Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The RBI Report: "Special Education"

Aw, you guys! It's Sectionals! Y'know, the time of year when dirty secrets are revealed, relationships are destroyed, and the whole club comes together at the last minute to scrappily claim the title. I'm not gonna lie, it was heartwarming as hell. Except for the destroyed relationships part, but whatever.

"Special Education," written by Brad Falchuk, directed by Paris Barclay

You guys know that Brad Falchuk owns my heart, right? Episodes like this are exactly why. "Special Education" was filled with all the pitch-perfect moments that make us love this show. Or me, at least. I didn't roll my eyes once tonight, and I didn't feel the urge to throw any large objects at the television. Success! I honestly have very little to nitpick, and am rather just going to talk about the things I loved, and found interesting, about the whole endeavor.

So, how much do I love the Kurt/Rachel friendship? I've been sitting firmly in the Rachel-needs-a-friend camp since Day 1, and it's so nice to see Kurt being so nice to her, and vice-versa. They are both very intense personalities, and I like the opportunity for them to focus their energy on a friendship instead of a singing project or a significant other, where it sometimes backfires on them. And seriously, could they be any cuter? (No. The answer is no.) As long as Kurt/Mercedes doesn't get chucked aside, I will be happy with this.

I must address the musical numbers too, even though I tend to let those be. But seriously, "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" was amazing. I know that everybody has made a big deal recently about "Teenage Dream," and "Baby It's Cold Outside," but for my money, I choose DCFMA. Lea and Chris' performances were spectactular, and it's moments like this that I marvel the show that allows a young woman and a young man to duet Andrew Lloyd Webber on my television. I know I bitch a lot about Glee, but scenes like this are worth all the frustration.

Puck and Santana were rather big players in this episode, weren't they? Puck redeemed himself almost completely for me. Nearly everything that came out of his mouth made me laugh hysterically, and he also stood up for Glee Club like a champ. It's like we finally got the Puckerman we've wanted all along. Such an am-badass-ador! And, it was nice that he was being nice to Rachel, even though it's only because she's Jewish. As for Santana, the reveal about having sex with Finn emerged naturally, and although I don't quite get her kissy-face to the doofy quarterback, I'm going to chalk it up to her kind of being the subject of some strange Glee character development lately. I'm gonna wait and see how Santana plays out in future episodes. And don't think I didn't see that little Brittany butt-slap during "Valerie." I'M ONTO YOU, BRITTANA.

Artie and Brittany were finally somewhat interesting again! Brittany just breaks my heart with adorable every week, and her being paralyzed with fear over performing was seriously the cutest thing ever. I'm glad Artie encouraged her, and the story of the Magic Comb was pretty awesome. It was all very sweet. I'm not sure why the weird suspicion of a Mike/Brittany affair was necessary in the episode, but I am monumentally glad it turned out to be untrue. I love Brittany and Mike too much to believe they'd cheat. Asian kiss!

I don't care what anyone says, Emma Pillsbury is a good guidance counselor. Everytime she's on the show, she grounds the insanity so much more effectively than any other adult character. Her observations about New Directions were spot-on, and she really does bring forth the right idea when it comes to fostering a healthy Glee environment. Her counseling of Finn and Rachel was nice to see, in that she gets some scenes outside of her relationship with Will. Speaking of, the quickie marriage to Carl doesn't really anger me, and I'm curious to see where it goes. At least Will is behaving somewhat maturely about the situation, and that's all I want.

The episode was particuarly interesting to me in its comparison and contrast of New Directions with The Warblers. I was afraid this would be too heavy-handed, with the caged bird metaphor and the emphasis on Dalton's uniforms and orderly manner of conduct. I thought for sure the message would be, "LOOK HOW MUCH MORE AWESOME NEW DIRECTIONS IS," and I wasn't sure I wanted such an absolute. Things are always more interesting in the grey area, and I think Kurt's transfer and culture shock at Dalton presents an interesting discourse. Clearly, New Directions is insanely dysfunctional in comparison to The Warblers, but they are both talented show choirs. Obviously, allowing the kids to be different and outspoken is what results in much of ND's conflict, but watching them emerge from the fracas a stronger team is always rewarding. If only the stretches between competitions could be so compelling and gratifying.

Oh, Finn and Rachel. I won't lie, I have very little invested in their relationship, so seeing it splinter didn't really faze me. I think it's important for Rachel to exist without a boy to fixate on, and Finn should probably have some space as well. Their breakup felt real, deserved, and paves the way for interesting future interactions. I'm on board. I will say, Rachel's characterization in this episode has preoccupied much of my brain since watching it, and if I had to choose one thing to fuss at, I think it would be this. I love Rachel's overbearing ambition and talent, but I also loved that she could be so vulnerable and genuinely caring at the same time. I do not like seeing the Glee Club treating her like dirt. I also did not like it when Mr. Schuester yelled at her, even though she was kind of out of control. I understand that Rachel's character is a delicate balance of annoying and endearing, but it frustrates me when the audience can see endearing and the characters don't. Here's hoping the scales tip back in Rachel's direction, the writers showcase her selfless side, and she can finally have a functional relationship with her teammates. We've seen it happen in brief glimpses before, and I want to see it again. It was lovely that she gave "Dog Days Are Over" to Tina and Mercedes. Which, by the by, was awesomesauce, in my opinion. I don't care if it's difficult living up to Florence Welch vocally, they just killed the entire thing with an abundant amount of energy and I loved it.

All in all, this episode encapsulated much of what I love about the show. The characters sort of chaotically tear at each other, and then emerge from the conflicts with a renewed sense of friendship. I like it when these guys are friends. I don't expect them to be all happy and sunshiney at all times, but I want the writers to value and honor their friendships. It always makes things more interesting when shit goes down between friends than between vague acquaintances who just perform next to one another.

Finally, I want to take a moment to applaud Paris Barclay for his direction. This is his third turn at Glee - he directed "Wheels," and "Home" last season - and I hope he keeps coming back. Everything was shot with such infectious emotion, whether it be the overwhelming joy of watching the performances, or the subtleties of the more dramatic scenes. I really don't have anything bad to say about it.

Well, that's it, gang! I hope you enjoyed "Special Education" just as much as I did. It feels so refreshing not to complain! And are you as excited for the Christmas episode as I am?

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A+
Dance Numbers: A+
Dialogue: A+
Plot: A+
Schuester: A-
Episode MVP: Noah Puckerman, ladies and gentlemen.

Harry and Hermione, Onscreen

I, like all the self-respecting nerds of the world, have Harry Potter on the brain. Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 was pretty amazing, and it got me thinking about the film series as a whole - but more specifically, the treatment of Harry and Hermione onscreen. One of the promotional posters for DH featured just Harry and Hermione in their formalwear standing inside the doors of a subway car, and the filmmakers also added (spoiler alert!) the Harry and Hermione dancing scene. Putting two and two together, many are concluding that TPTB are almost suggesting the possibility of a romantic undertone to the Harry and Hermione's relationship.

