Tuesday night's Rocky Horror-themed "Glee" was just the latest in a series of corny, disappointing episodes of an overall second-rate second season.

"Glee" started out darker, sharper, funnier.  Its first season was a mockery of high school dramas, infused with charming, self-aware musical numbers. The show had a jagged edge to it that, like the brilliant Mean Girls and Saved before it, made "Glee" a satire of its genre and a tribute to it at the same time.  It was self-aware and self-deprecating, but also showcased some incredibly talented performers and dramatic plots that were, at the end of the day, ridiculously entertaining.

The music choices were unique, diverse, prismed through a young, energetic lens. Remember Artie's acoustic version of Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself"?  Or Kurt's side-splitting "Single Ladies."?  Or the I-can't-believe-Queen-didn't-arrange-choral-numbers rendition of "Somebody to Love"?  Not to mention the time "Glee" put down the costumes and the jazz hands to watch Kristin Chenowith's "Maybe This Time," a soft, sad, unbelievably perfect number that reduced more viewers than just Kurt to tears.

They threw in campy pop numbers, too, but they were always set in a scene where the characters were as embarrassed to be performing them as we were to be watching them. (Think Lea Michelle's "You're the One that I Want" from Grease.) It was so silly and sincere, and it tried so hard that you couldn't help but picture yourself with your hairbrush microphone singing show tunes into your mirror...Or maybe that was just me. Yesterday.

But this season has been a departure from all that.  The characters and relationships take a back-seat to gimicky musical numbers; plots seem hastily constructed around that week's musical theme.  "Glee" has always been a little hokey, a little forced, but we forgave it because it was so damn lovable. "Glee's" first season seemed to waddle shakily on baby-deer legs, gingerly trying out new jokes and new routines; this season it's fully-grown, over-hyped, and maybe suffering from the same sort of second-album over-confidence that plagues so many pop-stars.

Salon magazine said it better than I just did in an article called "'Glee' could be great -- if it weren't so awful." Heather Havrilesky writes, 
Has there ever been a TV show that's at once more delightful and cringe-inducing at the exact same time than 'Glee'? Ever since it returned for its second season, this off-kilter dramedy (8 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox) has been nailing its high notes while still flaunting its many flaws with even more bravado than before.
I had a conversation with Emily, a friend of mine, last weekend about "Glee".  She's an actress and a singer and has been even more disappointed with this season than I have.  Her major problem with the show is musical the lip-synching, the overproduced, heavily-mixed sound.  Heather Havrilesky agrees.  Talking about Lea Michelle, the show's star vocal talent who belts a ballad every week, Havrilesky writes,
...the overproduced, overprocessed sound that 'Glee' traffics in takes all of the warmth and freshness of Michele's voice and turns it into a Hostess cupcake, full of sugary, stale perfection. Every single one of her solos is glazed over with the same overamplified, crescendo-loving treatment, so that they're practically interchangeable.
Unfortunately for creative-types (and opportunely for critics and bloggers like me), it's always easier to judge something than it is to praise it.  I lovingly watched "Glee" for a whole season, danced around in my living room and bragged on it to my friends, without ever blogging about how fun and engaging it was. Now, after a few missteps fueled by 70s cult musicals, I publicly take "Glee" to task?  It doesn't seem fair, does it?

But I'm not going to stop watching "Glee." I still love it, and I think it brings a truly novel, artistic blend of talent and pop to television.  I just want "Glee" to remember what it does best: showcase awkward twenty-something high school kids singing and dancing against a brutally funny backdrop of teen angst and insults. Bring back Puck so he and the new kid can fight for Quinn, give Mr. Schu a real love-interest, and for shit's sake, stop making Santana talk like Jenny from the Block.  Is that so hard?

Editor's Note: Later, I did give a deserving episode of "Glee" a good review here.
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Write comments
J. Bieber
October 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM delete

Alison, you nailed it with that review. That was a pro-quality description of the best of Season 1 and the issues already apparent in Season 2.

And speaking of nailing . . .

October 28, 2010 at 3:36 PM delete

I'm diggin on this blog post, fo sho. That's my Jenny from the Block lingo speaking there, FYI.

I agree, they need to get the storyline back in play here. I want Mr Shu to find a new hottie teacher to chase around. Maybe even his crazy ex wife can come in to spice up the bitchiness too.

Where the heck has Puck been anyways?

I did love the Britney episode, if that even matters at this point..

Alison Lee
October 28, 2010 at 3:46 PM delete

I almost put in a caveat that said, "the Britney episode was an exception." That episode was totally awesome - my roommate and I watched it twice. But that was the high point in a dull season, and it STILL lacked a cohesive plot. Though, to be honest, anything featuring John Stamos as a sexy dentist is going to get good reviews from me.


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