This week’s episode of Glee, “Showmance,” showed a marked improvement over last week, but there’s still a ways for this musical comedy to go.
For one thing, it seems as if the writers have an inconsistent notion of just what that term means, both separately and as a single phrase. Musical comedy. Just because Glee is a comedy doesn’t mean it needs to play everything for laughs. In fact, it seems to me as if its humor would hit home far more often if the jokes weren’t so often highlighted as jokes. There’s a lot of serious material, too, treated with a levity that isn’t appropriate here. It’s possible to make comedy of somber things without losing sight of its humanity — Terri’s non-pregnancy, for one thing, or bulimia.
Glee is at its best when it isn’t trying too hard to make us laugh, when the jokes come naturally, or when it is in utter earnest. Rachel’s outburst at the Celibacy Club meeting springs to mind, as does Mercedes’ final scene with Kurt in last night’s episode.
Last night, though, was a welcome departure from last week in terms of the writers’ approach to the musical part of this show. The songs flowed far better with the story, added to and improved it, remarked upon it. The song choices for Acafellas so wonderfully highlighted the era from which most of the group’s members hail (and, I’ll admit, I cackled with, well, glee when they brought out “This is How We Do It”) and Amber Riley’s performance of “Bust Your Windows,” too, was a welcome change.
Not only was it a relief to see her finally get her own moment in the spotlight, a chance to see one of the background kids more fully developed, but the girl has serious vocal chops. Now, more than ever, I’m eager to see the others get their opportunity to shine, reminded how much talent they showed in the pilot. Mark Salling surprised with Puck’s turn in Acafellas, to my delight, and it’s starting to look like it’s only a matter of time before we’re allowed to see the others in action. While Kevin McHale has been allowed a few momentarily solos as Artie (and how amazing was he in “Push It” last week?), I hope he gets more to do soon and I’m desperately waiting to see Tina expanded beyond stuttering and being Asian (and Jewish, possibly, judging by her last name). As for adorable Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, he did good work with what he was given. Since Kurt is, it would seem, the resident Kander & Ebb fan, is it too much to hope he might be allowed to break out his own strolling-down-the-halls heartbreak solo this season and sing Cabaret‘s “Maybe This Time”?
And how nice is it that I don’t have to look up their names this week?
The addition of Victor Garber to the cast helped ground the humor this week, something the show badly needs. Now if only it could stop playing Sue Sylvester as a one note villain, the kind of woman who makes feminists want to say, “Stop being on our side, because you’ve got it all wrong.” She was nicely balanced this week, however, by Dianna Agron, whose character Quinn Fabray might just be the one for whom I have the most hope. Yes, I wish she hadn’t had to spell out the Message of the Week in a neat little phrase at the end, but Quinn is becoming more and more humanized with each passing episode, and I have fond hopes for that, based in part on the inclusion of “Defying Gravity” on the track list for the upcoming album. Come on, you know you want Quinn to be Galinda to Rachel’s Elphaba.
It didn’t hurt that this week included Josh Groban, who is always hilarious. I have so much love for Groban’s continual willingness to poke fun at himself and this was no exception. He’s got a gift for the kind of deadpan humor this show could use more of. Given that word is Kristin Chenoweth is next, I have high hopes for, at least, the guest stars.
If Glee can keep expanding its characters, use the music to advance the plot rather than distract from it and stop playing for the cheap laughs, it might become the show I so desperately hope it can be. Until then, Glee, at the risk of sounding like Dan Humphrey, I’m not mad — I’m just worried.