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Glee: The Complete First Season (2009-2010)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/14/2010

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/19/2010

Here's something odd that I've noticed: You would think that people who love a certain type of entertainment would want to celebrate the best that it had to offer. However, it seems that people revel in making "Worst of" lists. When fans discuss failed television shows, it's inevitable that the topic of TV musicals will come up and someone will mention CopRock or Viva Laughlin. As far as most were concerned, these two shows had forever killed the idea of a series that was a musical. However, Glee came along and showed that not only could the idea could be done, it could be wildly successful. The show's First Season is now available on home video.

Glee is set primarily at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio. Glee club director Sandy Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) is fired for molesting students. Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), who was a star in glee when he attended McKinley, sees this as his opportunity to take over the club. He convinces Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) to let him do this, much to the chagrin of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), the coach of the school's cheerleaders (known as the "Cheerios"). The Cheerios are five-time national champions and Sue doesn't want anyone stealing her spotlight or getting any of her funding. Will is able to recruit five students to be in glee: Rachel (Lea Michele), an ambitious girl who puts being a star in front of everything else; Mercedes (Amber Riley), a slightly-big African-American girl; Kurt (Chris Colfer), a boy who may be having some sexual identity issues; Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), a goth girl who stutters; and Artie (Kevin McHale), a boy who can sing, but who is also in a wheelchair. Desperate to get some credibility for the group, Will is able to get quarterback Finn (Cory Monteith) to join. This core group of six singers begin a journey where they will seek their numbers grow, as well as their challenges. As each faces personal issues, and increasing pressure to do well in glee, Sue attempts to find ways to stop the group.

From the outset, Glee was an interesting show. The pilot episode premiered in May, 2009 (after American Idol I believe), and was greeted by a great deal of hype. The second episode didn't arrive until September, 2009, allowing more hype and anticipation to build. I watched that pilot and wasn't really impressed. As my wife liked the show, we continued to watch it and it took a while for me to get into Glee. While the show was a hit from the get-go, it took some time for the show to find its footing. Series creator Ryan Murphy (creator of Nip/Tuck) clearly had a vision for the show, but he also simultaneously bit off more than he could chew, while also trying to please everyone.

The show tried to offer a balance of drama, comedy, and music, but that balance was slow to develop. In the beginning, the drama was far too soapy, especially a preposterous sub-plot concerning Will and his wife (Jessalyn Gilsig). This storyline was so off-putting that it nearly drove me away from the show. Once it was resolved, Glee certainly improved. This sort of over-the-top approach permeated most of the show. By mid-season, the show had calmed down, and the humor and drama became much more organic. Clearly, as we and the writers got to know the characters better, it became easier to stories that had a true emotional heart to them.

And then, there's the music. As noted above, I wasn't wowed by the pilot, but I was impressed by the "Don't Stop Believing" number, as that song's a classic. As for the other episodes, the music is very hit or miss. Again, Murphy is trying to please everyone by incorporating music from a variety of genres and time-frames. While some were familiar, others weren't and the performances/arrangements ranged from inviting to annoying. Some of the older numbers, such as "Keep Me Hanging On" were a bit surprising, and one can't help but wonder how teenaged viewers reacted to it. (The great thing about watching Glee on Blu-ray is that you can fast-forward through the songs that you don't like.)

While Glee is not without its flaws, this is a fun and entertaining show. The music is infectious at times and when the show hits the emotional notes correctly, it's moving. Although, the show clearly takes place in an alternate universe where delay of game doesn't exist in football and teenagers know the words to songs from the 70s and 80s. Still, the show won me over when Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley) uttered the greatest line ever said on a network TV show when he was discussing college basketball.

Glee: The Complete First Season hits a high note on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The four disc set contains all 22 episodes of the show's first season. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The colors look great, most notably reds and blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is very detailed, as evidenced by the fact that we can see every blemish on the actor's faces. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. As one would hope, the music sounds very good, as it's powerful and rich. However, we don't hear much of the music coming from the rear speakers. However, certain numbers really rock the subwoofer. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, evidenced by the noises coming from off-screen during the hallway scenes.

The Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc set contains a ton of extras. Each Disc contains a "Glee Jukebox", which is an easy way to skip directly to the musical numbers from each episode. Disc 1 features "Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary" which features Ryan Murphy and select members of the cast and crew doing a commentary. The "visual" component comes from the fact that we have a split-screen which has the show on one side and a view of the speakers on the other. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 4. "Glee Sing Along Karaoke" allows viewers to sing to "Alone", "Somebody to Love", "Keep Holding On", and "Don't Stop Believing", with the option of turning the vocals on or off. "Staying In Step with Glee" (6 minutes) has the show's choreographers demonstrating how a dance is done. Costume Designer Lou Eyrich discusses how important the clothes are to defining the characters in "Bite Their Styles: Dress Like Your Favorite Gleek" (9 minutes). "Unleashing the Power of Madonna" (11 minutes) has the cast and crew discussing the importance and the fun behind the "Madonna episode". "Making of a Showstopper" (17 minutes) is an in-depth look at the Vocal Adrenaline number from the finale. "Welcome to McKinley!" (5 minutes) is a fake video in which Principal Figgins introduces perspective students to the school. (This is actually pretty funny.) "Glee Music Video" (3 minute) is a series of random images set to "Somebody to Love". "Full Length Audition Pieces" (4 minutes) has the auditions for Rachel and Mercedes from the Pilot. (These aren't casting auditions for the show.) "Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session" (12 minutes) looks at the origins of the show and the challenging of casting singers/dancers/actors. "Deconstructing Glee with Ryan Murphy" (3 minutes) is a brief promo for the show which contains some behind-the-scenes footage. "Dance Boot Camp" (3 minutes) is a brief piece which looks at how the first glee-club group had to learn to dance. "Jane Lynch A to Glee" (1 minute) has the actress describing her first acting role. "Meet Jane Lynch" (1 minute) is another short with comments from the actress. "5 Things You don't Know About Jayma" (39 seconds), "7 Things You Don't Know About Cory" (1 minute), "6 Things You Don't Know About Amber" (1 minute), and "7 Things You Don't Know About Chris" (41 seconds) are very short pieces in which the actors name their favorite things. "Video Diaries" (17 minutes) contains self-made (?) videos of eight of the cast members giving us a look at their day.

Review by Mike Long.  Copyright 2010.