Tag Archives: Glee

Series Finale: Glee – “2009”/”Dreams Come True”

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“2009”/”Dreams Come True”

March 20, 2015

When I used to write weekly reviews of Glee, it was during a period where I would often search through each episode looking for a quote to use as an anchor for my analysis. Glee was a show that wore its heart on its sleeve, and so it wasn’t a particularly difficult task with the show; in fact, the biggest challenge was choosing between the numerous moments where characters said exactly what the point of it all was.

It’s therefore not a huge surprise the same could be said for Glee’s two-hour finale. The last hour, in particular, was unabashed: whether it’s opening us up to joy, or Blaine telling Kurt that he’s “the only one I know who would do something like this,” or Rachel Berry standing on the stage of a 3/5 scale recreation of Radio City Music Hall telling all of the children to believe that dreams come true, Glee could never be attacked for a lack of synergy between the message it started with and the message that constituted its ending.

Glee could be attacked for many things, most recently a haphazard final season that understood its strengths and weaknesses and kept pretending they didn’t matter, but that central message has always been strong. Even as someone who wrote about the show critically, a task that will inevitably drive a person to madness, I always believed the core message of Glee was powerful, and I wasn’t surprised to see stories emerge this week that sought to celebrate those principles. I was emotional during this finale because no matter how many wrong turns the show took during its run, the place it kept landing in was a place of hope, and it was hard to root against that.

However, it was also hard to focus on it. During the final performance of OneRepublic’s “I Lived,” with a huge collection of past and present members of New Directions and ancillary characters, the show seeks to paper over a complicated history of characters it served poorly, characters who were ignored then forgotten, and plot twists that sought to fundamentally undo the good work the show was doing in other areas. It was a moment that understood the transcendent power of “hope” and human perseverance, but—like the final season as a whole—simultaneously reminded us how rarely Glee calibrated itself properly to be the beacon of hope it believed itself to be.

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Fleeting Footholds: The 2012 Primetime Emmy Nominations

The 2012 Primetime Emmy Nominations

July 19th, 2012

While Cultural Learnings has certainly been put on the backburner as I spend my summer studying, my willpower to keep myself from writing about television is at its weakest during Emmy season. While you would think that an early analysis of the leadup to the nominations and a piece on the nominations itself—focusing on Downton Abbey’s successful transition to the Series category—over at Antenna would be sufficient, I found myself hitting the site’s word count limit while still having a whole collection of narratives left to play out.

Accordingly, there are two points I want to make here. The first is the way in which this year’s awards demonstrate the capacity for a show to fall completely off the radar, and the other is what this year’s awards mean for the different networks and channels who are always looking to retain a footing within the race for nominations.

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2011: The Year That Wasn’t – Glee

The End of Covering Glee

January 3rd, 2012

This was the year that the “3 Glees” theory died, in more ways than one.

More practically, the show hired a writing staff in addition to its three creators (Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk). While this hasn’t eradicated the problems with consistency that have plagued the show since its first season, it has made the simplicity of the “3 Glees” no longer adequate as a strategy for understanding the show’s creative formation.

However, simultaneously, a Tuesday night class meant that there was really no way I could continue to cover Glee in the way I had in previous seasons, outside of a few weeks where screeners were made available in advance. This meant that updating the “3 Glees” page even in order to reflect the writing staff’s contribution was simply not going to happen, which means it quietly went on an indefinite hiatus this fall.

Allow me to make the hiatus permanent as we begin 2012. Although I no longer have a night class on Tuesdays, and thus could continue to review Glee if I so desired, I think I’m taking this as a natural breaking point. While I intend to keep watching Glee, and I remain open to writing about the show when a particularly strong/weak episode emerges, this seems like as good a time as ever to say that I might be running out of ways to describe Glee’s failings.

I know – I didn’t think it was possible, either.

