Glee: Season 2, Volume 1
Directed by Ryan Murphy et al
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic Running Time: 435 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 39.98
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Review Date: February 4, 2011
From its status as “The Little Show That Could” through being a cult favorite and now a bona fide smash hit network series (Fox’s highest rated primetime show of the 2010 fall season surpassing House and Bones), Glee is certainly a show that has polarized its audience during the first part of its second season. For each viewer who has been thrilled with deeper explorations into the personalities and talents of secondary characters from last season like Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris), Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), and Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), there have been others who have objected to those characters being put more in the spotlight this season at the expense of Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), Will Schuster (Matthew Morrison), or Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley). There have been constant complaints about star casting (Gwyneth Paltrow, John Stamos, Carol Burnett, Charice), theme shows (Britney Spears, Rocky Horror), and the inconsistent writing leading to irregularities in characters (Sue Sylvester’s on again/off again niceness) and the shuffling of romantic couples throughout the first ten aired episodes of season two. And the biggest complaints have circled around the emphasis being placed on the character of Kurt Hummel, from the continuing story arc of his being so fiercely bullied for being openly gay to a wedding for his father and Finn’s mother being turned into “The Kurt Show.”
Clearly there is some basis for criticism. Glee has never been a particularly tidy series in its writing, particularly in its melodramatic emphasis on coupling, but many of the most blatant problems from season one have been smoothed out (the fake and real pregnancies being the most annoying), and complaints about the ever-evolving couples will always likely hound the show as people object to seeing favorite characters get together and break up with some regularity. As for the spotlight being turned in different directions from season one, that seems a natural progression for a show once it discovers the inner recesses of talent that its actors possess and which its producers want to exploit.
One thing that can’t be denied is that Glee continues to be tremendously entertaining. The song selection continues to run the gamut from show tunes to hip hop and everything in between, and when the show gets on a winning streak, it’s pretty much unassailable. Of the season’s first ten episodes, one show really stood out: “Duets” in which the club’s members paired up in a competition to win a night at a favorite restaurant leading to a terrific string of songs including most especially “River Deep, Mountain High” for Santana and Mercedes, “Le Jazz Hot” for Kurt (who dueted with himself playing the male and female sides of the equation), the hilarious “Sing!” from A Chorus Line for Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Kurt and Rachel’s climactic “Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy” paying tribute to a Barbra Streisand/Judy Garland duet from Garland’s television series. In fact, Rachel dips into the Streisand song bag again in these episodes with “Papa, Can You Hear Me” from Yentl and continues on a Broadway trend with “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita (again sung in counterpoint with Kurt) and “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line. Those who have been upset over Rachel’s less prominent role so far in season two really haven’t been paying attention. The talented Lea Michele gets more solos and duets than any other artist on the series.
All of the show’s other talented cast members have been given prime opportunities to shine so far this season. Particularly memorable have been Artie (Kevin McHale) on “I Am Stronger,” Puck’s (Mark Salling) “Only the Good Die Young,” Mercedes’ “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Santana’s “Valerie,” and Matthew Morrison’s “Sway.” But there is no denying that the gifted Chris Colfer has received the lion’s share of attention this season, and rightly so since this young actor/singer has proven time and again he can handle both the musical, comic, and dramatic material he’s been given, enough to have earned him his first Emmy nomination and the Golden Globe Award for supporting actor against some formidable competition. In addition to the aforementioned duets with Lea Michele and “Le Jazz Hot,” Colfer delivered a devastating rendition of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand” leaving not a dry eye in the house, and a holiday duet of the Oscar-winning standard “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” gave the Christmas episode its most charming and memorable sequence.
His duet partner on that episode was Darren Criss, by far the best of this year’s additions to the core cast playing Blaine, Kurt’s gay mentor who attends Dalton Academy and is the lead singer with the school’s glee group the Warblers. Dot-Marie Jones has been added as football coach Shannon Bieste (no singing yet), and Chord Overstreet has made a pleasant, positive impression as the likable and good-natured Sam Evans, new transfer student and quarterback competitor for Finn’s position on the football squad, introducing his vocal talents on “Billionaire” and scoring a lovely duet with new girl friend Quinn (Diana Agron) at Sectionals with “The Time of My Life.” But Darren Criss’ four appearances in these ten episodes have included not just that endearing rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” but two solos with ensemble which have stopped the show cold: “Teenage Dream” (which became the most downloaded song in the history of the show) and his Sectionals performance on “Hey, Soul Sister.” Kudos to Ed Boyer’s sensational vocal arrangements for the Warblers which highlight Criss’ lustrous voice against the tremendously effective a cappella vocal backup. And the evolving friendship between Blaine and Kurt, now that Kurt has transferred to Dalton, driven away from his friends at McKinley due to a fascinating bullying storyline which couldn’t be more timely, seems likely to focus additional attention on both actors in the season’s second half.
