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Glee: The Complete Third Season(TV) (2011-2012)
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 Third Season and the Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray release, see Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 18, 2012 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 Third Season Blu-ray Review
New directions for the New Directions.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 18, 2012
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No, not A Tale of Two Cities; I'm talking about high school, those four influential years of BFF-forming and deep insecurity, budding sexuality and utter emotional stupidity. For those of us who've already lived through it, we look back with a weird mix of nostalgia and thank goodness I don't ever have to do that again relief. If you're still right in the thick of it—eking through trigonometry, partying on the weekend, maybe falling in love—enjoy it while it lasts, but know that the true best is yet to come.
Few TV shows have captured the glories and crushing melodrama of youth as well as Fox's Glee, the odd drama/comedy series that appeals to both sentimental adults and in-the-moment teens. When the show premiered in 2009, there was nothing like it on television, and three years later it still stands alone—an ambitious overarching story about high school kids discovering themselves, and a weekly musical peppered with current top-40 hits, classic Broadway tunes, and songs from the entire back catalog of 20th century pop. That's not to say it doesn't have its problems, from crater- sized plot holes and inconsistently developed characters, to a sometimes annoying over-indulgence in "teachable moments" and somber, after school special-style lesson learning. After a strong first season, the show's focus wavered somewhat in the second, and the third has trouble finding its direction too, although the last few episodes dramatically set up some potentially interesting life-changes for the main characters. Despite its narrative issues, Glee is infectiously fun and buoyed by an unusual-for-the-times optimism—this is a show that knows there's a difference between snark and cynicism, and almost always chooses the former over the latter.
For those of you who don't know Finn from Quinn, and who might stare blankly, shrugging your shoulders at the mention of The Warblers, a quick overview wouldn't hurt. Glee is set at McKinley High, in the middle-American nowheresville of Lima, Ohio, and follows the members of the school's glee club, the New Directions, as they deal with the usual teenage conflicts—young love and identity crises, bullying and competition, jealousy and popularity. The New Directions—which, yes, sounds conspicuously like nude erections—are led by club sponsor Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), an inspirational teacher who dresses like a J. Crew mannequin and has an awkward, sexless romance with the OCD-afflicted guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays). Track-suited cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is the show's loveably sharp-tongued antagonist —perpetually orchestrating schemes to take down the glee club—and also in play is Shannon Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), a mannish female football coach with self-esteem issues. The adult faculty members are just as psychologically conflicted as the teenagers they serve, and have a poignant tendency to live vicariously through the kids' idealistic dreams of Broadway superstardom. These 21st century teens have been raised to believe they can do anything, but Glee's third season throws that belief into question as several of the students anxiously approach graduation.
This year is all about changes, farewells, and new beginnings as the founding members of the New Directions proceed through their senior year. As usual, the central story concerns singing quarterback Finn Hudson (Corey Monteith) and his girlfriend Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), a Barbara Streisand wannabe who has her heart set on attending NYADA—the fictional New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. Rachel's fretting over NYADA applications, auditions, and acceptance letters consumes a large chunk of season three, while Finn—uncertain about his future—begins to feel like he's merely tagging along. This doesn't keep him from proposing marriage—yes, it is ridiculous—and their troubled, on-and-off-and-on-again engagement is one of the season's less compelling plot lines.
Actually, it's hard to think of a narrative arc this year that is compelling, aside from the admittedly brilliant lead-up to the emotional season finale, with its happy/sad mix of jubilation and goodbyes. Series creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennen brought in five new writers to assist this year—they had previously scripted everything themselves—and the season has a scattershot quality, with story lines that frequently spin off into tangents that are either dropped entirely or feel unsatisfyingly resolved. Sultry Santana (Naya Rivera) comes out as a lesbian, and her ditzy girlfriend Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris) runs for class president. "Trouty-mouth" Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) is saved from a Magic Mike male-stripper scenario, and resumes dating the large-and-in-charge diva, Mercedes (Amber Riley). In one of the least-believable through- lines, popular cheerleader Quinn (Dianna Agron) adopts a new bad-girl image, only to go good again and get hit by a truck in a texting-while-driving accident.
Let's see...who am I forgetting? "Baby-gay" boyfriends Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blain (Darren Criss) go through relational ups and downs—Kurt gets caught sending flirty messages to another guy—while the Asian-American students, Mike (Harry Shum, Jr.) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), continue to play disappointing subsidiary roles. Mohawked Puck (Mark Salling) wants to play baby-daddy to the kid he fathered with Quinn—the infant was adopted by Rachel's birth-mom, of all people—and wheelchair-bound Artie (Kevin McHale), well, he doesn't do much at all of note this season.