The internet took notice.
And I read a slew of comments that basically amounted to "EW NO HARRY AND HERMIONE ARE LIKE SIBLINGS EW SHE LIKES RON" and a lot of "BUT JK ROWLING WROTE IT TO BE RON/HERMIONE." I could not help but roll my eyes.

Let me say first: yes, I ship H/Hr. Not very actively, mind you. I just prefer their relationship to Ron and Hermione's, regardless of romantic entanglements. And before I go on, I also want to make two things clear: 1) I do not profess to be a Harry Potter expert. It's been a few years since I've read the books, and so what's in my head is very big picture. I'm not going to quote the text and dissect its meaning. But if I goof something huge that needs correcting, please gently let me know.

I do not want any hatin' rolling through these parts. I don't hate R/Hr, and I don't want anyone hating on H/Hr. I'd also rather no one use the word "delusional." Shipping one or the other is merely a difference of interpretation. We all read the same text. We just construed things differently from what was presented to us. No big deal. I know canon swung the way of R/Hr and H/G in the end, and that's fine. I'm not going to argue with canon. Canon's canon.

However, Harry and Hermione have a relationship in those pages. And even though Rowling made it plainly clear that Ron and Hermione had their (in my opinion) weird flirty-bickery-crush thing going on, I was always more interested in the the H/Hr dynamic. It always seemed far more stable, honest, and equal than the other relationships in the book. They knew each other completely, understood each other wordlessly, and stood by one another with very little angst. I appreciated how genuinely unfettered their relationship was. Ironically, it is perhaps this very lack of drama that makes readers unconvinced in a H/Hr ship, but it's what I like best about the two.

I will point out as well that numerous characters in the books assumed there was something romantic going on between Harry and Hermione - if I recall correctly, Cho, Rita Skeeter, and even Dumbledore all made the assumption before being reassured that they were just friends. Rowling went out of her way to have the characters verbalize their non-attraction, just to make sure everybody got the message. Which leaves me with the impression that the only thing standing in the way of a Harry/Hermione romance is the characters' desires themselves. That's totally valid. Rowling can make the characters feel however she wants them to feel. However, that doesn't change the circumstances and hallmarks of their dynamic, and so I feel free to ship them at will. The plausibility of the situation is still there.

And that's why I have to admire the filmmakers for boldly acknowledging just that: the plausibility. It's very clear, by this point in the films, that Ron and Hermione are headed for romantic bliss. However, the Harry/Hermione bond is one of the strongest in the films (the books are another beast) and I appreciate that Kloves and Co. didn't sweep it under the rug after six films of development. I don't think anyone's waiting with bated breath for Movie!Hermione to pull a switcheroo and declare her love for Movie!Harry. The movie relationship of Ron and Hermione is well-played onscreen too, frankly, and I actually appreciate it much more than I ever did in the books.

But Movie!Harry and Movie!Hermione share something very specific and intangible, and something very much separate from Ron. Even in the books, Harry and Hermione spent a large amount of important scenes of together without Ron - from the third act of time travel in Book 3, to the scenes with Grawp in Book 5, to the sizeable portion of Book 7 where Ron is gone and Harry and Hermione visit James and Lily's grave. Yes, Ron and Hermione spend big portions of time together sans Harry, but when the books are told through Harry's eyes, we, as readers, are not privy to these interactions. I think that's perhaps why I see more depth to the H/Hr relationship - it makes sense that any ship is stronger when 50% of it is the main character through which we view the entire world. And that's also perhaps why it's easier to strengthen the movie's relationships as opposed to the book's, because on film we are allowed to see what Ron and Hermione are doing when Harry's in the background, and even when he's not around. The sense of trio onscreen is excellent because of this.

So I just don't get all the outrage over the representation of Harry and Hermione in the films. I don't find it all that threatening to the Ron/Hermione dynamic, which is also rather well done, or even to the trio dynamic, which is solid. I've always been in the camp of those who saw infinitely more chemistry between Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe than between Emma and Rupert Grint. You may as well play to that strength, as long as you're not sacrificing the Ron/Hermione relationship. And I don't think they are. The filmmakers are making the Ron/Hermione attraction very clear, and in a way, the added Harry/Hermione interactions are confirming the lack of romance and closing the book on the very idea. It's certainly interesting that by acknowledging a possibility, the filmmakers are also bringing forth the rejection of the possibility, how it should be in canon.

In short: it frustrates me that so many are vehemently rejecting the film's portrayal of Harry and Hermione's relationship. I don't think you can deny their bond. You don't have to see it as a romantic bond, of course, but I just don't see how the relationship itself can, or should, be pushed aside.
Whether or not you prefer it to the Ron/Hermione dynamic is up to you and the way you've interpreted JK Rowling's words. But Harry and Hermione are a very real entity on the page and onscreen, and they deserve the attention given to them in the films, regardless of shipping wars, "who likes whom," and the concept of "endgame."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The RBI Report: "Furt"

Hey, gang! I just can't go a week without doing the RBI Report. I have Internet access; I saw the episode - I really have no excuse. So, here we go...

"Furt," written by Ryan Murphy, directed by Carol Baker.

In the interest of fairness and objectivity, I've tried to approach each episode with a more critical look at what worked and what didn't, from a storytelling perspective. But this week, I'm not sure how successsful I'll be at this. Because, frankly, there was a lot in "Furt" that just plain annoyed me - a lot of personal preference stuff.

For example, I cringe anytime the show references their own ship names. I do not like hearing the words "Finchel" and "Puckleberry" on my TV. Shipper portmanteaux fascinate me, but I prefer to read them on the Internet, thank you. To make matters worse, "Furt" is just awful. "Kinn" is a far more suitable nickname for the Finn/Kurt ship. I mean, "kin" is a synonym for family! Also, it's not one letter away from being flatulence.

Moreover, I just can't get behind Sam/Quinn. I want my Quinndependence, dammit! This is a woman who breaks into lockers and grills Rachel about feminism - I want her to embrace singledom. As much as Sam seems like a nice guy (some episodes), I just can't get on board with their relationship.

For that matter, I don't like how the whole club is paired off into couples now: Finn/Rachel, Sam/Quinn, Puck/Santana, Artie/Brittany, Mike/Tina. This sort of charade is only cute in High School Musical, and only effective on Grey's Anatomy. Arguably. (And don't even get me started about how Mercedes is the odd woman out on this coupling. Just don't even.)

Ryan Murphy wrote this episode, and I think some of his hallmarks have led to my annoyance. Murphs loves his payoffs, but never seems to set them up really well. A lot of the things in this episode I was generally okay with, until I thought about how it happened and then I got mad. Ryan is king of Big Concept, Lackluster Execution, and I felt like that was my experience with "Furt."

