During the fourth season of Glee, action separated into mostly two distinct locations: Lima, Ohio, where the remaining students in the school’s glee club continue to love, laugh, and sing and New York City where several of the series’ recent high school graduates have relocated to continue journeys to their various dreams. The series itself now maintains an utterly discernible dichotomy: stupendously entertaining and often captivatingly performed musical numbers surrounded by excruciatingly intolerable and lazily unacceptable and incongruous plotting and dialogue. For a series that in its first season was proclaimed Program of the Year by the Television Critics’ Association and won the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, the show is now a burned-out husk of itself in all but its musical portions.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 16 Hr. 3 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case with leaves
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/01/2013
With many of the show’s most talented members now gone from Lima (or who return there irritatingly on a consistent basis with no thought to mind-numbing air fares from around the country or the time it takes to book flights and actually arrive on time), the producers have brought in four new recruits: Jacob Artist (the series’ one true find: a triple threat entertainer who has serious dance training and a fine voice) as Jake Puckerman, the half brother of now-graduated Noah Puckerman (Mark Stalling), Melissa Benoist as Marley Rose, a Rachel Berry-lite wallflower, Blake Jenner as jock-turned glee stud Ryder Lynn (he won his role by capturing the second season of The Glee Project), and the series’ most recent resident “mean girl” Becca Tobin as Kitty. Carried over from two guest appearances last season to regular residence in the choir room are Alex Newell’s Wade Adams, the cross-dressing singing phenom Unique and Samuel Larsen as Joe Hart. Because the new recruits are almost all cookie cutter facsimiles of students who have now graduated, it was difficult to develop any kind of emotional connection toward any of them despite the writers bending over backwards giving them newsworthy problems: Ryder not only dyslexia but also hiding a molestation incident in his past and becoming the victim of a particularly extended “catfishing” storyline later in the season, Marley being fooled into becoming a bulimic (her costumes for the school play were taken in by Kitty to convince her she was putting on pounds; never mind that her regular clothes would have still fit perfectly or were becoming loose as she continued to shed weight). Their revolving romances and contentious behavior seemed so familiar to fans who had lived through many of these storylines in previous seasons.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
Things weren’t much better in New York. Rachel’s (Lea Michele) major storylines revolved around a new love interest Brody (Dean Geyer), a muscle-bound singer-dancer who’s a junior, a continually combative relationship with her űber-mean spirited dance instructor Cassandra July (Kate Hudson), and several rounds of auditioning for a Broadway revival of Funny Girl. Kurt (Chris Colfer), also in New York, gets a job at Vogue.com with his boss Isabelle Wright (Sarah Jessica Parker) completely supportive of his dream of joining the student body of NYADA in its second semester and in the fourth episode of the season breaks up with boy friend Blaine (Darren Criss) after Blaine admitted to experimenting outside their relationship. Santana Lopez arrives in the Big Apple midway through the season after leaving her cheerleading scholarship at Kentucky to try to make it in show biz. Frankly, the New York scenes are given mostly short shrift in the overall breakdown of the series, but those are the scenes that are telling the freshest stories, and their development is being unfairly shortchanged.
Instead, the writers have absolutely bombarded the show with carbon copy characters who are snark-infused motormouths who all speak with the same voice despite being different ages and races. When Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) was Queen Bee of the show, her negative rampages were like nothing ever seen before and earned her an Emmy. Now, however, Sue is but one of a handful of trash-talking characters who infuse every episode with their negativity and dismissiveness: Sue, swim coach Roz Washington (the supremely untalented Nene Leakes), Kitty, Santana, Cassandra; even the once-lovable Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter) has turned into a vile spewing harpy. And this is what passes as comedy on the show. There was also an uncomfortably extended story arc with Tina’s (Jenna Ushkowitz) infatuation with Blaine almost to the point of rape and a ridiculous steroid scandal story with the club’s nemesis The Warblers being disqualified from winning Sectionals thus handing the trophy to New Directions (though they, too, had been disqualified earlier; it’s not clear why the third place team didn’t win). In its defense, the program did manage one superlative hour: a late season episode in which gunshots at the school brought the students’ attention brazenly to the realization of the sweetness and fleeting-nature of life. Though far more dramatic than comedic, the episode showed the closeness of these teachers and students in a visceral fashion that brought back memories of what the show could be at its best. Occasional performances by Mike O’Malley as Kurt’s loving and supportive father and Dot-Marie Jones as football coach Shannon Bieste also brought that point home.
