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Gleeview: The Purple Piano Project

Spoiler Alert!

As usual, I liked this episode even more on second viewing.

Another season of Glee is upon us, and I want to give some space to the expectations for season 3.  There has almost since the beginning been a lot of expectations from various fronts for Glee, and many of the factions (and, yes, that's an apt word) applying those various expectations are in conflict (openly or not).  Starting after season 1 especially, people wanted things from Glee, and it was impossible for it deliver all of them because they were often mutually exclusive.  Some wanted Finn and Rachel (Finchel) to be together.  Some wanted Finn and Quinn (Fuinn) to be together.  Some people shipped Puck and Rachel (Puckleberry), and others even wanted more Quinn and Rachel (Faberry...me!) or Rachel and Santana (Pezberry).  And that just covers the more high-profile characters from season 1.  Some wanted Brittany to sing.  Some wanted more Tina.  Some wanted more Mike.  Some wondered where Matt went.  Glee couldn't please all the fans at once.

Besides the pressure from fans, there was presumably pressure from Fox.  I don't know what the relationship between Fox and Glee producers is really like.  I have no special insight, but I would presume that there were some some pretty obvious expectations.  The first 13 episodes of season 1 were critically-acclaimed, but the ratings were average at best.  The back 9 episodes of season 1 increased the show's ratings by roughly 40%, but I'm assuming Fox wasn't satisfied since by the end of season 1, Glee ranked only #15 on the list of top-rated TV programs.  Never mind that the show was making money for Fox hand-over-fist from music downloads, DVD sales, etc.  So, for season 2, in order to appeal to a wider and younger audience, and probably under pressure from Fox, season 2 featured higher-budget musical numbers, more themed episodes, and more guest stars, all of which helped the marketing department hype the show.  All this yielded mixed results because, while Glee generally maintained its audience, ratings did dip for several episodes leading up to the finale and the number of loyal viewers obviously didn't increase significantly if at all.  There's really no way of knowing why this happened, but the fact is the apparent emphasis on ratings did not yield the expected results.

In spite of all of this, I personally believe that season 2 yielded some good storylines, excellent (in certain cases brilliant) character development, great music, and generally an overall great show.  The problem was that many loyal viewers couldn't see past the aforementioned bells and whistles.  Consequently, expectations for season 3 are somewhat lower from loyal fans.  I've tried to avoid spoilers in general, but from what I've seen the producers are at least acknowledging verbally the need for Glee to get back to basics.  The premiere pretty much succeeded.

The episode seemed to serve the purpose of setting up the storylines for the season, without giving away too much.  This is typical of Glee I think.  The season 2 premiere did much the same thing, though I think this episode was somewhat better.

The much publicized graduation of the original members of New Directions is obviously going to be a big theme this year.  We found out in last night's episode that they're not all seniors, which I was not really surprised about.  If you're keeping track, Artie and Tina are juniors.  By my count, the rest are seniors and thus graduating at the end of the year (and the season).  The premiere episode dealt with setting up each student's preparation for their future as well as the last year the original members New Directions (minus Matt....remember him?) will be together as a group.  Technically, you could argue the original group didn't include any jocks other than Finn, but I digress.

So, what about the members of New Directions and their development?  From least to most important to me, here's my take on the set-up as we saw it last night.

Mike:  Mike is a likeable character, but I don't necessarily think he's an important character.  He's fun to watch, and he's a senior.  So, it'll be interesting to see how his character develops.  One of the few spoilers I saw for the season related to him (highlight to read:  We will be meeting his parents, apparently), so we'll probably get to see more of his development.  Stay tuned for my views on that when it happens.

Tina and Artie:  These two are juniors, so apparently they will be back at McKinley in season 4, and I personally wonder if they're being set up for a romantic reunion.  If you recall in season 1, they were a couple, and since Mike is a senior I wonder if Tina will realize that Artie is a better fit for her since he's available again.  Hmmm.

Finn:  Finn is important, but for me only as he relates to other characters.  Obviously, there are a lot of people who would disagree with this assessment.  He's one of the lead characters, after all.  I must say I did kind of like the direction his character seemed to be going in this episode.  He's directionless, which is believable.  He's in love with Rachel...imperfectly so, which is also believable.  And these two elements of his character seem to fit together to make for interesting developments.  Will Finn and Rachel's relationship survive since Finn seems to have little ambition whereas Rachel has it pouring out of her in waves?  I think it'll take some serious maturing on Finn's part, but a step in the right direction was his sticking up for Rachel in the lunch room scene.  He had a hard time with that in season 2.  Maybe it'll change in season 3.  I'm skeptical to say the least.

Puck:  I like Puck, and he would be higher on the importance list if there had been more of him in this episode.  The fact is I didn't really miss him, but I always like him when he does have a bigger part.  The only development we saw with him was that Lauren Zizes broke up with him.  Another spoiler that was hinted at in the preview for next week potentially involves Puck.  I'm expecting to be more interested if that happens.

