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Glee: The Complete First Season(TV) (2009-2010)
A high-school Spanish teacher becomes the director of the school's Glee club, hoping to restore it to its former glory.
For more about Glee: The Complete First Season and the Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 17, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer, Matthew Morrison, Dianna Agron
Directors: Brad Falchuk, Eric Stoltz, Ryan Murphy, Paris Barclay, Elodie Keene, Adam Shankman
» See full cast & crew
Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
Makes show choir cool—no easy task.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 17, 2010
We had a glee club at my high school. In the grand tradition of dorkily named show choirs, they were called The Sophisti'Cats. With a name like that—and owing to the fact that the members were often caught doing "jazz hands"—the club was the object of constant derision. The school's jocks routinely replaced "Cats" with any number of offensive terms, most often resorting to the derogatory slang for homosexuals. The 'Cats just kept on singing, doing their own thing. You've got to respect that. I suspect my school was not unlike thousands of others across the country, where show choir is a refuge for the different, the marginalized and oppressed, where talented but perhaps insecure students go to find a literal and figurative voice. And that's essentially the overriding theme of Glee, the breakout musical-dramedy from Fox that's been hailed as one of the year's best new TV shows.
I have to admit, I was wary about Glee at first. For one, I thought it was just going to be American Idol with a plot. Two, musicals don't exactly have a storied history on television. And three, I was more of a drama kid in high school—I preferred doing monologues from Dancing at Lughnasa to singing show tunes—and my current musical tastes run more toward the indie and obscure than the top-40 hits, power ballads, and classic Broadway numbers that grace Glee each episode. But midway through season one, it hit me: not only do I like Glee—and here I'll borrow from teenage parlance—I like like it. It's infectiously optimistic, often wickedly funny, and it's pure, unadulterated escapism. If you feel let down by Lost, overwhelmed by the surfeit of gritty police procedurals, or simply tired of sitcom laugh tracks, Glee is a gleeful departure from the television norm.
At the heart of the show is Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), an idealistic Spanish teacher at McKinley High, a fairly average school in the rural mid-western nowheresville of Lima, Ohio—a place as bland as the bean for which it's seemingly named. Will takes over the daunting task of leading the school's decrepit glee club, partially because it'll let him exercise his dormant creativity and buy him some time away from Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig), his overbearing, work-shy, materially obsessed wife, but mostly out of nostalgia, as he himself was a glee clubber at McKinley back in the day. Will renames the club New Directions, but he faces numerous obstacles in his bid to restore the show choir to its former glory, the least of which being that no one wants to join a supposed den for geeks, dweebs, and the effeminate. A more pressing concern is an ultimatum delivered by fiscally conservative Principal Figgins: if the club doesn't place at the year-end regional competition, the program will be unceremoniously cut from the school's budget and all funding shifted to the Cheerios cheerleading squad. Sue Sylvester (the brilliant Jane Lynch), the Cheerios caustic coach, is determined to make that happen. She's the show's primo villain—and the source of much of its comedy—a post-menopausal, sharp-tongued tyrant who wields a bullhorn like a weapon. Her coaching philosophy sounds conspicuously like post-9/11 neo-con fearmongering: "I empower my Cheerios to live in a state of constant fear by creating an environment of irrational random terror."
Sue tries to thwart Mr. Shuester's efforts at every turn—and to add to the insanity, he also has to contend with his romantic feelings for Ms. Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), the school's dainty, obsessive compulsive guidance counselor—but the glee club eventually comes together. The show's female lead is Rachel (Lea Michele), a Jewish American Princess—with two gay dads—who dreams of superstardom. She's driven but self-obsessed, bossy but insecure, and she's totally got a crush on Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), the star quarterback who risks alienating his uber-masculine football bros by joining glee. His blond cheerleader girlfriend Quinn (Dianna Agron) is the leader of the chastity club—their motto: "Tease, don't please"—but it comes out that she's got a bun in the oven that may or may not be Finn's. She's planning on giving the kid to Mr. Shuester's wife, who is faking a pregnancy in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save their marriage.
