Since the dawn of time, pop culture has been consistently shoved into separate genres as a way to define it in the modern social structure. Gray Area is an attempt to chronicle those bands, books, and movies that refuse to be pigeonholed or consciously blend ideas.
If you’ve never noticed, the Golden Globe Awards have a strange way of categorizing their awards. You can basically either win for Drama or Musical/Comedy. In this day and age, it does seem a bit weird to lump musicals and comedies in the same category, but back in the day most musical or comedy shows were one and the same -– the ever present variety show.
These days, we’re treated to something else: Glee. It’s a comedy in the modern prime time soap opera tradition, meaning a single camera, no laugh track and horrible rotating voiceover aside, excellent pacing and composition. But there’s something else to it, too. The show focuses on a competitive show choir, and thusly, has half an episode devoted to show choir versions of current songs. On one hand, Jane Lynch is tearing it up, week after week. On the other hand, you know, show choir sucks and drains the life out of good music. So there’s that.
So what do we have? A comedy? A melodrama? A musical? Glee seems to want to push through all these boundaries, but instead it seems that they can’t quite get anything to mesh together the way they want it to. Some times it feels like the songs are included for some sort of plot advancement. Other times, there’s no rational explanation for anyone to be singing. And then, right after that song, it’s revealed that Finn isn’t the father.
It’s strange to say, though, that the melodrama is the best part of the show. From episode one we have forbidden love and the set up of who should truly be with whom. It’s a manipulative foreshadowing, but boy does it ever work. I’ll take crappy songs from Wicked and a toothpaste version of “Jump” just to see Mr. Schu and Emma finally kiss.
But when it comes down to it, every character ends up showing that they’re vapid, vacuous, and shallow at the core. Rachel wants fame for fame’s sake, Finn just wants his life to be easier and revolve around video games, Quinn just wants to be popular, Puck just wants to screw women, Kurt just wants to impart homosexual tendencies onto Finn, Archie only liked the Asian girl because she had a stutter, etc. As a study in examining the reactions of a group of completely selfish people interacting with each other, the show is a case study success. As an example of a Gray Area television show, Glee falls a bit short.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll take it off my DVR or await the second part of the season come in the spring. I can always fast forward through the singing.
Gray Area Score: Beige. Yeah, no idea how a shade of brown got in there, but it’s got too much going on at once.