Glee: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
Directed by Ryan Murphy et al
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 974 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 69.99
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Review Date: September 12, 2010
One of the 2009-2010 television season’s true phenomenons was Fox’s dramedy Glee. Not much was expected at the outset from the show by its network (its creators were simply hoping the first thirteen episodes would get to be broadcast before cancellation), and then that rare thing that almost never happens to programs forging a different path from the norm actually did happen for this show: it caught on. With millions of iTunes downloads and CDs sold and the series, broadcast in two very different and long separated segments, gained in ratings strength, the show was definitely on a roll. It also helped that during its first season, the show won Best Comedy Series from the Hollywood Foreign Press, a SAG award for best comedy ensemble, Program of the Year and Outstanding New Series from the Television Critics’ Association, and four Emmy Awards. It was pretty conclusive proof that Glee had arrived and had become bigger than even its makers had ever dared to dream.
Why has it been so successful when other attempts at producing a musical series on television had failed so dismally? There aren’t many more bracing, blissful sights than seeing a bunch of supremely talented young people singing and dancing their hearts out with the pure joy of performing. Added to this is a handful of sometimes offbeat but usually identifiable character backstories, and you’ve got one of the 2009-2010 television season’s most genuinely enjoyable shows. This new box set release puts together the show’s first thirteen episodes which were released on DVD only in December 2009 and the final nine episodes which were first shown four months later when interest in the show had built to an astonishing degree.
The series’ underlying dramatic structure in its first thirteen shows was made up of two romantic quadrangles. For the adults, the selfish and manipulative Terri Schuester (Jessalyn Gilsig) feigns a pregnancy to keep her Spanish teacher/glee club sponsor husband Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) on a short leash while germophobic school guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays) pines after her obvious but unavailable soul mate Will as jealous, infatuated athletic director Ken Tanaka (Patrick Gallagher) simmers on the sidelines. Among the teens, school BMOC jock Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and his girl friend head cheerleader Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy due to Quinn’s one night stand with Finn’s best friend Noah Puckerman (Mark Salling) while supremely talented nerd Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) longingly wishes Finn would look her way for a change. All of the young people find themselves eventually a part of William McKinley High School’s deteriorated show choir, and Will’s ambition is to build the club up to recapture the heights it attained when he went to school there more than a decade earlier when they won the national championship, an objective made almost impossible now due to the underhanded schemes of the school’s tyrannical cheerleader sponsor Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).
When the show returned from its four month hiatus, many of the dramatic missteps from the first thirteen shows were righted: the unpopular and unrepentant Terri was mostly relegated to the sidelines as Will filed for divorce. With the way cleared for Will and Emma to begin exploring their mutual attraction, Ken Tanaka disappeared from view. The teenage angst between the four principal young characters shifted into concern for Quinn’s well-being during her pregnancy and her plans for the baby while Rachel and Finn became involved in a new triangle relationship with a new character, Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff), one of the stars of the glee club’s chief rival Vocal Adrenaline, who has newly transferred to McKinley High. Additionally, more dramatic time was devoted to other characters on the show, especially gay teen Kurt (Chris Colfer) and his crush on Finn, arranging for their single parents (Mike O’Malley, Romy Rosemont) to begin dating so the two of them can be thrown together more.
The show’s creative zenith is reached, of course, not in the dramatic scenes but in its song and dance sequences. It’s in its true element during the many thrilling, imaginative, and sometimes unexpectedly moving musical numbers. Shrewdly, the producers have not concentrated on any one type of music. Yes, there are the expected show tunes (“Maybe This Time,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Defying Gravity,” “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Home,” “I Dreamed a Dream”), but there are plenty of pop and rock classics (an entire episode devoted to Madonna tunes and another episode which splits its numbers between the music catalogs of Lady Gaga and Kiss), some smooth jazz, and even some rap and hip-hop (the least effective style for these trained singers) along the way. Every musical taste is touched in the show’s first season, and the glee club manages to make almost every one of them memorable. Among the real standouts are the pilot episode’s seminal showcase number “Don’t Stop Believin’” (which sold an amazing several million downloads on iTunes), Broadway veterans Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele making something special out of “Endless Love,” the roof-raising “Proud Mary” done in wheelchairs, the tender, heart-breaking handling of John Lennon’s “Imagine” with the show’s glee club alongside a choir of deaf teens, the simple, loving delivery of “True Colors,” and the club’s bid for its first sectional championship with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and its climactic first appearance at Regionals with a medley of Journey hits including a blowout version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” that will have you hopping out of your chair to move with the beat. The show can poke some fun at the music, too, as with Lea Michele’s hilarious ego-fused “Run, Joey, Run” or the spot-on remake of “Vogue” starring a stupendously glamorized Sue Sylvester. And for sheer likeability and verve, it would be hard to top the group’s magnificently choreographed and performed “Jump” as the club moonlights doing a local mattress commercial to earn some extra fame for the group or the tear-inducing farewell to the club in “To Sir With Love” in the season finale.
Though the ensemble features true stage artists like Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison (both of whom make every song they’re featured in something special), the producers have wisely doled out wonderful numbers for some of the other cast members putting the spotlight on their burgeoning talents. Amber Riley’s sassy Mercedes has easily held her own in songs like “Beautiful” with Lea Michele’s soaring vocals, and among the boys, Corey Monteith’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” Mark Salling’s “Sweet Caroline,” and “The Lady Is a Tramp,” Kevin McHale’s (as wheelchair-bound Artie) “Dancing with Myself,” and “Safety Dance,” and Chris Colfer’s (as emerging gay teen Kurt) “A House Is Not a Home” and “Kurt’s Turn” show much potential. Add in some terrific guest stars (Victor Garber, Debra Monk, Olivia Newton-John, Kristin Chenoweth in two sensational appearances, Eve, Molly Shannon, Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel), and Glee’s first season truly emerged as television’s most unique and entertaining hour.
