Thursday, 9 December 2010

'GLEE' 2.10 - "A Very Glee Christmas"

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Christmas special of Glee feels like a match made in heaven, given the show's already so effervescent, colourful, cheerful and crammed with upbeat songs. Every episode's halfway to being a festive treat already -- you only need to add tinsel. Unfortunately, "A Very Glee Christmas", despite being written Ian Brennan (the show's funniest writer), was mostly a letdown given the potential for uplifting seasonal cheer.

There were two main storylines, both hindered by absurd foundations. Sue (Jane Lynch) rigged the teacher's Secret Santa exchange, so that all of her colleagues bought her Christmas gifts. When Sue's cheating was uncovered by Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison), her presents were taken back and donated to a homeless charity. However, this only forced Sue to reenact the How The Grinch Stole Christmas plot; dressing as Santa Claus, painting her face green, and stealing "her" gifts back with sidekick Becky (Lauren Potter) as faithful dog Max. You certainly had to suspend your disbelief more than usual here, although having the show cleave close to The Grinch storyline was enjoyable, as Glee's take on Dr Suess (I mean Seuss). It even ending on a similar note to the Seuss story, with Sue's stony heart melting when she heard the glee club singing "Welcome Christmas", their spirit still intact despite her having vandalized their choir room.

The other big story concerned Brittany (Heather Morris), who it's revealed still believes in Santa Claus, much to her boyfriend Artie's (Kevin Hale) understandable surprise. Nobody had the courage to burst Brittany's bubble by telling her the truth, but things were complicated when Brittany asked a department store Santa to fix Artie's legs so he can walk for Christmas. Aware this isn't possible, but not wanting to disappoint Brittany's faith that Santa can do anything, the gleesters enlisted the help of Coach Beiste (Dot Jones) to pose as Father Christmas and gently break the news to Brittany that curing paraplegia is a miracle beyond even Santa.

While scatterbrained Brittany is unquestionably the character most likely to still believe in Santa, there was something more tragic about the fact she's this naïve in her late-teens. I think it's because you can giggle at Brittany's stupidity whenever she's dropping one-liners or involved in a non sequitur, but when a story actually revolves around her, it feels uncomfortable being confronted with the sad extent of her foolishness. And it still doesn't feel very convincing that Artie and Brittany are a couple, as Artie strikes me as someone too mature to be accepting of a girlfriend this childish and peculiar. Still, the ending just about salvaged things, as Santa seemingly delivering Artie an expensive ReWalk mobility device (secretly supplied by sympathetic Coach Beiste). It was a little miracle that wasn't beyond the realm of possibility, and satisfied Brittany's belief in Santa.

Everything else was trimmings: New Directions went carol singing around classrooms for charity, but were greeted by hostility -- which just doesn't make sense, the more I think about it. I get that glee club isn't seen as something cool in the school, but the group are clearly talented and they were performing on behalf of a charity while in a classroom environment. It just strikes me as unlikely they'd incite such violence, especially given the context of their caroling.

We also got a sense of the fallout between the Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) breakup, with Rachel desperate to win her boyfriend back through song and seasonal forgiveness, but discovering that Finn's wise to her tactics. A pretty dull storyline, as I don’t think Rachel/Finn are anywhere near as compelling together as the writers believe. This season, I've barely remembered they're an item before they split up.

Finally, more as a gesture that he's not forgotten, Kurt (Chris Colfer) duetted with Blaine (Darren Criss) on "Baby It's Cold Outside", before helping Dr Schue choose a present for Sue (a fur-collar tracksuit, natch).

Overall, I'm in two minds about this episode. It wasn't particularly good, but it wasn't a travesty. It was just very average, encouraging extra disappointment given how Christmas felt like perfect thematic material for Glee. There were a few heartfelt moments that just about won me over, but it's a shame the Sue/Brittany storylines were both rather far-fetched and daft.

Perhaps because I'm British, I also found the choice of festive songs in this episode to be insipid or plain dull. "We Need A Little Christmas"? "Merry Christmas Darling"? Together with the awful choices of tracks on the Glee Christmas album, I'm beginning to think Americans don't have a great back-catalogue of Christmas pop songs to choose from. Maybe it's because they don't have the "Christmas Number One" tradition of the UK music industry, or many popstars who intentionally release festive songs for the season of goodwill? If only Slade and Wizzard were more popular across the Atlantic... this show needed some '70s Christmas glam rock to blow away the syrupy tone.

WRITER: Ian Brennan
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
TRANSMISSION: 7 December 2010, Fox, 8/7c