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Hope Springs Intermittently: Stories of the 2011 Emmy Nominations

Stories of the 2011 Emmy Nominations

July 14th, 2011

My favorite thing about Emmy nomination morning is the sense of hope.

It lingers in the air before the 5:35am PT announcement – last night, as both coasts drifted off to sleep, people on Twitter were posting lists of contenders that they were crossing their fingers for, still believing that shows like Fringe or Community had a shot of breaking into their respective categories. This is not a slight on either show, or on their fans who choose to believe. As always, some part of me wishes that I didn’t know enough about the Emmy nomination process to logic away any chance of sentimental favorites garnering a nomination.

My least favorite thing about Emmy nomination morning is the moment the bubble bursts. When the nominations are actually announced, it’s this constant rollercoaster: one nominees brings excitement while another brings disappointment. The bubble hasn’t burst yet, at that point, as there are often enough shifts in momentum that no one emotion wins out, leaving us struggling to figure out just how we feel.

The moment it bursts is when you open the PDF and see all the nominations laid out before you, and when the math starts adding up. Twitter has quickened this process: you don’t need to wait until critics and reporters break down the nominations, as everyone is tweeting the sobering details by the time 8:45am rolls around. Excitement in one area turns to disappointment in another, with one favorite’s surprise nomination becoming deflated when you realize that other favorites were entirely shut out.

As always, I was one of those people sorting through the list of nominations, and the bubble did burst at a certain point. It was the point when I remembered that surprise nominees are often unlikely to be surprise winners, and that for every category with a surprising amount of freshness there’s another that reeks of complacency and laziness. These are not new narratives, of course, but they’re narratives that overpower any sense of hope that could possibly remain after a morning of sobering reality, and that temper any enthusiasm that might nonetheless remain.

Although we cannot say that there is no enthusiasm to be found. While there are no real dominant narratives at this year’s Emmys, I do want to focus on a number of stories that I consider important based on the nominations, some of which involve excitement and others which involve that defeatist Emmy spirit we cynics hold so dear. One deals with how a network fights to remain relevant after giving up its Emmy bait, while another deals with the failings of an oft-derided set of categories. The others, meanwhile, look at the difference between being nominated and being competitive, as well as why it might be that an entire set of categories can’t help but feel like a disappointment.

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A Final Forecast: Five Stories to Watch in the 2011 Emmy Nominations

5 Stories to Watch in the 2011 Emmy Nominations

July 12th, 2011

After numerous failed attempts at writing about why I was struggling to write about the Emmy Awards, which will go down as a meta fail of epic proportions, I’ve decided just to write about the Emmy Awards now that we’re only two days away from the nominations.

These are the five stories that I’m most interested in heading into the awards, the situations that have the most potential to surprise, infuriate, or otherwise stir emotion within my person. They are not predictions so much as they are a forecast, one that I sort of hope will get to my ambivalence towards this year’s awards in the process (although that might send me back into the spiral that I’ve found myself in for the past few weeks all over again).

1. Playing the Game of Thrones

While I think that Game of Thrones is worthy of Emmy consideration, I don’t know if I’m actively rooting for it over other competitors: while it has some strong acting contenders, and will definitely compete in the craft categories, I think there is tough competition in the drama field in terms of both acting and in terms of series.

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Ricky the Rabble-Rouser: The 2011 Golden Globe Awards

Normally, watching the Golden Globes is a fairly solitary experience for me.

Sure, my parents or a few floormates would often be in the room as I liveblogged, livetweeted, or took notes during previous years, but the focus was on putting together short-form snark and long-form analysis of the night’s events. It was just me and the internet, as I awaited the (relative) flood of page views which come with writing about any event of this notoriety.