As if Glee weren't burdened enough by too many characters, the writers were obligated to introduce—and then largely ignore—several new ones this year, most notably the Irish exchange student Rory and dread-headed "teen Jesus" Joe Hart, played respectively by Damien McGinty and Samuel Larsen, who were awarded seven-episode arcs after winning the Oxygen network's reality show, The Glee Project. And then there are the numerous guest spots, from Ricky Martin and Jeff Goldblum, to Gloria Estefan and Whoopi Goldberg. The cameos can be fun—come on, who's gonna say no to Jeff Goldblum?—but the show does feel bloated and overly busy in its attempt to work all these faces into the story.
Although Glee has trouble trying to do too much at once, giving the overarching narrative a disjointed, stop-and-start quality, many of the individual episodes—taken on their own—are great. Standouts include a jolly holiday episode that's essentially an homage to the Judy Garland Christmas Special—Kurt and Blaine host it, naturally—and a clever Freaky Friday-inspired riff where Tina whacks her head and imagines that she's switched bodies with Rachel. The writers also have a fondness for musically "themed" episodes, and this time around we get multi-song tributes to Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Saturday Night Fever. If those aren't to your liking, the season features a whopping 146 songs across 22 episodes. You'll hear everything from Nicki Minaj to The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald to Katy Perry, Hall & Oates to Adele, along with show tune standards galore. There are more than a few duds—"Red Solo Cup" and "The Rain in Spain" come to mind—but the hits outnumber them by far. My one request: next season, can we get fewer Rachel Berry power ballads?
Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you're familiar with the Glee season one and season two sets, you'll notice no significant changes in picture quality with The Complete Third Season. Along with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and a small handful of others, Glee is one of the few remaining TV series still shot on film—Super 35, specifically—and this sets it apart from slicker, glossier, digitally-shot shows. You'll definitely notice the grain, which can be a bit chunky during darker scenes, but this is an inherent part of Glee's look. Each episode has been given a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer—framed in the intended, screen-filling 1.78:1 aspect ratio—and these look true to their filmic source. 20th Century Fox has left the image untouched by digital noise reduction, edge enhancement, or other forms of filtering, and aside from some rare and barely noticeable compression artifacts—some infrequent banding, splotchiness in fine color gradients—there are no issues to report here whatsoever. The picture is a little soft—likely because of the spherical lenses used—but the difference between the Blu-ray and the DVD season sets is easily noticeable, with the high definition version sporting finer textures, cleaner lines, and an all-around tighter presentation. The film's color palette is realistic and nicely saturated, with bright and vivid colors in the stage lighting and costumes. Black levels are as dense as they need to be, and contrast is balanced. Some fans have expressed dissatisfaction at Glee's graininess, but on the whole I think the show looks great.
Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Likewise, if you've got the first two seasons on Blu-ray, you already know what to expect from The Complete Third Season's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation. Glee is obviously all about the music, and the pop song and show tune covers generally sound fantastic here, especially if you're rocking a capable multi-channel home theater set-up. Crank the volume up a few notches above your normal listening level and you'll be treated to real presence, clarity, and dynamic punch, with solid subwoofer output and a balanced mix. Most of the time—but especially during the bigger "spectacle" numbers—the music is pumped out of every channel, with discernible separation of instruments and voices, filling the room with sugary top-40 guilty pleasure goodness. Back in the "real" world of school, the mix is decidedly less immersive; you'll hear some hallway ambience, auditorium clamor, and applause filling the rear channels, but there are also times when you'd expect to hear more environmental noise or directional effects and there just aren't any. No big deal, though. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty essentials, the mix has what it takes—clear dialogue and a soundtrack with kick. For those that may need or want them, the disc includes optional English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles, all appearing in easy-to-read white lettering.
Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Glee: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Glee's third season is even more unfocused than the second, and would've been a disappointment if the writers hadn't pulled the main strands together in the last few episodes for an emotional conclusion that opens some intriguing possibilities for season four. It looks like we'll be following at least a few of the characters post-graduation, which should come as a relief to fans of the New Directions' original lineup. Although the overarching story sags and sputters, the musical performances are as energetic as ever, and those whose tastes skew towards top-40, classic rock, and show tunes will find much to love. 20th Century Fox once again delivers a solid Blu-ray set, with strong audio/video quality and a decent assortment of extras, so gleeks shouldn't hesitate to pick this season up.
Glee: Other Seasons
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