For example: yes, Finn singing to Kurt was cute, but I just couldn't embrace it because I'm tired of this character carousel Finn has been on since Season 1. It seems they can't find anything else for his character to do other than have to choose between what is right and what is popular. And it seems like he always chooses what's popular and then backtracks when he realizes he's being a jerk. I just wish the writers weren't dancing around Finn waving signs that say, "He's likeable! He's a leader! He's the good guy!" If you SHOW me, I will believe it. I don't like watching Finn backtrack and realize he screwed up the first time around. I believe he is capable of doing the right thing on the first try. We can move on from this. Cory's a damn fine actor - challenge him with something new.

Finn's hangup on popularity is certainly not specific to him. It's part of the whole show, and plays part with Quinn, Sam, Puck, Artie, and Santana. I hesitate to say it needs to be shelved, but I am growing tired of it. It's the same conflicts over and over - Glee really is a carousel. It's fun and whimsical, but after growing 'round and 'round for awhile, you start to get dizzy.

Another example: the bullying storyline is playing out across the episodes, unlike most other storylines Glee handles. Yay! And I appreciated that everyone seemed to be behaving in all the appropriate ways when confronted with the situation (Burt, Sue, Will, Rachel, Sam, etc.), and it's annoying that Karofsky was allowed back to McKinley. But, I have some issues concerning Karofsky's continued harrassment of Kurt, post-kiss.

My interpretation of bullying is about power. Karofsky bullied Kurt because he felt powerless against his insecurities, and by forcing Kurt to feel inferior to him, thereby empowered himself. It's sick, twisted, cowardly, etc; but that's how a lot of insecure teenaged minds work. As soon as Karofsky kissed Kurt, he lost power. Kurt learned a secret about him, and in Karofsky's eyes, gained power over Karofsky. Post-kiss, it makes sense that Karofsky would do everything he can to get his power back, and simultaneously keep Kurt quiet.

But the ways in which the two have interacted since the kiss just don't add up to Karofsky desperate to regain his power. The wink? The girlish hand flip? I don't buy it. The threat to kill certainly is effective, but when put with the others, it just seems out of place. This uneven follow-up is making my interest in the Kurt/Karofsky storyline wane, which is unfortunate, because it was so compelling.

Third example: Carol Burnett. You have the Queen of Comedy, living legend, playing Sue Sylvester's mother, and... what exactly was her purpose? I love Carol Burnett. I love Sue Sylvester. I love the casting. But their storyline felt shoe-horned in there, and was overshadowed by the other wedding. Jane and Carol could have killed an actual developed storyline, if it were given more time and a conflict with more direct effect on an episode's events or character moments. You don't waste Carol Burnett, guys. You just don't. (Also, the Nazi-hunting jokes started wearing thin, for my taste.)

The direction in this episode was just okay for me as well. I felt like the musical numbers could have been a little more snazzily shot - a sharp Carol Burnett/Jane Lynch duet, and two fun Glee numbers should have come off more giddily infectious. I wanted a grin to be plastered all over my face, but it just wasn't there. (I also got confused about Finn singing to Kurt, and then to Rachel, and then to Carole, and then back to Rachel... perspective whiplash, party of one!) And who else caught that reaction shot of Santana during a Finn/Rachel moment? What is going on with that girl? I hope it's some character development (Brittana!) and not just a plot device for Finn and Rachel's relationship (sigh).

Alright, guys. This wasn't so much a recap of the writing and direction so much as "Things She Bloggo Wants to Nitpick and Whine About," so forgive me. I'm on vacation, and just want to share some opinions without thinking too much. I'm sure some of you loved the episode, and that's totally okay. To each Gleek, his or her own!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pop Culture Give Thanks

Lovely readers! I am vacationing for Thanksgiving, and it is entirely probable that this will be a dust-bunny week here at SHE BLOGGO. But, I have a parting gift for you until I return.

I decided, in addition to being thankful for my health, family, friends, and the general good blessings of my life, that I would jot down a few silly pop-culture-related items for which I am thankful.

Left to right, according to turkey feather, I AM THANKFUL...

I. ... that Cougar Town is defying its ill-chosen title by poking fun at it and continuing to be funny as hell. PENNY CAN!

II. ... that Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are reuniting their lovely chemistry for Love and Other Drugs.

III. ... that Jim Parsons won the Emmy for his work as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. I don't even watch that show regularly, and I know he deserved the win.

IV. ... that Nathan Fillion is on my television, on a show that's not in danger of getting canceled! He really is ruggedly handsome. (And the best part of Castle.)

V. ... that Parks and Recreation is coming back! Patience, friends - January 20th, 2011! And not only that, but NBC is expanding their comedy block on Thursdays to be THREE HOURS LONG. That's a lot of funny, and I cannot wait.

VI. ... that Lea Michele sings on my TV every week. I know people are starting to complain of an over-abundance of Lea solos, but I guarantee we're all going to miss hearing her sing every week when Glee goes off the air.

VII. ... for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. Enough said.

VIII. ... that Conan is back on my TV, up to his usual tricks. And with more jokes about cable programming.

IX. ... for Chris Colfer. I didn't particularly want to have two Glee-related thanks, but whatever. I love Chris Colfer, and am thankful for his presence on television. He's amazing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating! I'll be back in a week!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In case you needed a new lady hero...

... I suggest this lady. Christina Bianco sings "Tomorrow" in the style of seven different Broadway legends, freakishly well.

(Just don't inject her and listen to jazz.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dancing with Politics

The main talk of television this week is Brandy's rather shocking elimination from Dancing with the Stars, thereby moving Bristol Palin into the Final 3 and that much closer to winning the coveted Mirrorball Trophy.

Everyone has an opinion on this, viewers and non-viewers alike. It's almost inarguable that Brandy was lightyears ahead of Bristol in dance ability, but because Bristol Palin is Sarah Palin's daughter, it seems America can't enjoy this season of celebrity ballroom dance without politics getting in the way.

I, for one, think it's annoying. Politics should have nothing to do with it. Doesn't anyone else see how absurd it is to drag our nation's governing system into Dancing with the Stars? These contestants, however likeable, are essentially competing for a disco ball on a stick!

I'm a fan of the show; I really am. It's much more than just washed-up has-beens learning ballroom steps. It's really a chance for the participants to show the viewers their true colors, for better or worse, and to put themselves back on the public radar. In the best cases, it can be career rehabilitation. There have been countless celebrities that waltzed across DWTS' hardwood and changed my previously held opinions - Pamela Anderson, Lil' Kim, and Evan Lysacek to name a few.

More than that, the whole experience is such a challenge for these people that the show becomes something like televised therapy. It seems like the cast members all bond strongly with their dance partners and their competitors just through the sheer force of shared experience. Yes, the show is silly and fun, but it's rewarding to watch, as a viewer. It's not the most-watched show in America for nothing.

Or is it? Is the viewership this year due to Bristol Palin? Last season, DWTS performed better than American Idol for the first time ever, thanks to Kate Gosselin's polarizing participation in the show. I can't help but think Bristol's involvement is producing similar results.

But, at the end of the day, Kate Gosselin was a terrible dancer and America had the good sense to put the poor woman out of her misery about halfway through the competition. Bristol's story goes far beyond the incidental boost in ratings. No, she's getting an inexplicable surge in votes that has propelled her past far more deserving candidates, right into the Final 3.

The elephant in the room (no pun intended) seems to be some sort of conservative conspiracy. There's even reports that Bristol's (and, by proxy, Sarah's) fans are working the system somehow. Mama Palin has appeared in several of Bristol's pre-taped rehearsal packages, and even attended the live shows on several occasions. The support for Bristol is there, and her associations don't go unmentioned.

It should be noted that Bristol's dance ability is improving. The show repeatedly reminds us that she is not a performer of any kind, let alone a dancer, and so her accomplishments are truly remarkable. I'm not arguing! She has improved by leaps and bounds - but the fact of the matter is that she's still not Final 3 material. But there seems to be this semi-delusional cluster of fans who stubbornly insist on putting her there. And I can't for the life of me figure out why. Not winning a reality show ballroom dance competition is not shameful, guys! At some point you have to acknowledge the fact that there are better dancers out there and just be proud of what you've done. Everyone else on the show has had to! Or even worse, the celebrities that have been eliminated at Bristol's expense have to accept the fact that there are lesser dancers still in the competition. That's gotta suck, knowing that you don't have enough fans to overtake a worse dancer's scores.

Yes, this is America, and voting (whether it be for a presidency or a Mirrorball Trophy) is what makes this country great. But people need to stop being jerks and vote responsibly, even if it is for a silly reality TV show. And most importantly, we should be able to treat Bristol Palin's involvement on Dancing with the Stars without the context of her situation, and leave politics off the dance floor.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Haiku Wednesday on Thursday

Not only do I never post haikus anymore, here I am posting one on Thursday. It's like Haiku Wednesday means nothing to me anymore!

But, inspiration struck, and so I bring you a haiku about Sam Evans from Glee.

Dumb, nerdy, or vain?
Is he or isn't he gay?
Sam, I Am... confused.

Good day, all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The RBI Report: "The Substitute"

Tonight's Glee episode will forever be remembered as the episode where Gwyneth Paltrow totally crashed the party. Obligatory comments: I thought she, Gwyneth Paltrow, rocked it. She seemed totally game for the Glee experience. She sang, she danced, she spoke Spanish, she dressed up like Mary Todd Lincoln, and she was funny. The choice to make her character empathetic fell a little flat to me, but Gwyneth handled those bits well too. On to the RBI Report!

"The Substitute," written by Ian Brennan, directed by Ryan Murphy.

Much like Holly Holiday herself, this episode was in parts infectiously likeable, and in other parts terribly misguided. I did appreciate a lot of individual bits - the mini-Gleeks were heartbreakingly adorable, and I squealed like a little kid at the shout-out to "Conjunction Junction" from Schoolhouse Rock. Sue and Holly watching "Hoarders" was pretty awesome, as was Santana trying to fight Rachel and Rachel's subsequent reaction. We got a hair joke from Sue, Coach Beiste being awesome, and Brittany thinking that gummy bears live in little broccoli trees. All good!

Collectively, these parts were like the "fun" Holly Holliday - the one that converses casually in Spanish about Lindsay Lohan, and rocks out with the class to Cee-Lo's "F*ck You" - or "Forget You," as it were. But on the flipside of this fluff, there were some deep personality flaws in "The Substitute."

My first issue with the episode was in the Will/Terri dynamic. I just don't understand the decision to reintroduce her to the fold in the exact same way. What was the point of it? Will and Terri reflecting on their failed marriage is interesting; Will and Terri having flu sex with Vapo-Rub is not. I also do not appreciate the villainizing of Terri. YES, Terri made terrible choices and did not consider the consequences of her actions. However, I don't think Will can be so holier-than-thou with her, as he seemed to be at the end of the episode. It's not a good color on him. Terri initiated the sex, but he did not say no. Do the Glee writers not seem to understand that it takes two people to have sex? (I'm looking at you, Artie.)

The underlining point of it all is that Terri needs a purpose on this show other than Will. I really don't enjoy seeing them interact anymore, and Glee really needs to find a way to incorporate her into the show without being someone's love interest. Terri's crazy is interesting, and certainly stirs things up when it's applied properly - Vitamin D, anyone?

My other issue with the episode lies in the storyline given to Mercedes and Kurt in this episode. At first, that sounds great - a storyline for Kurt and Mercedes? Awesome! The show has laid off their friendship in recent episodes and I was looking forward to seeing it in full force again.

Well, I was wrong. Firstly, the storyline given to Mercedes was about her fighting to reinstate "potater tots" into the school cafeteria.



No amount of Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler snark could describe my reactions to this. It's just ridiculous. It fell completely flat, because it completely weakens Mercedes' character. Not to mention it's a little bit pointed to give the food addiction plotline to the show's overweight character. Ugh. It wasn't even played for humor. It'd be one thing if it became an over-the-top exaggeration, but it wasn't. It was insipid; a straight, preposterous storyline masquerading an even nastier sentiment.

See, Mercedes had been feeling like Kurt was growing distant from her based on his growing relationship (however ill-defined it is) with Blaine. Totally valid. All of us can relate to that on some level, right? The smart decision would be to play to that relatability and make us root for Kurt and Mercedes to rekindle their friendship. They could drive a taxi from Las Vegas to New York City and have a full-blown friend-aissance! (Friends reference? Anybody?)

But no, it's insinuated instead that at some point we all have to ditch our friends and hang out with our significant others and if Mercedes wants to have anyone care about her, she needs to get herself a man, fast. This, my friends, was the hidden nasty sentiment.

What the hell.

Kurt literally told her that she was subsituting him, Kurt, for a boyfriend. Clearly this boy does not understand how friends work. And that, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with Glee. The show does not understand friendship. It understands one night stands, it understands marriages, it understands rivalries, it understands teen romance. It understands unity, it understands teamwork, it understands random acts of kindness, it understands family.

But it does not understand friendship. Consistent, supportive, tolerating, kindred-spirit friendship. Mercedes and Kurt were the only hope I had for a friendship not to get completely decimated on this show, but based on the way Kurt seemed to dismiss Mercedes at the end of the episode, it seems I am now hopeless.

So the outcome of all of this was Mercedes deciding to go land herself a man so she could just have some sort of friend. Major, major fail. I am ALL for Mercedes getting a boyfriend, but not like this. Not by making her a casualty of Kurt's inverted bros before hoes philosophy, and certainly not when it's all framed in a weak plot contrivance involving tater tots. It seems I have new things to write to Mercedes in my Open Letter to the Ladies of McKinley High.

I am really trying my best to not blast "Forget You" as I write this. Because it kind of sums up my sentiments right now. I apologize for getting so vitriolic about these two storylines, but they really did sit poorly with me. I think these faults ultimately stemmed from the writing - you were doing so well, Ian Brennan! As for the direction, it was completely over-stimulating, so you know Ryan was at the wheel. It wasn't bad, though - just... over-stimulating. I felt like I couldn't focus my eyes on any one thing during the "Singing in the Rain/Umbrella" mashup.

Technically there's more to talk about, mainly with Holly Holiday's character, and the discourse about good teaching vs. bad teaching, but I really don't care enough to go into it. Those parts were inoffensive, and done well enough to skate by without me making a fuss. Oh, and there's also the decision to fire Figgins and have Sue as principal, which is fine by me because it certainly shakes things up. I like that Sue decided to gun for Will again because being friends was just "boring." This definitely sets some obstacles for the Glee club in the future, and I'm intrigued as to what Sue will throw their way.

Like I said, the episode wasn't a complete and utter fail, but when you looked past the fun and spunk of Holly Holiday, there were some definite inadequacies at work.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: B+
Dance Numbers: A
Dialogue: B
Plot: C
Schuester: D
Episode MVP: Rachel Berry. She may have been overbearing and self-absorbed, but she was straight-up right about Holly Holiday all along. Plus she was funny as hell this week.

Tina Fey's Comedy Bat Mitzvah

This year's recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was none other than my favorite lady, Tina Fey, and I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet.

Perhaps it's because whenever it comes to Tina Fey, all I can ever really do is gush about her. Lucky for you, a handful of Really Awesome People came together and did exactly that, and far more eloquently than I ever could. Also, they actually know her and so that carries some extra weight.

As I watched the ceremony Sunday night, I will say that I got a little teary-eyed. It's extremely silly to say this, but the fact is that I'm damn proud of Tina. I've been watching her on my TV since she was doing Update with Jimmy Fallon, and I'm so glad that not only is she still on my TV, but also that she's getting recognized for her talent and hard work. Even without all the political crap, I think she's left her mark on American comedy and deserves to be honored.

If you get a chance to watch the ceremony, you should. The parade of people toasting Tina's success was seriously a single-file line of Awesomeness (Betty White! Steve Martin! Jimmy Fallon! Tracy Morgan! Jon Hamm! Jane Krakowski!) but I think I loved Amy Poehler's speech the most.

Mark Twain once said, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." But it was Shania Twain who said, “Man! I feel like a woman!” Tonight, we celebrate a dynamite woman, a first-class lady, an upstanding broad, and a straight-up dame. Tina, I am so honored to be able to attend your Comedy Bat Mitzvah tonight. So far the food has been excellent, and your Evita theme is really working.

Without missing a beat, Tina opened her arms majestically over the balcony where she was seated, and proved to everyone in the room that she and Amy really have been comedy partners for 17 years. Amy closed out her homage with an "I love you, sister," and I couldn't be happier that these comedy sisters both made it all the way from improv classes in Chicago.

Naturally, Tina's acceptance speech is also excellent. Full of self-deprecating humor, topical humor, warmth, sass, and humility, it's classic Tina. I'm so glad this lady has been on my TV since 2000.

Watch the full episode. See more Mark Twain Prize.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Open Letter to the Ladies of McKinley High

While Glee gives us great music, inspiring storylines, and excellent performances, it's becoming increasingly apparent that one of its weak spots is in the way the show handles its female characters. There are times when Glee talks a big talk about feminism in episodes like "The Power of Madonna," but on a week-to-week basis, the female characters seem to suffer from sloppy execution in the details.

So, in the interest of imparting some wisdom to the women of Glee, I give you...


I. to Rachel Berry:
Never let the haters get you down. Never let a boyfriend list reasons not to be with you when he says he loves you. Finn is not a better person than you are. Your life can be whole without a boyfriend in it. Your hopes and dreams are valid. Your self-confidence is not a flaw. Don’t sacrifice something you truly want just because it makes you unpopular. Know that you can carry the Glee club on your own, but that you don’t have to. Keep taking the high road. Hold out for a real friendship - someone who accepts you for who you are and doesn’t try to change you. You are a good person, and you deserve that.

II. to Quinn Fabray:
Wear the uniform, but don’t let the uniform wear you. Be who you want to be and don’t let anyone else tell you that you should be skinnier, or easier, or more popular. Don’t feel like you owe Puck anything. Channel your inner Sue Sylvester wisely. You don’t need to dominate anyone to feel good about yourself. Remember Beth, but don’t carry an undue burden - you did the right thing. Be nicer to Rachel. She’s been good to you, in spite of everything. Don’t rely on a boy to tell you you’re beautiful. Maybe try dating outside the football team. And choose someone who likes you, not just what you look like or what you represent.

III. to Mercedes Jones:
Girl, you are beautiful. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise - not Sue Sylvester, not a boy, not anybody. Fight to sing full solos in Glee, and not just the vocal runs. Keep supporting Kurt. Be nicer to Rachel. Don’t be afraid to try out for the lead, whether it be on the Cheerios or in Rocky Horror. And if another boy tries to date you just to rehabilitate his reputation, send him packing. You deserve better. And you’re totally capable of starting a sex riot.

IV. to Tina Cohen-Chang:
Keep sharpening that righteous blade of feminism. Keep holding on to what makes you unique, and never let a boy try to change that. Good for you for dumping Artie. You deserve better. Hold onto Mike - he respects you. If Artie wants you back, don’t just think of Mike’s abs - think of how he’s treated you and if you truly like him. But don’t ever let your relationships with these boys define you. Don’t give up on your solos so easily. You’re just as deserving as Rachel or Mercedes.

V. To Santana Lopez:
Honey, do not look to Puck for examples on how to treat people. Remember that Glee Club is the best part of your day, okay? Be nicer to Rachel. Be nicer to Mercedes. Be nicer to Tina and Quinn. Don’t worry so much about image. Don’t get caught up in scheming. If Brittany makes you half as happy as she seems to, then honor that and treat her properly. You deserve unconditional love, and you’re lucky to have it in your best friend. Don’t take that for granted. You are beautiful without the boob job. Don’t let other people’s standards of beauty determine how you view yourself. And try not to swindle Breadstix out of millions of dollars.