Where the show hasn’t let down, however, is in its musical sequences. Yes, we got the requisite tribute shows this year: another episode in honor of Britney Spears (one was more than enough during the first season) and a Stevie Wonder hour, a Grease episode being that it was this year’s school musical (featuring Darren Criss’ beautiful renditions of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Beauty School Dropout” though other songs like “Greased Lightning” were based on the way the movie version did them and not the play), and a tribute to the movies. There were also a handful of really impressive numbers: Kate Hudson’s introduction to the series in a smashing rendition of “Americano,” “New York State of Mind” which used counterpoint to display the abilities of Lea Michele and Melissa Benoist (it was the latter’s best moment this season, later songs revealed her voice to be less inspired than it seemed early on), a reprise of “Teenage Dream” for Darren Criss sung this time, however, as his heart was breaking after cheating on Kurt, “Come See About Me” (a reunion of Santana, Brittany, and Quinn), Lea Michele’s goose-bump raising “Being Good” and Chris Colfer’s equally effective “Being Alive,” both at the NYADA Showcase, “Let Me Love You” which showed all of the vocal and physical moves of Jacob Artist, and Chord Overstreet’s (Sam) surprisingly effective “Copacabana.”
Here are the twenty-two episodes spread over four discs in this Blu-ray set:
1 – The New Rachel
2 – Britney 2.0
3 – Makeover
4 – The Break-Up
5 – The Role You Were Born to Play
6 – Glease
7 – Dynamic Duets
8 – Thanksgiving
9 – Swan Song
10 – Glee, Actually
11 – Sadie Hawkins
12 – Naked
13 – Diva
14 – I Do
15 – Girls (and Boys) on Film
16 – Feud
17 – Guilty Pleasures
18 – Shooting Star
19 – Sweet Dreams
20 – Lights Out
21 – Wonder-Ful
22 – All or Nothing
The program is broadcast on Fox with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and 720p resolution, and these 1080p transfers (AVC codec) are in every way superior to the broadcast versions. Color is richly hued without a trace of blooming (difficult with the cherry red of those football and cheerleader uniforms), and flesh tones are always accurate and very appealing. There is plenty of detail to be seen in facial features, hair, and clothes. Black levels are a bit less impressive than one might expect even though Glee goes much more for bright images rather than dark ones, and there are shots where sharpness is not all that it could be (this is not inclusive of the glamour photography of guest stars like Sarah Jessica Parker). Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix outdistances the sound quality of the network broadcasts with exceptional spread through the surrounds with the orchestrations for all of the musical numbers and a clarity of tone that the lossless encode brings to the table. 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 get some ambient sounds in the surrounds during various contests and assemblies, but much less than we should in hallway or cafeteria scenes.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Glee Musical Jukebox (HD): each disc contains 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 and who’s doing the singing 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.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
Deleted Scenes (10:28, HD): present on the first two discs in the set. One of the deleted scenes includes an excellent rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Mr. Monotony” by Jane Lynch.
Movin’ On Up: Glee in NYC (10:02, HD): producer-director Ian Brennan and select members of the cast comment on location filming for some of the New York exteriors (though the majority of the NYC scenes are still shot in Hollywood).
Jarley (8:53, HD): clips from the auditions of Jacob Artist and Melissa Benoist which won them their roles and comments from both actors about their first days of shooting.
Building New York (6:29, HD): production designer Mark Hutman discusses the three major new sets built for New York scenes: the loft in Bushwick, the dance studio at NYADA, and the offices of Vogue.com.
Glee On Film (9:56, HD): director Ian Brennan and the cast comment on the musical numbers for episode #15 focusing on music from the movies. Choreographer Zach Woodlee also comments on the show’s 500th musical number filmed during this episode.
The Road to 500 (3:54, HD): behind-the-scenes look at the celebration after the wrapping of the program’s 500th song and dance sequence.
Blaine’s Time Capsule (8:12, HD): Darren Criss in character as Blaine discusses the story arcs for season four.
Glee Premiere Party (3:41, HD): the cast gathers for the gala celebration for the broadcast of the season four premiere.
Its ratings and buzz are nowhere near the levels of their peak during the show’s first two seasons on the air, but there’s no denying that Glee: The Complete Fourth Season does contain some knockout musical numbers performed by a seriously talented cast who sadly enough aren’t being given dramatic and comedic material worthy of their gifts.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: