When “Glee” debuted in 2009 and excited fans so much that they started calling themselves “Gleeks”—short for “Glee” geeks—I thought the show would have a lifespan of a boy band. Just a flash in the pan, even though it appealed to and connected with young people who know what it’s like to be unpopular,
That the flash lasted four seasons before it started to fizzle is a tribute to an amazingly talented cast led by Lea Michele. For four solid seasons the formula was to make the plots secondary to the performances. There was just enough drama to connect the songs. Each week glee club teacher-advisor Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) would try to create a safe haven for McKinley High’s misfits and marginalized, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and express themselves through song and dance. In every episode, a different musical artist was featured, but it didn’t really matter. The original cast nailed just about every performance and we were as involved in their personal lives as if we’d just read their diaries.
Notice that I said original cast. In the spirit of logic, the show’s writers and creators thought they’d better graduate a few of the high school seniors and replace them with, as it turns out, clones. But something was lost. The new cast members aren’t nearly as charismatic, and their backstories aren’t as clearly defined. I have a terrible memory, but even my wife couldn’t remember the names of some of the newbies. With apologies to the actors, they’re that forgettable. What’s worse, you find yourself not caring about these characters as much, or caring whether they win sectionals or regionals or a national title ever again. The songs and performances even seem slightly less polished, less energetic.
In other words, by Season 5 “Glee” has lost a step or two. Fans thought so too. Season 5 drew just under 50 percent of the audience that the series once attracted—ratings dismal enough that Fox even thought about cancelling the show.
Maybe they should have. Everyone seems like they’re going through the motions, and when you sit there in the McKinley H.S. glee club room and see the “kids” waiting to get the week’s assignments from Mr. Schue, there’s zero anticipation—not from you, and not from them.
Surprisingly, there are still some great lines of dialogue, though—many of them coming from Acting Principal Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), the glee club nemesis who continues to torment them.
But this season the powers that be decided to split the action between the “graduates” in New York City and the newbies back home in Lima, Ohio. It was intended as a kind of transitional device, I’m sure, but the effect is that most fans of the original show will wish that they’d just stuck with the New York story lines. The back-and-forth adds to the emotional distance that we feel this season. And on the flip side, this is the season that features a weepy episode tribute to the late Cory Monteith. The cast’s personal grief is right there on the surface, and for all this season’s flaws fans might want to add this one to their collections just because of that important tribute episode, “The Quarterback.” And yes, it’s more than a little cathartic to see Rachel Berry (Michele) finally make it on Broadway.
This season, creator Ryan Murphy allows his gay couples to kiss somewhat passionately onscreen, but things go from “real” to hokey in the blink of an eye . . . or rather, the mesmerizing of an eye, as Sue decides to hypnotize Sam (Chord Overstreet) to make him her pawn.
But Season 5 feels confused because the cast is split in two locations, some of the alums return for homecoming, and others return later to “co-direct” the glee club. And when graduated Santana gets in a shouting match with Sue, you end up wondering why she’s allowed in the school in the first place. In other words, the show feels more contrived than ever . . . and contrivance was never one of the things that drew fans to “Glee” in the first place.
Twenty episodes are included on six DVDs:
- “Love, Love, Love”
- “Tina in the Sky with Diamonds”
- “The Quarterback”
- “A Katy or a Gaga”
- “The End of Twerk”
- “Movin’ Out”
- “Puppet Master”
- “Previousy Unaired Christmas”
- “City of Angels”
- “New Directions”
- “New New York”
- “Opening Night”
- “The Back-Up Plan”
- “Old Dog, New Tricks”
- “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project”
“Glee” is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and the edge delineation, detail, and color accuracy is very good for a standard definition release. There’s some grain, but that’s to be expected.
I’m used to reviewing Blu-rays of “Glee,” but Fox decided to release this season only on DVD. It makes a big difference with the music. The production numbers aren’t as rich- and full-sounding as previous seasons were in HD, with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 somehow lacking. Subtitles are in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Fans get three short bonus features: a clip commemoration of “Glee”’s hundredth episode, a “Glee in the City” featurette on the Big Apple sideplot, and “Glee Music Jukebox,” which, as in previous seasons, allows you to play only the musical selections.
True Gleeks may want to add this to their collections because of the Monteith tribute episode and the catharsis of finally seeing Rachel make it on Broadway, but the average fan won’t find it as entertaining as earlier seasons.