VI. to Brittany S. Pierce:
Keep seeing the best in people. Don’t let people call you stupid or a slut. Don’t let a boy guilt you about “taking” something that he willingly gave. It’s also okay if you don’t sleep with every guy in school - it’s about quality, not quantity. Keep loving unconditionally. If Santana can’t see what’s right in front of her face, then don’t wait around for her forever. You can be your own person, and you deserve happiness with someone who recognizes how much they love you.

VII. to Emma Pillsbury:
Never let anyone tell you that you need to be “fixed.” Seek help for yourself as you see fit, on your own pace. Have sex when and with whom you want. Don’t be afraid to move forward with Carl just because Will is still a part of your work life. Look after the female students of McKinley. They need good advice, especially in the romance department. Don’t let Sue, or anyone else, intimidate you. Stand up for yourself, and what you want. Try not to over-romanticize a relationship. Love someone for who they are, not what they represent, and expect the same out of your partner.

VIII. to Shannon Beiste:
You are beautiful, period. You deserve someone who sees that, and who will love you for who you are. Never let anyone demean or dehumanize you. You are a caring woman, and don’t be afraid to show it. Demand respect from your students, and your co-workers. It’s okay to cry. And most importantly: don’t let Sue bully you. You deserve to be treated with respect. All those who refuse? Show them the door.

IX. to Sue Sylvester:
Sue, not all of us can be held to the same standards you hold yourself to. So when you’re quick to cut someone down, show a little mercy. Give your students half as much self-confidence as you have, and you’ll have imparted them a great gift. If Rod tries to date you again, tell him to take a long walk off a short pier. You deserve better than that. Don’t be so harsh with Emma. You could both learn from one another. Keep your fearlessness for truth-telling, but know when to ease up from cruelty. And, as much as it pains you to hear it: winning isn’t everything.


This is seriously all I want for my Glee girls, and I want to the writers to deliver that. I'm not saying I want them to be perfect; I just want them to be real, and good examples of women on my TV.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Examining Generation, Age, and Gender Dynamics Onscreen

For reasons entirely unknown to me, I saw Morning Glory this Wednesday, its opening day. It entertained me enough, but one thing struck me in particular. It was very apparent that the centerpiece of the entire film was the dynamic between Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a curmudgeonly, seasoned news anchor, and Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), a spunky, over-achieving TV producer.

The focus given to this relationship was rightfully due; their push-and-pull interactions masquerading a true affection and mutual understanding were the best in the whole movie. But the dynamic's not exactly unfamiliar. Many of their characters' conversations seemed to be lifted out of 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy-Liz Lemon handbook, which of course is an homage to the Lou Grant-Mary Richards relationship of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The formula is simple: begin with one (1) Type A, over-achieving, PC, and/or workaholic younger woman entirely capable of conquering any obstacle in her life except in the realm of love or a social life. (It also helps if she has no filter.) Then, add her boss, one (1) well-groomed older man to act as a mentor and/or father figure, who criticizes the younger woman's ideals and by-the-book nature, and often accomplishes what she cannot with effortless ease. (It also helps if he is sometimes slightly offensive and/or misogynistic.) Let marinate in a plotline for 22, 44, or 100 minutes, and voila! The result is delicious.

Why, then? Why does this recipe work so well?

Ultimately, it boils down to the interaction between two utter and complete opposites, who actually benefit from their relationship, without any hint of romantic entanglements. Free of sex and dating, the dynamic can crackle with the friction of man vs. woman, old vs. young, veteran vs. rookie. And through all this back-and-forth can emerge a mutual respect, whether it be in the form of a father/daughter relationship, or in the case of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, "work husband/uncle" and "co-worker/little brother."

Perhaps more interesting than the "why" is the "why now?" - why is this homage to Mary Tyler Moore emerging as a popular dynamic to portray on screen?
In addition to the emergence of 30 Rock and Morning Glory, we saw a similar rapport between Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) in last year's critical darling Up in the Air.

It's perhaps easiest to answer "why now?" by examining the dynamics using the concept of the "generation gap." Movies about generation gaps are nothing new; but each one is specific to the generation of context. Now, we're starting to get movies about the
Millennial Generation, as they enter adulthood. Previously, we've seen a lot of Generation X (born 1961-1981). Gen X seemed to display a certain amount of angst about interacting with society and their elders, due to growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam Conflict, economic crises, the negative swing of recreational drug use, and the rise of broken families. Gen X is casually referred to as the MTV Generation, and usually gave way to stories of youthful rebellion and dealing with feelings of isolation.

But then the Internet came along and assured young people that they're certainly not alone in their growing pains. The Internet shaped Millennials, and connected members of this new generation in a way that helped to remove some of the drama of interacting with society. We're understood! We have AIM and fan forums! Other people 'ship Draco and Hermione too! We're not alone! We don't need to crank up "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and wallow in detached solitude! Thanks, Internet!

Okay, that was a huge (but kind of necessary) aside. Let me continue, on topic.

In the case of Natalie Keener (Up in the Air) and Becky Fuller (Morning Glory), both young women are products of the Millennial Generation. Millennials, or Generation Y, are characteristically jettisoned into the workplace with an absurd amount of optimism and new ideas about the ability of technology and innovation to change an industry. Working with a Millennial Kid is probably the most annoying thing to an aging Baby Boomer or even a Gen X-er. (Especially because Millennials are freakishly proud of being Millennials. If you were born between 1982-1995, you are a Millennial; and if you said "HELL YES I AM!" when you read that, then you just proved my point. Still, high five!)

We saw a Millennial-Baby Boomer dynamic a few years back in the Dennis Quaid-Topher Grace 2004 movie In Good Company. That part was interesting enough. But, replace Topher Grace's character with a woman, and you're golden (and more aligned with the topic of this entry). Millennial Feminism is a different breed than Boomer Feminism. Boomer Feminism struggled for equality and the eradication of discrimination. There was a lot of bra burning. But Millennial Feminism has moved forward, and is tackling the power of choice and the female "image." We're now operating on the basic established concept that Boomer Feminists fought for: that a woman is equipped with all the same workplace ability as a man and should therefore be treated no differently than a man.

Liz Lemon and Mary Richards, being embedded as a Boomer and a Gen X-er, bridge all the traits of Boomer Feminism and Millennial Feminism. It's even perhaps because of Mary's influence that Millennial Feminism even happened, and Liz's contributions that Millennial Feminism is reinforced. (I can't be the only one who watches 30 Rock every Thursday night and wonders if Liz Lemon is my spirit animal, can I?)

However, the world is still adjusting to the concepts put forth by Boomer Feminism (really, World?) and the Boomer Bosses in Lou Grant, Jack Donaghy, Mike Pomeroy, and Ryan Bingham like to poke holes in the idealism of their younger co-workers. Mary, Liz, Becky, and Natalie still have a lot to learn, despite their college educations and stringent ideals about the corporate world.