And this is all in just the first few episodes. As New Directions advances toward sectionals, and then regionals, everyone is beset by drama. Conflicts are confronted, life lessons are dutifully leaned, and Glee has no trouble investing us in the lives of its characters—students and adults. Not only does this give the show a wide target audience—that is, anyone who has ever gone, or is currently going to, high school—but it also allows for emotional poignancy and narrative intricacy. The adults pine so much for the triumphs of their youth that they often act like children, and the kids, the ones who won't make it big, will clearly grow up to be the next Mr. Shuesters, Ms. Pillsburys, and—god forbid—Sue Sylvesters of the world. The show works so well because it evokes nostalgia in the over-25 crowd and immediacy in the under-20 set. (If you're still in college, enjoy it while it lasts; you've got the best of both worlds.)
Furthering the show's cross-cultural appeal is an unmistakable emphasis on diversity. Sure, the leads are all white, but Glee's young cast— of twentysomethings playing teenagers—is much more reflective of America's ethnic, religious, and lifestyle multiplicity than most TV shows. (Sue Sylvester smirkingly refers to the New Directions as the saddest Benetton ad ever.) We have Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), an Asian American goth girl who fakes a speech impediment, Mercedes (Amber Riley), a diva who does a mean Tina Turner, and Artie (Kevin McHale), a paraplegic who doesn't let his wheelchair keep him from performing. One of the show's most compelling characters is Kurt (Chris Colfer), a fashion-conscious, closeted gay student who eventually reveals his sexuality to his blue-collar father. ("I've always known," his dad says. "All you ever wanted was a pair of sensible heels.") Some of these kids seem like complete stereotypes at first, but Glee's writers revel in a kind of Breakfast Club approach, sometimes using cliché as a source of comedy but frequently overturning our expectations about the typical high school molds. (The jocks remain dimensionless, bone-headed troglodytes, but I'm not complaining.)
And then there's the music, which sets Glee apart from just about anything on narrative television right now. (High School Musical pales in comparison.) You'll hear a tremendous variety of covers here, from Liza Minnelli to Kayne West, Billy Idol to the Supremes, Olivia Newton- John to Lily Allen. There's a whole episode devoted to Madonna and another split between KISS and the equally theatrical Lady Gaga. Each episode features between four and eight musical numbers, some simple—like glee members breaking it down in the choir room—and others full-blown fantasy arrangements with impressive choreography and costume changes. Some critics have called the show out for being unrealistic—How do they afford the costumes when they cover KISS? And aren't pyrotechnics a fire hazard inside a school auditorium?—but this nitpicking seems to miss the point. Sure, Glee is about kids performing musical numbers, but at the same time it is a musical. And musicals are all about suspending your disbelief and entering a world where people might burst into song at any minute. That they might also suddenly change clothes shouldn't bee too much of a stretch. Anyway, the performances are fantastic, even if—like me—you don't typically enjoy the kinds of music being sung. I mean, I used to laugh at my dad for liking Journey, but I've had New Directions' signature song, "Don't Stop Believin'," stuck in my head for a week now. I kind of like it there.
Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shot on film rather than digitally—resulting in a more cinematic look—Glee clearly has a healthy budget. It definitely shows on Blu-ray, as the series has been given a 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that's as clean-cut and colorful as the show's teenaged characters. There are occasional soft shots, but most of the show has a satisfying sense of clarity. Textures on clothing are finely resolved—see Emma's frilly blouses, Principal Figgin's tweed suit jackets, or the tight mesh of football jerseys—and in close-ups, you can spot every pore on the young actors' unrealistically blemish-free faces. Color is dense and saturated but very realistic—the musical numbers may be stylized, but the image never is—and the picture looks especially fantastic during outdoor, daylight scenes. Skin tones, throughout, are perfectly balanced, black levels are deep, and contrast is nicely tuned. If you caught the show on Fox in high definition, you can expect a slightly more pristine look here, with fewer compression bugaboos, but there are still a few small problems that keep the presentation from higher marks. Darker scenes are often peppered with bluish chroma noise, some fine color gradients look a little splotchy, and there are a few instance of mild banding. None of these are overt distractions, though, and don't let the 18MBPS bit-rate scare you off—Glee looks terrific on Blu-ray.
Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unsurprisingly, Glee's sound design—presented here via lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks—is all about the music. As you'd hope, the various pop songs and show tunes sound fantastic, especially if you've got a capable 5.1 home theater set-up. The music has real presence, clarity, and dynamic punch, without ever sounded overly compressed or bottom heavy. During the bigger numbers, the instruments and voices are spread throughout every channel, creating an enveloping soundfield that puts you right in the school auditorium. When we go back to reality, however— the day-to-day drama of school life—the mix is much less active. You'll hear occasional ambience in the rear speakers—the clamor of between-period hallways, cheers from the audience at sectionals, etc.—but there are also plenty of instances where there could be more immersive sound design and there simply isn't. No big deal, though. Where it counts, Glee's audio delivers. The dialogue is unerringly clear, and the music sounds great turned up loud. Numerous subtitle options are available, all appearing in easy-to-read white lettering.
Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary with Cast and Crew
A Blu-ray exclusive, here we get to watch the pilot episode—presented in it's extended director's cut form—with the cast and creators of the show. Expect lots of reminiscing, laughs, and occasionally bizarre comments from showrunner Ryan Murphy. Instead of having a small picture-in-picture window, the episode and the video of the commentators are equally sized and placed side by side, letterboxed to preserve the episode's aspect ratio.
Glee Sing Along Karaoke (1080p, 10:21)
Sing along to karaoke versions of "Alone," "Somebody to Love," "Keep Holding On," and "Don't Stop Believing."
Glee Music Jukebox (1080p)
Available on each of the four discs, use this option to go directly to the scenes of your favorite songs from the season. There's also a "shuffle" function if you want to watch them in random order.
Staying in Step with Glee (1080p, 6:16)
Choreographer Zach Woodlee and some of the show's dancers teach us how to do the dance number from "Rehab."
Bite Their Style: Dress Like Your Favorite Gleek (1080p, 8:52)
Costume designer Lou Eyrich discusses the distinct look for each character.
Unleashing the Power of Madonna (1080p, 10:36)
The show's music producer and cast members talk about the hugely popular Madonna episode.
The Making of a Showstopper (1080p, 17:22)
An extensive behind-the-scenes look at the process of adapting Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for Glee's finale.
Welcome to McKinley! (SD, 5:07)
Principal Figgins welcomes us to McKinley and shows us around his office in this mock introduction to the school.
Glee Music Video (SD, 2:44)
A music video for the song "Find Me Someone To Love," featuring the actors from the show.
Full Length Audition Pieces (SD, 4:11)
No, not real life auditions. Here we get to hear the full versions of Rachel singing "On My Own," and Mercedes covering "Respect."
Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session (SD, 12:03)
The success of the show totally depended on finding "triple threats"—performers who can sing and dance and act—and here we get to see the difficulties and happy accidents of the casting process.
Deconstructing Glee with Ryan Murphy (SD, 2:49)
A short EPK-style promo with Ryan Murphy introducing the show.
Dance Boot Camp (SD, 3:12)
A quick look at the actors' first day of dance rehearsal.
Jane Lynch A to Glee (SD, 00:52)
Lynch sits in her make-up chair and recites a line from the first play she was in in second grade.
Meet Jane Lynch (SD, 1:03)
Jane discusses her cranky character.
Things You Don't Know About… (SD)
Here, a few of the actors tell us some random trivia about their own lives. Includes sections for Jayma (00:39), Cory (1:00), Amber (00:58), and Chris (00:41).
Video Diaries (SD, 17:10)
Short self-shot video diaries from Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Cory Monteith, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer, and Dianna Agron.
Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you had told me last week—before I'd had a chance to watch the entirety of season one—that I would end up falling in like with Glee, that, in fact, I'd be geeking…sorry, gleeking out at the possibilities of the season two premiere, I would've given you a heh, yeah, riiiight. But sure enough, I sit here converted, a bonafide gleek. I'll even admit to tearing up a bit during the season finale. (I know, I'm such a drama queen.) Glee is fun, funny, and smartly scripted; it features a cast you can easily come to love and musical performances that'll have you singing along, using your TV remote for a microphone. Fox's Blu-ray is a treat as well, with a crisp high definition picture, lossless audio, and an assortment of special features that's as quirky as the show's cast. Highly recommended!
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