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Glee: The Complete Second Season
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/13/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/17/2011
In my recent review forThe Big Bang Theory, I talked about television shows which evolve and get better as times goes on. I also talked about what a rarity this is. The more common result are TV shows which look like the powers that be never expected the program to run for more than one season, and thus had no idea what to do when the show got renewed. (Case in point, Prison Break. Season 1 was one of the best things ever put on TV. After that...not so much.) When Glee debuted in 2009, it took not only the TV world, but the world of popular culture by storm and became an instant phenomenon. The buzz, ratings, and iTunes sales more than guaranteed a second season. But, just because the public wants something, doesn't mean that they are going to get what they want, as Season 2 of Glee shows some definite growing pains.
The first season ofGlee introduced us to the kids at McKinley High. Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), who attended McKinley as a student, jumps at the opportunity to revive the glee club, where he had been a star. However, glee is seen as the nerdiest, most unpopular activity in school, and putting together a group of singers proves to be a challenge. However, Will is able to assemble a core group -- Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), Curt (Chris Colfer), Artie (Kevin McHale), Mercedes (Amber Riley), and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). Cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), whose girls rule the school, doesn't like the attention that Will is getting, so not only does she try to sabotage him at every turn, she sends three cheerleaders -- Quinn (Dianna Agron), Santana (Naya Rivera), and Brittany (Heather Morris) -- to infiltrate glee. Finn's fellow football player Puck (Mark Salling) also joins the group. Everyone who comes into the fold loves the glee club, which takes on the name New Directions, and the group works towards the regional competition, as they form interpersonal relationships.
As Season 2 opens, New Directions is ready to take on a new year. Having lost at regionals, Will encourages the group to work even harder so that they can not only win regionals, but take nationals as well. But, of course, there will be challenges. Sue continues to antagonize Will, and she also turns her focus on Coach Beiste (Dot Jones), the new female football coach. Lauren (Ashley Fink), an abrasive girl, joins New Directions. Due to the harassment he receives at school, Curt transfers to a private school. The love triangle between Finn, Quinn, and Rachel heats up. The girls swoon over Sam (Chord Overstreet), another football player who joins the group, but one who also holds a sad secret. Will attempts to deal with the fact that Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), the school counselor with whom he's shared a flirtation, has moved on. As these changes create tension, New Directions attempts to hone their craft as competitions loom.
I have to say, I'm not the biggest fan of musicals, but even I found Glee interesting when it premiered. The combination of high school drama with musical interludes was something different and proved that a television musical could work. Season One did a good job mixing the storyline of the students, Sue's obsessions, and the march towards regionals, in a way where the ingredients built upon one another. The show was by no means perfect, but it kept things moving along and was rarely dull.
And then Season Two happened. Rarely have I seen something go off of the rails in the way that Glee did. To be fair, the second season got off to an OK start, as New Directions regrouped and began their work again. However, things quickly began to go awry. Again, it felt as if Ryan Murphy (series creator) and company had no idea that there would be a Season Two, and thus, had no idea what to do. So, they began grasping at straws, changing things and bringing in new characters. Now, giving us a carbon copy of Season One may have been appeasing, but few artists like to stagnate, so its' understandable that they would want to shake things up. But the changes offered in Season Two never felt organic and has an air of desperation to them.
Examining the changes will show where the show went wrong. First of all, Lauren Zizes may be the most annoying character ever on TV. The show wants to have a plus-sized character? That's great, but why did she have to be so grating? Then we have the sub-plot where Curt leaves the school. Cur isn't my favorite character, but his input into the group debates always kept them lively, and splintering him off into a different school only diluted Glee's focus. The relationships between the characters quickly become stale and we reach the point where we don't care who hooks up. The strangest change is how the show gets away from the show choir aspect. The first season's momentum came from the fact that New Directions was working towards a common goal. In Season Two, there's a lot of talk about competitions, but no one seems to do anything about it. At least once an episode, Will mentions regionals or nationals and then nothing happens. The musical selections also took a turn for the worse in Season 2. Season 1 clearly had a strategy, as the musical numbers mixed current hits with classics. (Just look at how "Don't Stop Believin'" captured the country's attention.) The second season seems to rely more on new songs, most of which I didn't recognize.
In my household, Glee was viewed because my wife likes it and, again, Season 1 was entertaining. However, with Season 2, watching the show felt like a chore, as it became more and more disjointed and mean-spirited. As Murphy made headlines for diva-like comments about bands who didn't want to lend their songs to the show, the storylines became more and more blurry. The season attempted to end on an interesting note, but the damage has been done, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that many Glee faithful have turned away from the show.
Glee: The Complete Second Season teaches us that a new haircut can solve any problems on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The four-disc set contains all 22 episodes of the second season. The shows has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a nice crispness to it and the level of detail is quite good. The transfer more than rivals HD broadcast and really shows off the colorful nature of the show. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track does exactly what one would want it to. The stereo effects are fine, especially when the kids are in the school hallway. But, it's when the music kicks in that the track shines. For funky numbers, the bass is thumping and for more subtle pieces, the stereo separation is notable. This track deserves a better show.
The Glee: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. Each disc offers "Glee Music Jukebox" which allows the viewer to jump directly to a specific song. Disc 1 contains "The Making of The Rocky Horror Glee Show" (7 minutes) which offers comments and on-set footage of the episode where the cult movie gets the Glee treatment. We also get a "Bonus Song -- 'Planet, Schmanet, Janet'" from that episode. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 4. The actor who plays Finn takes us on a tour of the school auditorium set in "Building Glee's Auditorium with Cory Monteith" (6 minutes). This piece also contains comments from set designers who describe how the set was built and decorated. "A Day in the Life of Brittany" (6 minutes) has Heather Morris, in character, taking us on a tour of her trailer and the set. "Shooting Glee in New York City" (11 minutes) takes us on-set and on-location as the production travels to Manhattan for the season finale. "Guesting on Glee" (8 minutes) showcases the various actors like Carol Burnett, Gwyneth Paltrow, and John Stamos, who made appearances on the show. The Fleetwood Mac singer visits the set and makes some comments in "Stevie Nicks Goes Glee" (4 minutes). "Sue's Quips" (2 minutes) is a reel of Sue Sylvester quotes. This is followed by the similar "Santana's Slams" (3 minutes). "The Wit of Brittany" (2 minutes) features dumb quotes from the cheerleader. "Getting Waxed with Jane Lynch" (6 minutes) takes us behind the scenes to see Madame Tussauds create a wax statue of Sue Sylvester. "Glee at Comic-Con 2010" (15 minutes) shows the cast at a Q&A panel. (They'll let anyone into Comic-Con.)
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long