should educate teenagers about anything. Continuity is a joke. When the writers have the choice between logic and sap, sappiness wins out 95% of the time.

And yet, despite its myriad of problems, I continue to watch Glee.

Glee is the one show I choose to turn off my brain for, and I do this for two reasons. The first is Puck. Puck is the unapologetic bad boy, the one who, in the tradition of Bright Abbott and Logan Echolls and Tim Riggins, will never, ever get it right, and will probably not even really try all that hard. And while you’d never want to encounter him in real life, Puck is so entertaining to watch on TV, because let’s face it: bad boys are fun. And most of the time, hot.

The second, and the main reason I watch Glee, is the music. I love musical theater. From second grade to my senior year in high school, my main activity was Neighborhood Children’s Theatre, a group that sang and danced and put on shows. In high school, I still remember the pure joy of finding my name on the list of people who’d made show choir, the 1990s version of glee club.

NCT and show choir shaped my teenage life in a significant way, giving me an outlet for a big chunk of my drama girl tendencies and a stage to perform on. I don’t delude myself into thinking I had any American Idol-esque talent at singing or especially dancing: I was rarely ever the Rachel character grabbing up all the solos; most of the time, I was the Asian girl in the back row. But I enjoyed it. No, more than that. I loved it.

I think part of my frustrations with the Glee character of Mr. Schuester is that his charming idiot act underscores the brilliance of Michelle McCourt and Roseanna Fernandes, the two amazing women who were at the forefront of NCT and show choir, respectively. Michelle was superwoman; in the years that I knew her, she went from being a single mom running a musical group of 60+ kids to a married mother of triplets, then twins, doing the same thing.

At Boston Latin, Ms. Fernandes was one of my very favorite teachers; she instilled a love of music into generations of us, and was always so kind and so nurturing with everyone she taught. Unlike Mr. Schuester who constantly steals the spotlight from his students, she stood back and let each one of us find our own voice. When I heard that she had suddenly passed away this spring, my heart broke for the scores of students who’ve been lucky enough to have Ms. Fernandes in their lives.

Of course, Glee has to shine up every aspect of the experience, and I assure you, in neither group did we ever dip into the Madonna songbook. But when I get “High Hopes” stuck in my head, it isn’t because of the television ad that uses the song, it’s because I spent years jumping on and off chairs while singing that tune. If challenged, I could probably reproduce the steps to “Great Balls of Fire” that I learned in show choir in 1991.

Glee brings back something for me – what it was like to put on makeup and costumes, what all those hours in rehearsals meant, practicing a step, a song, a note, until it was just exactly right, what the sound of applause did to my ears. As a college instructor, in a way I perform every day, and Glee reminds me that there’s someone always watching, always waiting to be inspired.

Even if I’ll never spontaneously burst into “Don’t Stop Believing” in front of my class.


ABOUT MICHELLE VON EUW

Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

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COMMENTS

katherine (aka clevertitania)
10.11.10 @ 1:51p

Exactly why I didn't start watching Glee. I knew this would be my reaction to it, and with as many incredibly good shows I'm already trying to keep up with (in US and UK), I didn't want to try to eek in another. I'm thinking it'll be a show I watch all the way through in a few years, some really long weekend, on Netflix.

But then again, I call myself a TV connoisseur constantly, even though I know how pretentious it sounds. It's just the only word that describes my own appreciation/dissection.

jael mchenry
10.12.10 @ 1:07a

Exactly how I didn't know I felt until you put it into words, 'chelle. There is SO much to overlook every week. Yet, worth watching, for other factors.

(Of course I am more of a Finn girl than a Puck girl, but that should surprise absolutely no one.)

tracey kelley
10.13.10 @ 10:21p

I tried Glee, I really did. But just couldn't latch on to it.



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