'Glee' is back, with some new friends
[This blog post was filed by Emily Yahr and has been updated.]
Fox's "Glee" returned for a second season Tuesday night. But doesn't it feel like it never left?
From the constant casting rumors (Gwyneth Paltrow? Really?!), appearances on award shows, rumors in tabloids, and '90s-era pop stars stopping by, it seems that even when we're technically without "Glee" it's Just. Always. There.
Don't worry. The producers know. In fact, they decided to go all meta on us in the season premiere's very first scene and address every issue that has surfaced over the summer, in the form of a TMZ-esque video camera (directed by a student named Jacob) grilling various characters on the issues that just so happened to have appeared in the tabloids, and in rabid fan blogs.
"Rachel, how do you respond to rumors you're incredibly difficult to work with?" Jacob asked Rachel, a.k.a. Lea Michele, who's had her share of reported real-life diva moments.
"Did you know there's a forum on my blog begging you to stop rapping?" he questioned Matthew Morrison's glee club director Will Schuester, who is in fact the subject of an online petition called Please Stop Making Will Schuester Rap in Glee.
Jacob also follows up with cheerleader/glee club member Quinn. "How has life changed since the birth of your bastard child?" he asks breathlessly.
Oh, that's right! Quinn was pregnant last season. With a baby. Fathered by her boyfriend's friend and fellow glee club member. However, this is "Glee," and as we learned in Season 1, storylines disappear and return in a blink of an eye, so no surprise that her pregnancy - a sort of major storyline last year - is barely mentioned at all.
And just as some stories go by the wayside in the premiere, others seem to be destined to repeat themselves over, and over, and over. Sue Sylvester, the evil cheerleading coach hellbent on destroying the glee club last year, makes her first triumphant appearance of the season in one of her standard tracksuits, standing with Will Schuester as he watched students sign up for every club on a bulletin board - except glee.
Having formed somewhat of a truce at the end of last season, Sue explains to Will: "You make not trying to destroy glee club easy. You know why? Because you're doing such a bang up job of it all by yourself."
Rev up the never-ending storyline: Will Tries to Save the Glee Club From Destruction...Again.
However, his task becomes much more difficult, as Will and Sue meet with Principal Figgins, who explains, just like he did last year, that budget cuts are going to affect both Will's glee and Sue's cheerleading. This starts Major Plotline #2: find more glee members so the club can win the national competition and get some money back.
But before we can go there, we're introduced to the latest cast member, Dot Marie Jones, who is playing rugged, female football coach Shannon Beiste (it's French) and taking all of glee and cheerleading's money for the football team. Sue immediately makes a new enemy and persuades new pal Will to go along with pulling pranks to make her life miserable enough to quit.
Aww...they're just like high school students themselves! They send her 25 pizzas and don't let her sit with them at lunch.
Meanwhile, the glee kids are tasked with finding the Next Big Thing for the club to thrive. After a somewhat embarrassing rendition of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" fails to get the other high schoolers sprinting to sign up for auditions, Rachel has a run-in with new foreign exchange student, Sunshine Corazon (also known as YouTube sensation Charice). At first passing her off as a non-English speaking, non-threat, the two girls wind up having a sing-off of Lady Gaga and Beyonce's "Telephone," where Sunshine boasts a spectacular voice and looks happily delighted to be joining a new friend in song, and Rachel looks like she wants to tear Sunshine's head off.
We meet new member No. 2 when Finn is hanging up glee club flyers that say "Sign up, Bro" with skull and crossbone signs drawn on them, and he overhears a football player, Sam Evans (newcomer Chord Overstreet) singing in the shower. In a throwback to Finn's own discovery in Season 1, it becomes apparent Sam's here to stay - and proves himself with a rendition of Travie McCoy's "Billioniare."
With all the introductions out of the way, the show goes on to the more ridiculous elements. Tina and Mike Chang fell in love at Asian Camp (really), and are dating. Artie is heartbroken after losing Tina, and decides that because Mike's six-pack abs were the reason for Tina's attraction, he's going to try out for the football team, even if he's in a wheelchair. Coach Beiste thinks he's kidding, tells his him "no," and then inexplicably kicks Finn off the team as well.
Finally, things end in disaster when Rachel tricks Sunshine into going to a crack house when Sunshine asks for directions to glee club auditions. For some reason, Sunshine doesn't take this too well, and decides to quite McKinley and head to a new high school to join...Vocal Adrenaline! The enemy glee club. This also leads to an excellent cameo by new recurring cast member/Vocal Adrenaline director Cheyenne Jackson ("30 Rock"), who only has 30 seconds of screen time, but manages to make the most of them with a haughty toss of a Hello Kitty backpack over his shoulder as he whisks Sunshine away to make her a star.
Rachel admits that she only displayed such cruelty because she didn't want any new glee club members, because she loves the existing ones so much already and goes off to sing a sad song about it: "What I Did For Love," from "A Chorus Line."
It's all very touching, and then the episode ends, and everything is forgotten as we realize that next week is the Britney Spears episode, which will be must-see viewing.
What did you think of the episode? Here are a run-down of some highlights:
Choice quote: "I didn't send her to an active crack house." - Rachel, defending her choice to give inaccurate directions to new student Sunshine, leading her to a drug den instead of the glee club auditions in the music room.
Best performance: "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy, performed by all the glee club guys. The actors unabashedly looked like they were actually having fun, which was delightful.
Guest star grade: Not so much guest stars as lots of new faces, but either way, we're giving an "A" to Cheyenne Jackson, the new Vocal Adrenaline coach. That Hello Kitty backpack moment alone means he officially wins the prize for best newcomer.
"Empire State of Mind" -- Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
"Telephone" -- Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce
"Billionaire" -- Travie McCoy
"Listen" -- "Dreamgirls" soundtrack
"What I Did For Love" -- "A Chorus Line" soundtrack
Got something "Glee"-ful on your mind? Chat at 11: a.m. today with WaPo TeamTV's "Glee" blogger Emily Yahr.
Lisa de Moraes
| September 22, 2010; 4:00 AM ET
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