This year was somewhat different – I attended a lovely Golden Globes viewing party held at some colleagues’ home here in Madison, where the collective snark of my Twitter feed was replaced by the collective snark of a bunch of media studies grad students. We enjoyed some fine food, some fine wine, and I took advantage of being the only obsessive follower of award season prognosticators in order to win the prediction pool. While I have much love for the online community which has formed around this blog, and around my work in general, I will admit that there was something nice about being (largely) disconnected from the online snark in favor of a more interpersonal form of social interaction (which is perhaps fitting considering The Social Network’s dominance of the evening’s proceedings).

However, as a result, I didn’t quite have the time to prepare the lengthy analysis I might normally have written, and which I normally write much of during the show to facilitate its completion. Instead, I put together a more concise and focused piece on the evening’s reflection of ongoing questions surrounding the Golden Globes’ legitimacy over at Antenna. It’s a question that I’ve had on my mind for a while now, and something I wrote about at length for a term paper on the Emmy Awards last semester, but some of Ricky Gervais’ jokes at the expense of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association offered a nice entry into how precisely an awards show that nominates The Tourist, Burlesque and Piper Perabo can hold any sort of legitimacy within the industry.

The Gilded Globes: Legitimacy Amidst Controversy [Antenna]

Every year, the Golden Globes give us a large collection of reasons to dismiss them entirely. The Tourist and Burlesque are perhaps the two most prominent examples on the film side this year, and Piper Perabo’s Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination for USA Network’s Covert Affairs offers a similar bit of lunacy on the television side. While these may lead us to dismiss the awards as a sort of farcical celebration of celebrity excess, the fact remains that the Golden Globes hold considerable power within the industry.

However, since the piece features very little of my opinion surrounding the night’s winners and this is likely why you’re here, some brief thoughts on Gervais and the awards themselves after the jump.

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Why Justin Bieber on Glee is not the Gleepocalypse

Why Justin Bieber is not the Gleepocalypse

January 9th, 2011

In light of recent reports that Glee would be doing an episode based around the musical oeuvre of Justin Bieber, there was plenty of snark.

And trust me, I wanted to be right there with them.

However, I think we need to take a step back for a moment. This isn’t a show which needs to be appealing to the current trends – or, if you prefer, fads – in order to stay on the air, which means that this wouldn’t really desperate. Sure, it would be shameless, but in the context of how Glee has built previous theme” episodes I’d actually say that Bieber would be a step up – narratively. While it may not offer the deep catalogue of Madonna, or the cultural significance of a Britney Spears, the fact of the matter is that the Justin Bieber story actually goes back to the series’ very roots and says something about young people striving for greatness.

And sure, Ausiello’s initial report at the new TVLine has since been debunked by Ryan Murphy, but the initial reaction to the news says something about how we respond to Glee‘s use of particular artists, and how the definition of “Theme Episode” is constantly shifting. Yes, Bieber’s music is not the most challenging aural experience, and his life story just so happens to be heading to the big screen days before the episode featuring at least one of his songs is scheduled to air, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less effective as a storytelling device.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters?

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Top 10 Episodes of 2010: “Duets” (Glee)

“Duets”

Aired: October 12th, 2010

[Cultural Learnings’ Top 10 Episodes of 2010 are in no particular order, and are purely subjective – for more information, and the complete list, click here.]

I have written more about Glee this year than probably any other show – it’s the only network series other than The Office which I reviewed on a weekly basis, a fact which sometimes might seem at odds with my generally critical approach to television. Sometimes, we associate reviewing with appreciation: we write about Mad Men because we love the show and think it deserving of detailed analysis.

And yet, for me, reviewing is about more than just appreciation (as my readers at The A.V. Club have discovered whenever it is suggested that I am unfit to review The Office since I have fallen out of love with the show). Reviewing a television series is about the search for understanding, dissecting our own appreciation or lack of appreciation for something in order to better understand how it fits into television as a whole. I may no longer love The Office, but I really enjoy writing about it, as I want to understand why I fell out of love, and where the show might go from here in response to a general sense of criticism stemming from a weak sixth season and the impending departure of Steve Carell.