As for things that haven’t worked this season, there have been a few small missteps. Charice was allowed a killer rendition of “Listen” in the season premiere but otherwise wasn’t used well and was whisked away to become a part of Vocal Adrenaline by their new coach played in the flash of an eye by Broadway star Cheyenne Jackson. In much the same way Kristin Chenoweth brought down the house last season in two guest appearances, Gwyneth Paltrow played a quirky substitute teacher and made wonderful music with “Forget You” with the club, but it was a mistake for her and Lea Michele to attempt Chicago’s “Hot Honey Rag,” a number that requires two strong dancers, a number the ladies simply couldn’t do full justice to. Hip hop continues to be problematic for the club (“Empire State of Mind” got the season off to a very shaky start). Lastly, John Stamos, widely heralded as joining the cast this season, has made only two significant appearances in the first ten episodes, clearly proving the producers are having trouble working him into the ensemble on a regular basis.
Here are the ten episodes contained on three discs in this volume one of the second season:
1 – Auditions
2 – Britney/Brittany
3 – Grilled Cheesus
4 – Duets
5 – The Rocky Horror Glee Show
6 – Never Been Kissed
7 – The Substitute
8 – Furt
9 – Special Education
10 – A Very Glee Christmas
The program is broadcast on Fox with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and 720p resolution, and these 480p downconverted transfers come very close to the quality of the broadcast version. Color is richly hued, and flesh tones are accurate and very appealing. There is plenty of detail to be seen in facial features, hair, and clothes, more than many typical DVD transfers offer. Black levels are also much more impressive than one might expect even though Glee goes much more for bright images rather than dark ones. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track matches the sound quality of the network broadcasts with exceptional spread through the surrounds with the orchestrations for all of the musical numbers. There is also a distinct and welcome use of the LFE channel to give added power to the bass lines of the musical numbers. If only more thought were put into adding surround enhancement to the remainder of the show apart from musical numbers. We rarely get ambient sounds in the surrounds during hallway or cafeteria scenes though the audience response at Sectionals and during a pep rally did filter through the entire soundstage.
Each disc contains the Glee Music Jukebox, an opportunity to go straight to the musical numbers in each episode. Though once again Fox did not include a booklet inside the case to detail which numbers are present in each episode, this feature does offer a list of songs for each episode. However, some of the coding is a bit sloppy causing the number to be cut off at the last note or two before returning the viewer to the jukebox menu.
The featurettes are all presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“The Making of The Rocky Horror Glee Show” offers 6 ¾ minutes with the episode’s director Adam Shankman along with choreographer Zach Woodlee, writer/producer Ian Brennan, and various cast members commenting on the work involving putting on this special episode of the show.
The outtake number “Planet Shmanet Janet” is presented in a 1 ¼ minute clip.
“Getting Waxed with Jane Lynch” finds the Emmy-winning co-star of the show being measured for a wax figure for Madame Tussauds in Hollywood. The finished product is unveiled in this 6 ¼-minute feature.
“The Wit of Brittany” is a quick montage of clips featuring the outrageous, offhanded comments that come from dim-witted cheerleader Brittany Pierce’s mouth during the two seasons of the show’s run. This lasts for 2 ¼ minutes.
“Glee at Comic-Con” features creator Ryan Murphy and castmates Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Kevin McHale, Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, and Jenna Ushkowitz answering questions about the show’s first season and the upcoming second one. It runs 15 minuutes.
4/5 (not an average)
Glee’s second season has thus far offered more of the same from its first season: tremendous musical numbers and interesting character development which has allowed several secondary characters from season one to rise to the surface for a spotlight of their own. These first ten episodes prove the show is still operating successfully and entertainingly and are well worth seeing again. Recommended!