Here are the twenty-two episodes contained on four discs in this first season Blu-ray set.
1 – Pilot (Director’s Cut)
2 – Showmance
3 – Acafellas
4 – Preggers
5 – The Rhodes Not Taken
6 – Vitamin-D
7 – Throwdown
8 – Mash-Up
9 – Wheels
10 – Ballad
11 – Hairography
12 – Mattress
13 – Sectionals
14 – Hell-O
15 – The Power of Madonna
16 – Home
17 – Bad Reputation
18 – Laryngitis
19 – Dream On
20 – Theatricality
21 – Funk
22 - Journey
The program’s 1.78:1 television aspect ratio is presented at 720p on Fox, and these 1080p transfers look wonderfully colorful and impressively detailed for the most part with rich, saturated color, über-accurate flesh tones, and distinctly deep blacks. The pilot episode seems to be a bit brighter and more heavily contrasted making for an inconsistent image, but the other episodes conform more to the same solid, detailed look that earns the show a near reference mark for quality. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack spreads the terrific musical arrangements throughout the entire soundfield, sometimes with impressively directionalized singing voices and nice separation of instruments into various sound channels in the orchestrations. Though there are occasional ambient sounds during the school scenes (hallway and cafeteria noise, cheers at a football game), the sound design has not taken full advantage of every opportunity for impressive split surround effects. Since music is the show’s most important element, it’s important that the quality of the recording in this encode has been addressed, and it’s nice to hear that it has.
“Glee Jukebox” is included on each disc. It allows the viewer who only wants to see and hear the episode’s musical numbers to choose them individually and go straight into the episode for each one.
“Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary with Cast and Crew” offers the pilot in side-by-side video commentary with most of the cast (notable absentees are Lea Michele, Mark Salling, and Jayma Mays) and the show’s three creators (Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk) and choreographer Zach Woodlee reminiscing about making the first episode.
Sing Along Karaoke is provided for four numbers: “Alone,” “Somebody to Love,” “Keep Holding On,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The sing along lyrics are provided on the screen, and by pushing the audio button on the remote, the lead vocals are removed so the viewer can become the star of the song.
“Staying in Step with Glee” introduces us to show choreographer Zach Woodlee as he teaches us the dance steps for “Rehab,” the first Vocal Adrenaline musical number seen in the pilot episode. It’s in 1080p and runs for 6 ¼ minutes.
“Bite Their Style” features an interview with the show’s costume designer Lou Eyrich as she shops for clothes for four of the show’s major characters and explains her clothing choices: Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, and Quinn. The interview lasts 8 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
“Unleashing the Power of Madonna” is a behind-the-scenes look at the intricate production of the Madonna episode featuring cast and crew talking about their excitement over the project and their impressions of each of the numbers. This runs 10 ½ minutes in 1080p.
“Making a Showstopper: Bohemian Rhapsody” has Ryan Murphy, show writer/director of the episode Brad Falchuk, choreographer Zach Woodlee, and star Jonathan Groff discussing the two days of intense rehearsals to build the number for the season finale. The number is then presented in its entirety. The entire piece runs 17 ¼ minutes in 1080p.
“Welcome to William McKinley!” is a 5-minute fictional introduction to the setting for the series, William McKinley High School, hosted by principal Figgins (actor Iqbal Theba in character). It’s presented in 480i.
“Glee Music Video” is a 2 ¾-minute promotional spot for the show with clips from the pilot episode set to music. It’s in 480i.
There are two full length audition sequences from the pilot (cut there for time constraints) . Rachel’s “On My Own” runs 3 ¼ minutes while Mercedes’ “Respect” runs for 1-minute. Both are in 480i.
“Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session” is 12 minutes with creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan discussing the genesis of the project and going into some detail with casting the major student roles: Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Kurt (Chris Colfer) with clips of their actual auditions. It’s in 480i.
“Deconstructing Glee” promises more than it delivers: 2 ¾ minutes with Ryan Murphy describing the need for triple threat artists in the parts and the chance everyone took hoping that this kind of series would work. It’s in 480i.
“Dance Boot Camp” finds choreographer Zach Woodlee showing the original steps to five major cast members for the pilot episode. This 480i feature runs 3 ¼ minutes.
“Jane Lynch A to Glee” and “Meet Jane Lynch” are two throwaway vignettes with the show’s resident villain on display. The first is basically clips from the pilot while the second has the actress very briefly describing her character. Each featurette runs one minute in 480i.
“Things you Don’t Know About” is a series of brief featurettes with four of the show’s stars telling some semi-private things about themselves. We find out five pieces of information about Jayma Mays (¾ minute), seven things about Cory Monteith (1 minute), six things about Amber Riley (1 minute), and seven things about Chris Colfer (¾ minute). All are in 480i.
There are eight video diaries shot when the cast gathered for the network upfronts in New York City. They may be viewed individually are in one 17 ¼-minute grouping. The participants are Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Cory Monteith, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer, and Dianna Agron. All are in 480i.
4.5/5 (not an average)
One of the past season’s most unusual and deeply entertaining and affecting shows, Glee is a must-see experience for lovers of music, nutty comedy, and an often involving (but sometimes irritating) over-the-top dramatic tone. The Blu-ray edition of season one’s episodes does the show proud and comes highly recommended!