September 27, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Glee”


GLEE:  Thursday 9PM on FOX

It was announced a while back that GLEE will wait until its third episode, after its previously planned 2-part salute to The Beatles, to deal with the passing of Cory Monteith and the absence of his character Finn.  Nevertheless, it was hard not to feel as though Lea Michele’s melancholy rendition of “Yesterday” early in tonight’s season premiere, as she looked through photos of her teammates on her phone, was meant as anything but a tacit acknowledgement of the mourning to come, even though technically it was part of another storyline.

Aside from that sequence, the Season 5 premiere of Glee was as determinedly upbeat and innocuous as the series has ever been.  This was the second show of the week to feature extravagant marriage proposals by gay couples–but Glee being Glee, its finale was far bigger in scale than anything Modern Family could have imagined, a fantasia organized by Blaine (Darren Criss) for Kurt (Chris Colfer) set to “All You Need Is Love” that even included the foes of New Directions (Vocal Adrenaline!  Warblers!) joining in for romance’s sake.  (Kurt accepted, of course.)

There was barely any conflict at all in the hour, written by co-creator Brad Falchuk and directed by Bradley Buecker–and whatever existed was quickly dispensed with.  So while the episode set up a potential rift between new couple Artie (Kevin McHale) and the much-softened cheerleader bully Kitty (Becca Tobin) because she was afraid that being linked with him would lower her social status, by the episode’s end, she had publicly declared them a couple.  Sue (Jane Lynch) blackmailed her way into temporary possession of the school principal job by planting evidence against Figgins (Iqbal Theba)–now reduced to janitorial staff–but rather than firing Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) or taking over the Cheerios from Roz (Nene Leakes), she professed her full support for them, since if their respective teams won at Nationals, it would only help her keep the post.   Rachel (Michele), still auditioning for the lead in Broadway’s Funny Girl revival,wais doubted by the director and male star, but an impromptu version of “Hard Day’s Night!” at her new singing waitress job at the Stardust Diner seemed likely to take care of that.

The songs, of course, were all-Beatles, all the time.  By now Glee viewers are used to the arrangements and Auto-Tuning that make the cast sound as polished (and unspontaneous) as possible, as well as the spirited variety-show stagings.  Despite Mr. Schue’s request for insights into the tunes, the only notable renditions were Michele’s plaintive “Yesterday” and the big “All You Need Is Love” finale, with others including a marching band for “Got To Get You Into My Life,” bumper cars for–guess what–“Drive My Car” and the inevitable Ed Sullivan nod for “I Saw Her Standing There.”  All were pleasant enough, but nothing to stand out among decades of Beatles covers.

We’re not likely to know what this season of Glee will actually be like until it returns from FOX’s baseball hiatus with its fourth episode.  The plan seems to be to mark time for the first two episodes, then wallop us with whatever the Finn hour turns out to be, before returning with the “real” show in November.  In any case, even though the ratings are way down from the show’s peak (in the low 2s last spring, although it remains a big hit on iTunes), the series has already received a 2-year renewal that includes 2014-15, so this season is the equivalent of having immunity on a reality-show competition, which–as on such shows–may mean a very timid strategy, or one that blows the roof off because it figures it has nothing to lose.  Consider these weeks a prologue.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."