The Fox HD signal went out in the middle of my Glee TiVo-ing last night (this was apparently a NYC-area thing; I don’t know whether to blame Fox 5 or Time Warner Cable, though TiVo is apparently off the hook), with the result that I saw the first 25 minutes (with commercials) and the last three. But a weird, off 28 minutes or so those were.
I caught the rest of the episode on Hulu this morning, and it actually somewhat redeemed “Mash-Up.” But if last week’s episode was a summation of everything that’s right with Glee at its best, “Mash-Up” was a fairly good sample of the show’s problems (spoilers ahead):
* Where last week used the musical numbers to excellent emotional effect, the show can sometimes use them pointlessly, for their own sake. Case in point: yes, yes, it is funny to see Matthew Morrison run through classic rap songs, but having him do “Bust a Move” just for the sake of seeing him do “Bust a Move” dilutes the effect. Wake me when they’ve exhausted the Tone Loc catalog.
* You can’t simply have characters act irrationally because it serves a plot point you want. Case in point: no sane man is going to offer up his fiance for dance lessons from another man he knows she’s in love with. But apparently he would if you need him to get mad at the glee-club teacher and create a conflict.
* Pickier point on the same storyline: the kind of farce Glee does needs to walk a fine line—it needs to make the characters funny without making them implausibly insane. That Tanaka would pick a wedding dance song much less sentimental than Emma’s makes sense for his character and is funny. But making that song “The Thong Song” overstretches the joke and makes him look stupid. (It also made for a really creepy serenade, with Will crooning to Emma, “She’s got dumps like a truck.”) It’s picky, yeah, but a show like this is about the details.
* Glee is really not like anything else on TV, not just in its premise and tone—it is, in fact, a mash-up—but simply structurally. Again, this is a strength in its stronger episodes, but in a weaker episode like “Mash-Up,” it makes the show seem like a random grab-bag of ideas out of nowhere. As I mentioned, my recording crapped out halfway through last night; when I finished on Hulu this morning, I discovered there was an entire Sue Sylvester subplot introduced halfway through. Before then, I thought that the reference to her in the show’s advance logline must have been a typo.
* Puck’s crush on fellow member of the tribe Rachel seemed similarly sudden and underdeveloped. I can forgive it partially for the tribute to the Jewish Elvis, Neil Diamond, which just about finally scrubbed the “Sweet Caroline” singalong from Beautiful Girls out of my mind. But… what about the song was a mash-up? Was this storyline simply mashed up from another episode?
* And yet, I’ve never seen a high-school breakup that included the line, “Damn, I feel like such a bad Jew,” which is one of the things I love about Glee.
* Speaking of Puck, didn’t we establish with Kurt and “Single Ladies” that the football team had kinda-sorta made its peace with glee club? Why all the hating and slushie-flinging now? (That said, I did like the running slushie joke here, especially, “I really don’t want to, honestly. I know how picky you are about what products you use on your face.”)
* In a related matter, in what universe would Quinn and Finn ever have gone to Emma for advice on “how to be cool”? And in another related matter, throwing slushies in the face: I’ve been out of high school for a while, but does anyone actually do that?
*Finally, the show sort of runs out of oxygen when Sue Sylvester is out of the picture for too long. Seeing her pop on the screen when I watched the second half this morning did somewhat redeem “Mash-Up.”
Of course, I did have an unusual viewing experience. Did those of you who watched the entire episode at once think differently?