Thursday, 24 February 2011

'GLEE' 2.14 - "Blame It On The Alcohol"

Thursday, 24 February 2011

I brace myself for sanctimonious schmaltz whenever Glee tackles "the issues" effecting today's youth, and there were indeed moments when "Blame It On The Alcohol" started preaching. It doesn't help that half the cast look like they're in their mid-20s, so their concerns about alcoholism looked distractingly naïve. Fortunately, Ian Brennan's script managed to balance the pro's and con's of drinking culture, and this was the first episode in a long time that told a fun story with a decent moral.

Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) was concerned about the levels of underage drinking at the school recently, so tasked Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison) with getting the glee club to perform an anti-drinking song at an upcoming assembly. Rachel's (Lea Michele) attempt to write an original song for Regionals flopped because her life experience is so limited (she sang about her hair band), so she threw a party at her house; an event that began with a lifeless atmosphere and suffocating prudence, before spiraling into a raucous riot once Puck (Mark Salling) got the alcohol flowing. During the party, Rachel also snogged Blaine (Darren Criss) in a game of "spin the bottle", which caused Blaine to rethink his sexuality, to the disquiet of Kurt (Chris Colfer). Meanwhile, Mr Schue accompanied Coach Beiste (Dot Marie Jones) to a honky-tonk bar, to sing a duet of "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and, after returning home, drunk dialed Emma (Jayma Mays) to reveal his abiding feelings for her.

"Blame It On The Alcohol" walked a fine line, but I ultimately enjoyed it because the theme wasn't as trivial as usual and the script didn't take the easy option of condemning drink. "Drink responsibly" was the message, delivered clearly, while giving us some examples of the positives and negatives of boozing. I guess it's easy to sneer at the simplicity of the argument (drink greases the wheels of social occasions, but it gives you a hangover and can lead to embarrassment?!) but it's easy to forget that a sizeable proportion of Glee's audience are pre-teens who could do with their TV role models giving them some pointers.

Rachel's house party was also a very funny scene (of course she has a stage in her basement to perform for neighbours), and it was both amusing and embarrassing to see the cast acting drunk: from Michele pulling faces and looking a mess, to Morrison slurring his words and giving his Spanish class A+ scores on their homework.

I'm finding it a struggle to care about Kurt and Blaine now, though. It was a fun idea to send Kurt away to a different school and fall in love with a boy, away from any social judgement, but the way the story has progressed leaves me cold. The writer don't seem to like the fact it removes Kurt from the Gleesters, so he's always mixing with his old friends, and Blaine's always tagging along. The fact Blaine doesn't seem to notice, or care, that he's leading Kurt on also makes him look stupid or insensitive. This episode had Blaine considering he's bisexual after he enjoyed his drunken smooch with Rachel, before a sober encore convinced him otherwise, which coincidentally gave Rachel a heartbreak she can channel into her songwriting. I hope this means the Kurt/Blaine situation can move forward properly now his sexuality's confirmed, without constantly making Kurt look like an infatuated puppy.

The performances were better this week, although it's becoming a joke how many times they give Artie (Kevin McHale) lead vocals on any track involving a black rapper. I had an odd fondness for the karaoke-style duet of "Don't You Want Me" between Rachel and Blaine at the party, but it was undoubtedly the climactic rendition o Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" that lingers in the memory. Heather Morris took the lead and attacked the choreography with gusto. She's a remarkably good dancer and has a natural flair for movement; it's just a shame her vocals aren't anything more than competent. And while I love her character's deadpan one-liners, I wonder if the writers regret making Brittany two-dimensional comic relief. Or if they'll gradually evolve Brittany into something resembling a person, because I'm beginning to think Morris is wasted as the cutaway for a pokerfaced quip.

Overall, "I Blame The Alcohol" was surprisingly good fun and didn't collapse under the weight of having to make a serious point about the dangers of binge-drinking. Most the of performances were good, the gags were funny, the moral was balanced, and I thought the resolution worked well -- with the hung-over Gleesters vomiting over each other mid-performance, instantly turning their schoolmates off drink.


  • Grey vomit? What were they drinking? Or was the bizarre colour chosen because of some ridiculous rule about taste and decency on US network TV? Similar to how you can get away with bloodletting if the blood's green and belongs to an alien.
  • I really wish this show could afford more teachers. It's getting very boring seeing Schue interact with Beiste, Sue, Emma and Figgins. The show came alive when Gwyneth Paltrow's substitute guest-starred, so I'd love to see a few more semi-regulars.
  • Stupid but amusing running joke: Figgins constantly mispronouncing Ke$ha's name as "ke-dollar-sign-ha"
  • The Schue/Emma relationship was returned to here, with Sue (Jane Lynch) playing Schue's drunken call to Emma over the school public address system, but it's so hard to care about that match-up. It was sweet in season 1, but when they got together it was horribly yucky, so why are we supposed to want them to get back together?
  • Becky has a xylophone! Is Ian Brennan a secret fan of UK holiday camp comedy Hi-De-Hi! from the '80s?
  • Will we ever see Rachel's two gay dads on the show?
written by Ian Brennan / directed by Eric Stoltz / 22 February 2011 / Fox