Tuesday, 18 May 2010

GLEE 1.18 - "Laryngitis"

Tuesday, 18 May 2010
WRITER: Ryan Murphy
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
GUEST CAST: Jenna Ushkowitz, Mike O'Malley, Naya Rivera, Eve Gordon, Josh Sussman, Rizwan Manji, Heather Morris, Harry Shum Jr., Dijon Talton & Ashley Fink
[SPOILERS] The storyline was silly throughout but compensated by being very funny (well, for the first act) before a feeling of desperation overwhelmed everything, a few good ideas were wasted, and then it pulled a common Glee trick of blindsiding us with a heavy-handed piece of moralizing using a disabled character hereto unmentioned...

This week, Puck (Mark Salling) shaves off his mohican and appeared to lost his social power along with it, inspiring one of Glee's best exchanges of dialogue when he equated his dilemma to "that dude who lost his hair and all his power". "Samson?" enquired Mercedes (Amber Riley.) "No, Agassi" came Puck's reply. A good joke. And there were quite a few more in this script, which helped make it more palatable than it otherwise would have been.

Puck, now being tossed into the school dumpster by the nerds he previously bullied, decided to reaffirm his status by dating the school's newest alpha-female, Mercedes. Rather uncomfortably, Mercedes was fine with Puck using her to further his own reputation after a hear-to-heart chat with Quinn (Dianna Agron), who's becoming a regular confidante of hers lately. Agron attacks those scenes with the intensity of someone believing the material's a great deal more insightful and emotional than it really is, too. She often looks on the edge of tears and targeting an Emmy nomination, but the dialogue's not deserving of her belief in it.

Elsewhere, Rachel (Lea Michele) uses hidden mic's to determine which members of glee club aren't pulling their weight vocally, in an effort to out the underperformers to Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison), prompting another "homework" task for the membership to come up with songs that represent their personalities. Kurt (Chris Colfer), still hurting over the fact his dad (Mike O'Malley) is doing "guy" things with Finn (Corey Monteith), decides to experiment with his masculine side -- dressing like a clich├ęd trucker, singing John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses", and smooching Brittany (Heather Morris.) Mercedes and Santana (Naya Rivera) clashed over Puck's affection, prompting a song-battle of Brandy & Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" that spilled over into real life. And, unfortunately, while trying to sing Miley Cyrus' "The Climb", Rachel lost her voice and was later diagnosed with tonsillitis, giving her a scare that she'll lose her ability to sing forever.

Firstly, it was definitely great to have an episode that focused on the ensemble cast and their interactions, rather than get too bogged down with servicing another guest-star's appearance or focusing on Schue. That said, I didn't believe in the whole Puck/Mercedes situation, I thought more could have been done with Santana's jealousy, the idea of Rachel losing her voice could have fuelled a whole hour of plot, and it's beginning to irritate me that the poignant dynamic between gay Kurt and his blokish dad is being recycled nearly every week. It's like the writers are astonished they managed to find a realistic and touching relationship amongst all the show's exaggerated silliness, but are now refusing to develop it in any worthwhile way. A few more return trips to this well, and it'll be emotionally empty.

I'm still uneasy about how Glee chooses to involve disabled characters, too. I'm sure it's well-meaning and it's certainly commendable, but they're always used as manipulative shorthand and moralizing. Here, Finn gets so annoyed by Rachel's grumbling about her throat infection that he takes her to see an old friend of his, a young man who was paralyzed below the chest after a tragic football accident. It was a kind of uncomfortable way to make Rachel count her blessings. She's fretting about losing her voice, this guy's lost his body -- see? Do you see? It was all very blunt and a bit unnecessary. Plus, not for the first time, when Glee decides to have a scene where the disabled character sings, the show just can't resist segwaying into a better, more upbeat version of that song performed by its able-bodied cast -- somewhat undermining the point of letting a disabled character make a connection to the audience.

Overall, I was 50/50 on "Laryngitis". I appreciated the emphasis on the core cast this week, disliked most of the songs (haven't most of the season's song choices poor recently?), felt like the subplots were undernourished or too unlikely, but it admittedly had some funny lines (especially in the first half.)

Asides
  • There wasn't much Sue (Jane Lynch) this week, but she did manage to fire off this nugget of advice to Kurt: "So you like show tunes; that doesn't mean you're gay. That just means you're awful."
  • Some excellent Brittany moments this week, starting with her "who's that guy?" response to Puck when he arrives at school with a shaven head that drew everyone's immediate attention. But the best was probably her response to Kurt's question about what boy's lips taste like: "Usually dip. Sometimes they taste like burgers. Or my armpits." Her taste buds are clearly as scrambled as her brain cells. Not that I know what boy's lips taste like...
  • Do the writers choose character names based on songs that will perfectly match scenarios they have planned? Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" worked better than it might have because the lyrics matched the characters.
17 MAY 2010: E4/HD, 9PM