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'Glee' Does God
October 6, 2010  | By Bill Brioux
 
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I guess I was looking for a miracle from Tuesday night's extra spiritual episode of Glee. Executive producer Ryan Murphy has faith in himself, I'll say that. Setting up his high school musical as a pop parable on modern day spirituality is a tall task. He's inviting scorn from the right and the left, from the Tea Partiers and the Agnostics. Only a producer with a two-year commitment and riding a ratings surge would get a network to sign off on a religion-in-schools storyline.

The episode succeeded and failed about as often as any Glee episode. You applaud the reach, but wince when the grasp falls short. [You can watch the episode at Hulu.]

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Smart move opening the episode through the perspective of the dumb guy, Finn (Cory Monteith, and, while we're at it, hats off to this smart guy for playing dumb so convincingly every week). Finn's only religion is football. He would get spiritual nourishment from a George Foreman Grill.

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The "Grilled Cheesus" motif was brilliant and led to all sorts of comic absurdities -- Artie's wheelchair football romp, Rachel's generous mammary moment. (Although, again, a football rival is kicked out of the league for being overage, yet a player in a metal chair is considered an eligible receiver?).

Not having Josh Sussman show up as Jacob Ben Israel to sing Hava Nagila was either a blessing or a missed opportunity.

Where the show had less success was in Tuesday night's many serious moments. Again, they were uneven. Mike O'Malley grows each week as Kurt's dad, Burt. The scenes where Emma (Jayma Mays) and Mr. Shue pull Kurt (Chris Colfer) out of class were written, acted and shot to cinematic perfection. But Sue Sylvester's kneejerk reactions, despite Jane Lynch's best efforts, are getting way too predictable.

The premise of having songs about Jesus and/or spirituality be the glee club assignment for the week had the most promise. Some obvious titles made the cut. Mark Salling (Puck) made the most out of a simple rendition of Billy Joel's Only the Good Die Young. Amber Riley (Mercedes) got to shine on a couple of numbers, including a full gospel choir arrangement of the old Simon & Garfunkel standard Bridge Over Troubled Water. You could see (What if God Was) One of Us coming all the way up Broadway.

Again, however, with Lea Michele (Rachel) and the Streisand number? My son should not be asking me every week, "What song is that?"

I wish they had done God Only Knows by the Beach Boys; this is a glee club. R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion was a nice touch.

Chris Colfer's moody run at I Wanna Hold Your Hand was a surprise, at least, and might have been more effective if it hadn't been stolen from Across The Universe.

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Much was placed on Colfer's shoulders in this crazy ambitious episode. He had to represent gays and non-believers, and risk being seen as stubborn and unsympathetic. We got a lot of closeups of Colfer's red face. Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester registered predictable outrage at this violation of church and state, and her mentally challenged sister was brought in as a device to soften Sue's stance. As for Mr. Shue, we're not really sure what he believes in, which was a lost opportunity. Mr. Shue really, in many ways, is this series' "Father" figure.

The ending was far too predictable. You knew it would end with a touching hospital scene and a life-affirming finger squeeze. Missing, I felt, was the Trouble with Angels moment that needed to come right before that. In that 1966 film, Rosalind Russell's steely mother superior has a breakdown in a church where she clings to faith and belief after the death of a sister she loved. It made a powerful and lasting impression to see this authority figure struggle and reach, to see her reduced to a dark moment of doubt. It brought some meaning to her faith and context to why it mattered.

Looking for anything that profound in Episode 3 of 22 in Season 2 of any series is unrealistic and ridiculous. It's like expecting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

Still, hats off to Glee for giving God the same shot as Britney, Lady Gaga and Madonna.

[Watch the full "Grilled Cheesus" episode at Hulu.]

Read more from Bill Brioux at TV Feeds My Family.


7 Comments

 

Ryan D. said:

Why cant Glee have an episode where Muhammad appears on a pita? You did Jesus, why not do Muhammad? That would be funny and cutting edge, two things the show Glee is great at.

Comment posted on October 7, 2010 7:38 AM


B Devine said:

So when will Glee do an episode when an image of the Prophet Mohammad appears on a cheerleader's Pita sandwhich? Wouldnt that make Islam hip & funny and get Muslims alot of popularity points; "look! the Prophet Mohammad is on GLEE!" -LOL

Comment posted on October 7, 2010 7:42 AM


Amiee said:

I hadn't heard that version of I Wanna Hold Your Hand before so I was quite surprised and pleased. I thought it was the best song of the episode. Colfer did a great job considering what the writers gave him and yes, the Emma and Will scene when the pull Kurt out of class was perfect. I also thought the scene between Emma and Finn in her office was well done. The rest of the episode alternated between heavy-handed preaching and absurd sillyness.

Not their best effort by a mile but God help me I love saying "Grilled Cheesus."

Comment posted on October 7, 2010 7:49 AM


Katy said:

I thought is was one of the better episodes. Yes I knew Kurt's father was going to make it...but I still cried. Loved the Emma and Finn scene also..he does play a really convincing dumb guy.

Would have liked to have longer versions of Bridge over Troubled Water and God is one of us...could have done without Lee Michele's number...although she did a very good job.

Even if the episode is not very good...still better than 90% of the stuff that is on TV now.

Comment posted on October 7, 2010 11:59 AM


Davey said:

I thought both of the latest episodes were big dissapointments. Glee used to amaze and startle every time, breaking expectations just when you were ready to wince. The "God" show took on a hot button issue but added no light or insight that I could see. There's a long tradition of good comedy shows and comedians deciding that being funny is not enough and going for heavy-handed sentimentality, and spoiling everything for themselves and their audience.

I hope Glee throws away the meat axe and takes up the scalpel again before it's too late.

Comment posted on October 8, 2010 4:09 PM


E ZERVAC said:

pLEASE EXPLAIN "My son should not be asking me every week, "What song is that?""

Comment posted on October 10, 2010 10:06 AM


Mattie said:

I don't understand why your son asking "What song is that?" is something so unacceptable.

I recently heard David Bianculli on Fresh Air and in coming to this website I thought I would find some kindred souls who also believe that America is really missing on the glory that is our Entertainment history. My heart breaks when I meet someone my age (23) who doesn't know what Vaudeville was. But, instead of being annoyed that they don't I show them examples and play them some of my favorite radio shows.

I personally LOVE when glee covers older songs. Their rendition of "Smile" by Charlie Chaplin is wonderful.

On another note, I can't see how "I wanna hold your Hand" was a rip off of Across the Universe? How can a cover show rip off a cover movie?

The episode overall was a little weird but I am just glad that Curt wasn't converted at the end or that the dad woke up because he was in church or something.

Comment posted on October 10, 2010 5:18 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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