Eating Gleeful New York Crow
I’ve been quite sick. Maybe it was the fever, or the medication dulling my reflexes.
And I had the TV on because so many of you said I should check out Britney on X-Factor.
And I’m sure there’s a third excuse somewhere. But no matter how long I stew in it, I will have to admit the truth eventually. While Glee played in the b.g. on my TV last night, it looked like any other horrifying McDonald’s commercial.
But then the New York scenes came on – which I am shamed to say I rather enjoyed.
My first instinct was to self-flagellate, as it is, after all, Glee. When the scenes cut back to high school, which I find utterly intolerable in its warmth and sweetness and fakeness, I was righteous in my scorn. I’ve said before, that isn’t high school, it’s high school made palatable for 8-year-olds.
But that New York stuff –horrible teachers and being the worst in the dance class and singing all tremulous – it’s so by-the-book but it’s so compelling. Every time. If you like a showbiz story, this is the one you like. And I did. What’s wrong with me?!?
I know better, of course, I’ve railed! Glee has proven itself over and over to squander its potential and be consistently disappointing. But as I watched Kate Hudson’s kind of hilarious about-to-be-over-the-hill dance teacher schtick (although notsomuch with the singing, Kate) and tiny Lea Michele be miniature in the vastness of Washington Square Park, I was reminded that this is the show Glee has always wanted to be.
It’s not just Hudson’s phenomenal abs or the insults she throws at the dancers (David Schwimmer is a hilariously mean and specific thing to call an 18-year-old girl!). It’s not just Whoopi Goldberg underplaying what could be a muggy role. The people and situations in this storyline seem more like the original, snarky, tell-it-like-it-should-be-told Glee that died after the first six episodes in season 1.
Ruthlessly bitchy teachers who don’t have to have hearts of gold. The big, bad world of New York where everyone is more talented than you. It’s such an old story – and a great one. Fame. Center Stage. Smash. They all play on these exact same tropes, and we love when they do it. Every showbiz story’s plot is the same, and we know how it goes no matter how different it is. (Full disclosure: Part of my nostalgia and affection comes from Degrassi Takes Manhattan, which was written by my colleagues and me, has many hilarious guest stars, including one Lainey Lui, and definitely hits the star is born plot.)
This is either good, in that there are only so many stories to be told and we love familiarity ( I really hope someone evokes Debbie Allen’s “Right here is where you start paying – in sweat.”), or awful, because nobody tells any “new” stories in this arena. Your call.
Conventional wisdom says shows about kids in college don’t work – there are very low stakes, so there’s no drama. Felicity is the exception that proves the rule, and even it went kind of wonky at the end. But maybe – maybe?- this is the antidote to that rule. When every day counts, every performance, every move, things do matter. You do root for the underdog. Sue me, kick me, mock me - but yeah, I got a bit of the goosebumps when she sang “New York State Of Mind”. SORRY!
It’s not like I’m committing to watching or anything, and I’m sure next week all bets will be off as Rachel and Kurt teach New Yorkers about being kind. Or something. But I am cynical and unsentimental and hard on this show, and it still felt realer – well, TV-realer - than anything I’ve seen on Glee in years.
You may now mock or cackle as you will.
Attached - Hudson and Lea Michele at the premiere the other night. (Lainey: look at all that fake hair on Lea Michele.)