I review Glee because it’s a show that I think needs to be talked about in order to understand what it’s trying to accomplish. Something like The 3 Glees theory is not intended to condemn the series, or even define the series; instead, Todd’s theory offers an explanation for why some viewers may find the series erratic, and why some of its characterization may deemed inconsistent by finding three distinct authorial voices amidst the series. I write about Glee not because it’s one of the best shows on television – it didn’t come close to making any lists I made relating to that subject – but because I really enjoy exploring why it’s not (as opposed to simply how it’s not).

And it’s something that I feel reached its apex with “Duets,” the series’ finest episode over the course of the past year. After spending most of 2010 picking apart why it is that Glee failed to live up to its potential, I found myself standing face-to-face with an honest-to-goodness, and actually honest, episode of television that I’d be willing to put among the year’s best. Perhaps it was just the element of surprise, the novelty of suddenly having to write about how much I unabashedly enjoyed an episode of the show, but as the year has lingered “Duets” has remained in my head not unlike a catchy song; accordingly, it rounds out my Top 10 episodes of 2010.

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Season Premiere: Community – “Anthropology 101”

“Anthropology 101”

September 23rd, 2010

In the interest of complete disclosure, I do not know if I was exactly “excited” for Community to begin its second season.

Mind you, I do think that if I had gotten a screener, I probably would have immediately popped it into my DVD player and consumed it. However, I feel as if I would have done so because I was expected to, not necessarily because I wanted to. This does not show a dislike or even a disinterest with the series, but rather the fact that Community’s first season was something I enjoyed, not something that I truly loved. The show is unquestionably funny, and there are individual episodes, moments, and characters that really stuck with me (and continue to make me laugh), but there was also something about the show which kept me at a distance.

When I would sit down to review the show, I would find myself in a self-aware state where I was writing to service the fan culture surrounding the series instead of actually writing what I was observing – this was no clearer than in “Contemporary American Poultry,” which I think is a brilliant piece of writing but which I did not “get” to the degree that others have thanks to my lack of experience with the source material. I am not one of those who is turned off by the level of pop cultural humour in the series, but I do think that its presence is part of why approaching the series critically has been somewhat of a challenge.

This is a long opening spiel to lead up to the fact that “Anthropology 101” was a cleverly organized premiere which successfully paid off the more traditional dramatic conflict created by last season’s (honestly unsatisfying) finale while indulging (or, perhaps more accurately, engaging) with the series’ signature referentiality, successfully kick-starting a season which will be an important test for the series.

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More “Not Boring” Than Usual: Surprises Elevate the 2010 Primetime Emmys

More “Not Boring” Than Usual:

Surprises Elevate the 2010 Primetime Emmys

As a whole, the Emmy Awards live and die on surprise: sure, there’s always favourites, but the idea that “anything can happen” is what keeps us watching a show which so often punishes us for becoming emotionally involved. For every pleasant surprise there has been soul-crushing complacency, and so we watch hoping that something will cut through the pain in order to give us some sense of hope for the legitimacy of these awards.

And while we eventually leave each evening lamenting numerous mistakes, comfortable in our superior knowledge of what is truly great in television in a given year, I don’t want that to obfuscate the moments of transcendence. Sometimes, moments come together that defy our cynical expectations, moments that find the spontaneity in the scripted or make the spontaneous feel as if it was planned all along. And while I remain the jaded critic that I was before the show began, any chance of carrying that attitude through the entirety of the show was diminished at the sight of Jon Hamm booty-dancing towards Betty White, and all but gone by the time Top Chef finally ended The Amazing Race’s reign of terror over Reality Competition program.

It was a night filled with surprises, whether in terms of who was winning the awards (with a huge number of first-time winners) or in terms of emotional moments which resulted from those winners – sure, there were hiccups along the way, and there were still a number of winners which indicated that the Emmys are still stuck in their ways, but there was enough excitement for me to designate these Emmys as “not boring.”

In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were more “not boring” than usual.

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