Of course, the most genius part of it all is the classic "we're not so different after all!" wherein the two parties realize they understand one another far more than they originally thought. The Liz Lemons realize they've come to rely on the advice of the Jack Donaghys, and the Ryan Binghams discover they've learned a lesson from the Natalie Keeners. Then you get a relationship something like a bittersweet chocolate - yes, they fight, but there's a real respect there. Even better than that, neither character (or generation) is 100% right or 100% wrong. Their relationship is a discussion, not a statement. And that's just the classic hallmark of good storytelling.

In short, the best movies strive to reflect the current sociology through cultural examination. And what better way to tap into the zeitgeist by creating two opposing characters who have been shaped by their differing environments, and then forcing them to play nice?

The reason the Mary Richards-Lou Grant dynamic is interesting again is that it has found new relevance. It is feminism effectively applied to the delicate overlap in which Boomers and Millennials are interacting in the workplace, and results in fascinating and relevant conflicts. Perhaps no two generations are ripe for squabble like Boomers and Millennials, and those creative Hollywood types are wise to capitalize on that. And no one ever gets tired of a man and a woman arguing - as fans of EVERY SITCOM EVER can attest.

I have to say, it's really one of the closest things to storytelling perfection these days. In each of the four works discussed, that particular character dynamic is easily the show-stealer. And if you were to change any little detail, it just throws the relationships completely off-balance. What if the woman were the boss? What if they were the same gender? What if they were similar ages, or from similar backgrounds? What if feminism were not even on the table? Or the worst - what if you introduced sex into the mix? Well, then you're - well, you're screwed. The whole thing would just be ruined, and Mary Richards would want a word. Sorry, Jack/Liz shippers!

Phew. Thanks for reading, nerds! If you made to this point, I salute you. You have spunk, and I love spunk.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Glee Character Approval Ratings, part deux

Alright, gang. My somewhat arbitrary character approval ratings are back, updated for "Duets," "Rocky Horror Glee Show," and "Never Been Kissed."

We're really seeing some breaks out of the pack! Kurt, Brittany, and Quinn have separated themselves nicely, and Rachel, Finn, and Will are pulling themselves out of the negatives. Puck, Sue, Santana, and Sam have dipped a bit in recent weeks.

Check it out, math nerds! Who doesn't love a good graph?

Glee approval ep 4-6

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The RBI Report: "Never Been Kissed"

I won't lie, as soon as I saw the crazy dramatic promos for this episode, I got worried. Anytime Glee drifts into "very special episode" territory, I brace myself for maximum Liz Lemon eyerolls and feeling terrible for being such a cynic. I was already preparing my disclaimer for the RBI Report, prepping myself to talk about the differences between concept and execution, and warning Glee against the perils of getting preachy about bullying when all of their characters have been bullies at some point in the show's timeline.

But then, something miraculous happened. To the RBI Report, shall we?

"Never Been Kissed," written by Brad Falchuk, directed by Bradley Buecker.

What's interesting about this episode is that it was directed by Bradley Buecker, Glee's editor! Okay, so it's interesting to me. Seriously, I've heard it said that editors make good directors.
Editing is the last stop on telling a story before it's finalized, so editors need to know their stuff when it comes to communicating the story to the audience.

As such, I think Buecker did a stand-up job. With Brad Falchuk's solid writing behind him, he was able to steer the episode away from being saccharine and heavy-handed and instead portrayed the conflicts compellingly and the characters honestly. Because of it, I did not roll my eyes once! This is what happens when Ryan Murphy is not allowed near the execution of an episode.

There were a lot of sensitive issues touched on in "Never Been Kissed," mainly concerning Coach Beiste and Kurt. Both storylines were handled brilliantly. Seriously, major kudos to the show for the inclusion of Coach Beiste's character. Here is a 40-year-old woman who does not fit the "normal" standards of beauty, isn't gay, and is heartbroken over having never been kissed. It's easy to portray someone like this as pitiable, but instead she was truly empathetic. How could anyone not feel for the lady? (Though I must protest and say that, yes, women like to know they are respected. I get where Coach was coming from, but the line made me raise an eyebrow. Quibbling, party of one!)

And guess what? Responsible and Mature Adult, Will Schuester, was back in this episode! I rather loved his interactions with Coach Beiste. He treated her with respect and compassion, and it was lovely to see. Yes, he kissed her, which is definitely sparking debate amongst fans. But I appreciated it. They made it clear that it wasn't a pity kiss, but rather the seal on a bond that I find to be good for both characters. Coach Beiste didn't seem to mind, so I don't mind. I approve, and want to see them become good friends.

Kurt; oh, Kurt. He really did take a bruising in this episode, and it breaks my heart that his first gay kiss was with someone who not only torments him, but who also has issues to work out. Karofsky's abuse is inexcusable, but him kissing Kurt certainly adds an unexpected new dimension to his character. And I must applaud Brad Falchuk for not resolving it with a tearful coming out or Karofsky even acknowledging what happened. Karofsky is clearly not ready to confront the issues, and unfortunately, that's how life is sometimes. Things don't always get wrapped up nicely with a big bow on it. The Glee Club doesn't always sing to you about acceptance at the finish of every episode.

It may seem like no progress was made, with Kurt still being bullied at the end of NBK, but I think it was made clear that a glimmer of hope exists for Kurt Hummel, and that glimmer is Blaine. The reaction shots of Kurt watching Dalton Academy sing "Teenage Dream" made it abundantly clear that he wasn't just watching a performance, or even a cute guy. He was getting a glimpse into what his life could be like. Seeing him with tears in his eyes, smiling bigger than he ever had before was so much more rewarding than any big dramatic actions or a heavy-handed monologue. Bradley Buecker knows: it's all in the reaction shots, especially when it's the beautifully expressive face of Chris Colfer.

The third storyline in this episode belonged to none other than Noah Puckerman, fresh out of juvie. I think it was an interesting choice to include a Puck storyline in an episode about bullying, because it's confronting the harsh truth that Puck, much as we love him sometimes, is a bully. All of the characters have been bullies at one point or another, but Puck is the most consistent with his insistence on being a "badass."

Rightfully so, the writing didn't favor Puck in "Never Been Kissed," and I applaud that. The fact that Puck has been a bully shouldn't be dusted under the rug to make a statement. He was truly offensive for most of the episode, and no one can blame Quinn for sarcastically remarking that Puck was "a catch." What upsets me is that Santana clearly likes Puck because he's a bully, idolizing him for his boastful stories of kicking ass in juvie. I wish she would get straightened out on this falsehood (don't giggle over my word choice!), because Puck, in this incarnation, is a jackass. I like that at least Quinn doesn't put up with his crap, and apparently, neither does Artie.

