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Glee: The Complete Fourth Season(TV) (2012-2013)
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 Fourth Season and the Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray release, see Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 3, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 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 Fourth Season Blu-ray Review
How do you keep the music playing?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 3, 2013
My personal high school "career" lasted only three years, since where I lived elementary school was comprised of kindergarten through sixth grade, what was then called junior high was seventh through ninth, and high school itself was tenth through twelfth. My own sons are both in high school now, but here in the Pacific Northwest where we live the layout of the divisions between grades is a bit different. Elementary school only runs through fifth grade, middle school (the new, improved name for junior high) is sixth through eighth, and high school is ninth through twelfth. It may not seem like a sea change, but for those of us who had to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous unpopular fortune in high school, one more year of that environment might have seemed like an eternity. The world of Glee has itself begun to confront the built in shelf life of its format by moving several major characters of previous seasons—notably Lea Michele's Rachel—off onto the next phases of their lives, while still attempting to maintain a central focus on Lima, Ohio's rather improbable McKinley High. That means that there's a "new" Rachel (of sorts, anyway, and in fact this season's premiere episode is actually titled "The New Rachel") on hand in featured character Marley (Melissa Benoist), as well as several other recruits to the New Directions glee club. Glee is one of those shows which exploded into pop cultural omnipresence seemingly immediately after its premiere, and then has had something of a hard time maintaining its "relevance" (whatever that might consist of) and momentum over its ensuing years. That tendency continues throughout the fourth season, which sees some interesting developments and has some nice guest star turns, but which also suffers from a seemingly insurmountable fractured ambience stemming from having to deal with too many characters (something the show has always struggled with), now exacerbated by the fact that at least some of them aren't in Lima anymore. For those who want to catch up on the Glee story thus far, I highly recommend checking out my colleague Casey Broadwater's reviews of the previous three seasons on Blu-ray:
Glee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray review
Glee: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray review
Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray review
Glee has of course recently been reeling from the death of Cory Monteith, something that ironically elevated its public profile once again after a couple of years of diminished interest, though obviously in a less than desirable way. That notoriety was only increased with the remembrance by Jane Lynch afforded to the late actor during the recent Emmy Awards, something that was unwisely hyped by CBS beforehand (in an obvious, unseemly and desperate seeming attempt to lure viewers—which it did), and created a backlash when relatives of and those who worked with arguably much higher profile stars like Jack Klugman were not given similar treatment. Despite this controversy, Glee's fourth season has a certain bittersweet quality now as longtime fans catch their last few glimpses of Monteith as singing quarterback Finn Hudson, which are frankly not that numerous to begin with.
Glee, for all its dramatic excesses, is probably more appropriately enjoyed as the modern day successor to what used to be termed variety shows. Baby boomers grew up with a glut of these shows, typically hosted by a singing or comedy star. The fifties and sixties were full of these outings, wonderful weekly outings featuring the likes of Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore, and of course Carol Burnett. The format fell out of favor as the seventies and eighties moved along (and production costs skyrocketed), meaning even major talents like Julie Andrews and Dolly Parton couldn't sustain any measurable success. Looking back now on this perhaps underappreciated halcyon age, it seems frankly miraculous that on a weekly basis, huge production numbers could be put together, almost always with special music. Glee has the relative luxury of not being played out in front of a live audience, but it brings much of the same luster to its musical elements, which remain the highlight of this perhaps increasingly lethargic series.
Without putting too fine a point on it, especially considering the season long arc of Rachel dealing with a demanding dance instructor played by Kate Hudson, Glee seems to be having a hard time finding its footing. Individual moments work quite well—the subplot involving Marley and her morbidly obese mother being one of them—but more and more, the series seems to be lurching dangerously toward self-parody at times. There's melodrama running rampant here that is decidedly hyperbolic (Rachel maybe has a new New York based boyfriend, and new singer Jake, played by Jacob Artist, is a moody problem child), leading to a comparison with another much less successful show which attempted to blend theater, music and television, NBC's Smash.
Countering this is Glee's still occasionally piquant sense of humor, especially when it's emanating from Jane Lynch's cheerfully acerbic Sue Sylvester. And the series continues to offer knockout musical performances week after week, most of them brilliantly staged and at least decently sung (though a lip synching issue is fairly apparent some of the time). Some of these include homages to various stage shows (the kids put on a production of Grease this year) or films, but others, like the opening montage introducing us to Marley and detailing Rachel's singing audition at NYADA, which has the two singing Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind", are state of the art presentations that feature incredible production values and, more importantly, relevant tie ins to the plot at hand.
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. As my colleague Casey Broadwater has pointed out in his reviews of previous seasons, Glee is bucking the trend of digitally shot series television, continuing to film the show in the Super 35 format. This gives a nice texture and added density to scenes, where some of the "stage lighting" for some of dance sequences is especially impressive looking (see screenshot 13 for a nice example). The series has a tendency therefore to look a bit soft at times, at least when compared to the ultra-sleek appearances of shows shot with the Red or Arri Alexa systems. Fine detail is quite admirable, especially in close-ups, though, again as Casey pointed out in one of his reviews, there are occasional anomalies like the blue chroma noise which crops up from time to time (you can see it quite clearly in the opening sequence of the Diva episode). Glee's visual style is typically hyperkinetic in the dance and sung elements, and while some fans have tended not to like the relatively soft and grain infused look of the series, to my personal taste the choice to film this series seems astute and generally well managed.
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season continues the tradition of offering a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on Blu- ray. I am perhaps marginally more impressed by this mix than Casey was by previous seasons, an approval which is however frankly relegated almost exclusively to the musical moments. In this sequences, the soundtrack is fully engaging and fully engaged—employing the surround channels to often delirious effect. While there's certainly good use of immersion in other non-musical scenes—the crowded halls or lunchroom of McKinley High, or some of the ambient environmental noises employed in the Manhattan locations—dialogue still tends to be fairly centrally anchored. That said, fidelity is excellent throughout this presentation, and dynamic range is extremely wide, given the gamut of musical styles explored.
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It might be tempting to say that Glee has finally jumped the shark, except given this show's fascination with musical theater, it's probably more appropriate to say that the show has jumped the Jets and the Sharks (sorry, couldn't resist). That assessment may be a bit premature, but the death of Monteith is certainly going to be a wake up call for the series. How they handle that, and the continuing attrition of their "first class" of stars is going to tell the tale of whether Glee was, to paraphrase one of their previous seasons' themes, a "one hit" (and/or "one season") wonder, or if, as Variety likes to say, the show has "legs". The musical moments continue to be stunning little mini-masterpieces at times, well sung and often imaginatively staged. The other elements of this series, while fitfully engaging (and relying on a bit of stunt casting now and again), seem more and more like they should have closed out of town. Fans will no doubt still want to pick up this package, as it offers generally great video, superb audio and a nice array of supplementary materials.
Glee: Other Seasons
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Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray - August 28, 2013
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray Glee: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray. The four-disc Blu-ray set will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation on October 1.
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