Typing Faster

August 21, 2009

Glee Promo

Filed under: Craft, Glee, Pilot School — petertypingfaster @ 9:00 am

New promo for Fox’s Glee.

Personally I’m not entirely sold on Glee yet. Love the music. Love the idea behind the show. But the execution of the pilot was pretty sloppy to say the least.

Rather than do a full round up of the reasons I didn’t like a pilot I watched months ago (and sorry, but I didn’t like it enough to watch it again before writing this post), I’m just going to quote from an awesome post by Alex Epstein you can find here.

1. It’s a show about a high school glee club and the teacher who supervises it. Yet, weirdly, the teaser showed cheerleaders going through their paces, and ended with the cheerleading coach telling them, “You think this is hard? Waterboarding is hard.” What? No glee club. No glee club teacher. The teaser for a pilot for a series wants to be the series in microcosm. It either shows you who it’s about — Meredith Grey waking up from her one-night stand and then discovering he’s a doctor at her new hospital — or it shows you what it’s about — the clever BUFFY pilot teaser which shows you that vampires are alive and well, uh, or at least well, in Sunnydale’s high school.

2. Then you want to quickly set up the driving question for the episode, so we know what we’re rooting for. The episode ends with the glee club teacher deciding to coach glee club after doubting whether he should, because his wife wants him to be an accountant, not a teacher. Therefore Screenwriting 101 tells you that the episode needs to start with that question: can he / should he / dare he coach glee club? Because we want to be rooting for the eventual ending.

Instead, it starts with glee club auditions. And then the hero volunteers to coach glee club. Even offers to pay $60 a month to do it. (Huh?) It doesn’t become clear that coaching glee club will be a problem for him until act 3 or 4 or so. So we’re not rooting for him to coach, because he already is coaching. Instead, we’re rooting for the club to win a regional competition, because we’re told that the club will be canceled otherwise. That’s different jeopardy.

3. Be brave. The show is supposedly about what misfits glee club kids are. And they’ve got a bunch of misfits: geek in a wheelchair, sassy fat black chick, Asian lesbian, suspiciously high-voiced effeminate boy. And we all love misfits who succeed, because most of us have felt like misfits at one point or another. But what happens is that the teacher blackmails a handsome football player into joining glee club because he heard the guy sing in the shower, and no one will support the glee club unless the “popular kids” are in it. So now the fantasy is ruined. The moral stops being “you can sing your way out of being a loser” and now it’s “only handsome jocks need apply.” It doesn’t help that the handsome jock can’t actually sing anywhere near as well as the effeminate boy. Meanwhile, the sassy fat black girl (! what is this, the 80’s?) with the killer voice gets relegated to backing vocals because, um, she’s a fat black girl.

What if the lead guy is more like Adam Lambert? Instead of a handsome jock, he’s a pudgy red-headed bisexual kid who gets the crap beaten out of him? But onstage he becomes a star. And the sassy fat black girl is the lead girl?

That show I’d watch.

4. You sure you want this show to be about a teacher? Is that some kind of weird co-viewing deal because it’s a 9 pm show? the show seemed confused about this, too. The two cute white singers got a backstory sequence each, complete with voice over. The teacher didn’t. The fat sassy black chick, the Asian lesbian, the effeminate kid and the cripple don’t get any introduction at all. We spend a lot of time with the teacher and his wife, whom we’re supposed to hate; could we spend some of that time getting to know the students in the glee club, and in particular, setting up a love triangle or two in there?

It’s theoretically a show about a glee club, but the kids spend almost no time interacting with each other. So it comes across as a show about a mopey high school teacher who’s trying to relive his glory days as a high school glee club star. Which, let’s face it, is a bit pathetic.

Alex has got a few other great points (and he further elaborates on some of the ones above), but those are the ones that really resonated with me.

I’m pulling for the show, because I think it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than a lot of the crap that gets made, but if they want me to tune in on a regular basis for more than the musical numbers, then they’ve got some work to do.

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1 Comment »

  1. Interestingly enough, Peter, I actually rewatched the pilot the other day — and not the pilot that aired, but the longer version — I think it was fifty-one or two minutes rather than forty one.

    It’s not that it was aggressively that different — but the one way in which it was considerably different is exactly on the lines that Alex started with. The pilot originally did start in flashback, with Will at the 93 Glee club finals, and the old Glee club teacher saying something inspiring. So he was established off the top, Glee was established off the top as being a big thing for the school, and so the shift to the present shows how far they’ve fallen. So the idea is why did it fall, and how is it going to come back? And Glee is a standin for the main character, Will, whose life has also not turned out as it should. The big themes of the ep too are about the struggle between the money that goes to cheerleading and the money that goes to Glee, reflecting the commodification of education in America right now — where your high school sports program gets everything it wants, but most music programs are cut.

    But the thing is, that intro was long. And I have to say if I were looking for time, I would have cut it exactly the way they did.

    Also, I love Alex to death, but he’s got a big nitpick up his butt about anything that’s the least bit populist.

    The surprise in the ep is that the jock guy has the past that makes him not the standard Jock, either. His everyman thing did seem fresh to me. He seemed likable. HIs speech about nobody getting out of the town was pretty dead on the money. It was like FNL with tooons.

    And yeah, yeah, they didn’t intro this or that character….go back and watch the Friends pilot and explain to me how it will never work because the only characters that get any play in it are Rachel, Ross, and Monica.

    Clearly, the show IS meant to be a co-venture — just like American Idol, the show it’s being paired with. Murphy’s trying to reverse the third rail of Dramatic TV in the last 20 years — that you can’t have a show that appeals both to teens and their parents. How else are you going to have kids singing these 80s songs without a main character from that era? And that IS the Idol success.

    I think the pilot was fine. It was optimistic, it was fresh enough to go forward and suggest what might be enjoyable at the series level. Let’s see where it goes from here. But I think those critiques are pretty weak sauce — except for number one, which is situational. Hell baby, you get into that edit suite and write the thing for the third time and all sorts of stuff goes out the window.

    Comment by Denis McGrath — August 21, 2009 @ 2:01 pm


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