The Artie/Puck team seems to be mutually beneficial. Lately, Artie has himself been flirting with some asshole behavior, and it at least makes sense that he could connect to Puck on some level. Maybe they'll be good for each other, and shape up before trying to get Tina and Quinn back, respectively. Because right now? Puck and Artie do not deserve those relationships. At the very least, Puck had his own run-in with bullies - they stole his waffles! - and has hopefully discovered once and for all that he wants to stop being such a jerk. I'm hoping against hope that this is the start of some great character development and not just another false start on the Glee character carousel.

This review is quickly getting to be mammoth-sized, but I do want to give a little round of applause for some excellent continuity! Glee successfully remembered that Will and Beiste have an established trust, that Quinn is a prude (but conveniently forgot that Rachel isn't), that Sue wanted confetti cannons with Beiste's budget, that Artie and Brittany had a brief relationship, that Puck went to juvie, and that Kurt wanted to perform with the girls mashup last year. I choose to ignore the ignoring of Santana and Brittany's obvious all-consuming love (shipper alert!) and instead focus on the other successes. Bravo!

Ultimately, I think this was a solidly executed episode. The important messages were communicated, from start to finish. Kurt had courage, stood up for himself, and cemented a bond that gives him hope, and reinforces to him that he is truly not alone. The grievances against Coach Beiste were addressed sensitively and apologized for. Puck wasn't rewarded for his delinquent behavior. Lessons were learned, but no one was preached to. All in all, I was very pleased. My crush on Brad Falchuk is back, with a vengeance!

I leave you with these choice words from the episode that stuck with me. No matter if you are Kurt Hummel, Shannon Beiste, or Noah Puckerman: Refuse to be the victim. Prejudice is just ignorance. And most importantly - free your mind, and the rest will stop. (Seriously, whoever thought to mash up those lyrics into that sentiment is just a genius.)

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: A
Dialogue: A+
Plot: A+
Schuester: A+
Episode MVP: Shannon Beiste, with honorable mention to Kurt Hummel and Will Schuester

Glee's Most Versatile Performer: Kevin McHale

I recently decided that I could be a huge dork and award superlatives to Glee cast members like you do in real high school. I put some thought into which actor would get "funniest," or "best dressed," but really, those superlatives are stupid because we could argue for days.

The only "superlative" that I'm really interested in giving (today, at least) is that of Most Versatile Performer - the cast member who's fielded the most variety in song and dance and done so with excellent results. We're not talking acting, or line deliveries, or number of solos - we're talking musical performance versatility.

I'm going to go ahead and say it's Kevin McHale.

Vocally, he's tackled the likes of Ike Turner, Jay-Z, Travie McCoy, Bill Withers, John Lennon, Usher, Billy Idol, MC Hammer, Doris Day, Men Without Hats, and Britney Spears. (In case you weren't sure, that's 80s pop, 90s rap, contemporary rap, female 90s pop, female 50s jazz, 70s roots rock, 70s soft rock, 70s soul, and R&B.)

Vocal versatility? Check. How 'bout dance? Well, Kevin performs all of the choreography in Artie's wheelchair, with the notable exception of "Safety Dance," where he actually gets up and proves that he can dance damn well without it. I'd say that's a check for dance versatility. Instrumentally, he's played the guitar on several occasions, and handled the vocoder on "It's My Life/Confessions Pt II." To boot, he's the boys' go-to rapper, the male counterpart to most of Amber's Season 1 leads, and a damn fine soloist within his own right.

That's all the evidence I need, really.
The only thing he's really lacking is the showtune element, if you're not counting the smidge of "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" from the pilot. The showtunes tend to go to Kurt and Rachel, and I'm fine with that.

Yes, you could argue that Lea Michele has shown enormous vocal range with Barbra Streisand, the All-American Rejects, Rihanna, and Bonnie Tyler. Or that Cory Monteith and Mark Salling have played the drums and guitar, respectively, and rapped just as much as Kevin has. Or that Chris Colfer has sung as many female leads as male. Valid points, all. (Frankly, I think the best case could be made for the rapping, ballading, ukelele-playing and break-dancing talents of Matt Morrison as Mr. Schuester.)

But I'm going to stick with Kevin for my made-up honor. I think it's well-deserved. Plus, I already made the graphic.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Daylight Savings: The Couch Potato's Side Effects

Last night, the entire United States - excluding Hawaii and Arizona - shifted their clocks back one hour to accomodate Daylight Savings Time.

I admit; I don't know much about the why or wherefore, I just generally do what I'm told when it's to do with everyone else in the nation essentially re-synchronizing their watches. Sure, it's annoying getting hungry one hour earlier, and it's disorienting to have it be daylight when I wake up again, but why fight it? It's pointless.

I discovered, though, the worst side effect of Daylight Savings. And by "worst," I mean "the one that demonstrates to me just how addicted I am to pop culture."

Tonight, as it started to get dark, I thought, "I'm hungry! I shall eat." And so I did - a weird microwave burrito which sounded very promising and turned out not to be. Not the point.

Then, when I was done, I noticed that it was suitably dark outside, and my body seemed to say, "Aha! It's time to sit on the couch and watch Dancing with the Stars!"

Except I looked at the clock and it was only 6:24. I drew two conclusions from this information:

1. Dancing with the Stars is not on for another hour and thirty-six minutes. Sigh.


2. My circadian rhythms are adjusted to give me instincts about television programming.

The latter is truly disturbing. But not disturbing enough to actually make me stop indulging in TV. So don't worry, Glee; I haven't canceled our date tomorrow night. Even if you are showing up a full hour later than anticipated.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Really Awesome Covers: An Addendum

Yesterday I posted a 10 Things: Really Awesome Covers, and frankly, 10 wasn't enough. Turns out Billboard.com has its own series of artists covers, and some of them are also Really Awesome. So, here's the two extra dabs of icing on the cake. Happy listening!

Florence + The Machine covers Mario Winan's "I Don't Wanna Know"

Sara Bareilles covers Beyonce's "Single Ladies"

Friday, November 5, 2010

10 Things: Awesome Covers

Music Appreciation Week continues, with a 10 Things: Awesome Covers. I picked most of them for being unexpected or unusual reinterpretations of contemporary songs. They're certainly not a 10 Best, but they're still Pretty Damn Great. Let's count!

Gaslight Anthem covers Kelly Clarkson's "I Do Not Hook Up"

The Script covers Eminem's "Lose Yourself"

Katy Perry covers Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold"

Lily Allen covers Britney Spears' "Womanizer"

The Fray covers Kanye West's "Heartless"

Eliza Lumley covers Radiohead's "Black Star"

Glen Hansard covers Britney Spears' "Everytime"

Lady Gaga covers Coldplay's "Viva La Vida"

Florence + the Machine cover Beyonce's "Halo"

Mandy Moore covers Rihanna's "Umbrella"

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