Kurt (and Blaine):  Blaine goes with Kurt.  That's why he's on the show.  He's a nice guy, a likeable character, but his reason for being is Kurt.  Kurt is likeable too, and I hope his life takes a turn for the better this season.  His storyline, especially at the beginning of season 2, was seriously depressing.  Chris Colfer won a Golden Globe, and the writing was at times powerful.  But, I wrote in a season 2 episode review, and still believe, that the storyline took a turn for the better when Kurt transferred to Dalton and the show was no longer dominated by the bullying theme.  Now that Kurt and Blaine are back at McKinley, and the teachers and students are more sympathetic I think Kurt will be more fun.  Also, I love Rachel and Kurt's friendship.  The NYADA mixer scene and, especially, the car scene were excellent.

Brittany and Santana:  Brittany and Santana have joined the Cheerios again.  This is a good development, I think.  It sets up the division of loyalty between Glee and cheerleading.  Sue vs. Will is one of the structural backbone of Glee, and it's even better when the students are divided.  Will banned Santana from glee already for helping Sue in her attempts at sabotage, so it'll be interesting to see how she reacts.  Santana will also most likely continue to struggle with her openness with her sexuality, and this will likely bring complications into her relationship (or non-relationship) with Brittany.  In the premiere, they're obviously friends at least.  That's a step in the right direction.

Quinn:  Quinn's bad girl image was definitely interesting.  Consistent with my reaction to the Lucy Caboosey development last season, I believe this is simply another step in the development of this character.  For me, she's the most compelling character, though Rachel is my favorite.  Next week will start a major story arc for her, and I'm very excited about it.  I don't think we've seen the real (Lucy) Quinn Fabray yet.

Rachel:  I really don't have room to extol the virtues of how Rachel Berry, diva and co-captain of New Directions, was portrayed in this episode.  Apart from the genius that is Lea Michele, the general direction of the character's development was completely satisfying and Rachel Berry at her best.  She was focused on her future, slightly Finn-crazy, fought with and against Will Schuester, and cared about Quinn Fabray.  The car-scene was, in my opinion, Rachel's best purely dramatic scene since "Hell-O" in season 1, when Finn broke up with her the first time.  Lea Michele is an under-appreciated comic genius, but her dramatic acting skills are equal to or greater than her comic skills.  The car scene put them on display.

That rounds out the glee clubbers.  There were several other details in the episode that I appreciated:  Sugar Motta, Will & Emma (Wemma), Bieste, the return of Sue in force, and yes (gasp!) even Harmony, portrayed The Glee Project runner-up Lindsay Pearce.  I'm very excited about the season.  I hope you are too.

Favorite Sue Sylvester lines:
In honor of the return of our favorite enigmatic villain in full force, my Quote Block is dedicated to her:

Sue:  Becky, the special election to fill Ken "Heart Attack" Weigand's congressional seat is in two months, and I am in ninth place at 6%...well behind Undecided, that rapist running from prison, and I Don't Care Please Don't Call Me During Dinner.

Sue:  Oh, Becky, your twisted genius excites me.

Sue (after ripping out the piano strings preventing Tina from playing Chopsticks):  Oh, I'm sorry.  I just realized that song might be the National Anthem for whatever country your from.

Sue (referring to herself):  Unless it's a day she's being screened for Hepatitis, this gal's not positive.

Sue:  This isn't the 1960s anymore, when jobs were plentiful.

Will:  Also, you've got your facts all wrong.  The Arts help kids do better in school.  Kids in the Arts record the lowest incidence of substance abuse.
Sue:  Tell that to Janis Joplin.

Sue:  William, allow me to ladle you a pipin' hot bowl of "This is How it Is."

Musical rundown:

"We Got the Beat" by The Go-Gos:  This was definitely fun, and showed off the talents of several of the glee kids, Rachel obviously as well as Santana and Brittany.  I enjoyed it.

"Big Spender" from Sweet Charity:  This was the second time this song was used as a joke ("Dream On"), and it was even funnier this time.  Sugar Motta was horribly hilarious.  She looked liked she was going to be good, but she wasn't.  Priceless.

"Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" from The Wizard of Oz as sung by Barbra Streisand and Harold Arlen--This was a very emotional number, and I liked it even better the second time I watched it.  I think, though, that it was intentionally downplayed to put it into direct contrast with Harmony and her fellow potential NYADA students.  There seemed to be more artificial effects put on Kurt's and Rachel's voices so that we didn't we didn't hear Chris Colfer's (Kurt) and Lea Michele's (Rachel's) individual talents on display.  The number itself was fun though.

"It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones:  This was, in my opinion, Darren Criss's (Blaine) best number so far since he became a regular in season 2.  The Warblers sound didn't display is talent.  He can sing, and now maybe we'll be able to tell.  This wasn't my favorite, but it was good.

"Anything Goes"/"Anything You Can Do" from Anything Goes/Annie Get Your Gun--This was clearly supposed to be the best number of the episode, and it was.  I don't like to admit it when someone other than Lea Michele (or at least someone from New Directions) sings the best number of an episode, but I do like that Glee seems to make sure it happens where it's appropriate.

"You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray--Now, this was Lea Michele at her best, at the beginning of this number.  I got chills.  It didn't last very long, but I liked the rest of the number too.  Mercedes got her first little run in, even if you had to listen hard for it.  It was a good number to end the episode on.