Thursday, November 19, 2009

Glee Episode 10: Ballad

Oh, Glee and your widely varying degrees of quality between episodes. This week's episode, "Ballad," was a total mess. And I was surprised because it was written by Brad Falchuk, who did the sweet "Preggers" episode, in which Kurt joins the football team.

There were three main story threads going on in "Ballad:" Finn and Quinn's baby drama, Rachel's crush on Mr. Shue, and Kurt's growing friendship with Finn. Finn finally breaks under the pressure of keeping the baby a secret and tells his mom and Quinn's parents, who were under the illusion that their daughter was still going to be wearing white to the Chastity Ball. Rachel, extremely believably, develops a crush on Mr. Shue after singing a duet with him; she's tired of "immature" high school boys. Finally, Kurt begins a nice little friendship with Finn after crushing hard on him for a couple of years.

All in all, the story points made sense for each character. What really bothered me about this one was how it all played out and some really poor directorial choices.

First of all, "Ballad" focuses almost entirely on the popular, good looking kids. While I understand that, yes, this is a FOX show and therefore a certain amount of this will be necessary, the non-popular non-goodlooking kids were all relegated to what could be called model minority positions. Mercedes (played by the fabulous Amber Riley) is only in the episode to provide Wise Black Lady advice to Puck. Kurt (the always divine Chris Colfer) has more lines but is essentially Finn's personal Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

In a moment representative of the entire episode, Finn and Kurt need to practice their ballads - Finn is at a loss for what to do, so Kurt tells him what song to sing and then plays it at the piano for him. The picturization for the song ("I'll Stand By You") immediately transitions away from the stage to Finn's bedroom. Kurt is merely Finn's Helper Gay. Finn has no reaction to Kurt's feelings at all, despite the fact that when Finn starts yelling at Kurt, Kurt replies, "“Your lashing out at me is fantastically compelling and innapropriate.”

Now, I do like Cory Monteith quite a bit but the scene with Quinn's parents was painful and not in the way that was intended. Both Cory and Diana Agron felt really stilted and false delivering the lines, which says to me that the director just didn't know how to bring a good performance out them. Diana, in particular, has done good work in other episodes, so I was very disappointed to see Quinn ring so false here.

The Rachel plotline has been my favorite of her character so far. It was totally beliveable to me that she would fall for Mr. Shue and I loved how ambivalent Mr. Shue was about dealing with her. It sums up their relationship pretty well - two self-centered performers. The cartoonish "Susie Pepper," Mr. Shue's first schoolgirl stalker, was cartoonish in a way that disrupted the typical Glee world. She was far too broad a character to be believable.

And is it just me or was the voice-over unbearable this week. Too much!

But, let's discuss the songs. I'll admit to not being a fan of ballads in general but the opening "Endless Love" was perfect. (Kurt's reaction, "I could totally sing this song to Finn. Screw him if he thinks he’s taking the Diana Ross part though.”) The picturization, with Rachel basically singing at Mr. Shue as he slowly backs away in horror, was pitch perfect.

The other songs in "Ballad" were kind of a mess, for which I blame episode author Brad Falchuk, who doesn't seem to understand how songs work within a narrative. (Hint to Mr. Falchuk: Watch some Bollywood. Start with Main Hoon Na, which has a Glee feel to it.)

I already mentioned the lackluster "I'll Stand By You" and the episode was rounded out by a Mr. Shue mash-up of "Don't Stand So Close To Me/Young Girl"
sung to Rachel, Finn singing "You're Having my Baby," and an uninspired "Lean on Me" sung by the full ensemble.

Here is my biggest problem with the song selection - if you set everybody up to sing ballad-y duets, WHY WERE THERE NO DUETS? (Just sayin'.) Why couldn't we have seen Kurt and Finn sing something together? "Love the One You're With," by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, would have been perfect for this situation. And did Mr. Shue really need TWO songs this week? Why didn't we get to see the Mercedes/Puck duet? They had some sizzling hate-chemistry in their one scene (perhaps thanks to Mark Salling's ability to have chemistry with everybody - and if he wants to spread that love around, I am available) and you can't tell me that there aren't some passive-agressive Sonny and Cher songs that could be zinged up or what about covering the Rhianna-Justin Timberlake duet?

I'll give credit to the united front shown by "Lean on Me" even with the icky notes of
model minorities supporting the popular kids but there was no excuse for "She's Having My Baby." Not only was it extremely trite but it was dumb in a way that only somebody with a superficial understanding of musicals would think that musical narrative works. I don't know if you remember "Preggers" but there was almost no singing in the episode. "Single Ladies" was just dancing done to the Beyonce song and the other two songs in the episode were literal performance pieces, set on a stage.

The superficial understanding of musical narrative as just "characters bursting into song" is what gave us Finn bringing a boombox to the dinner table and singing "She's Having My Baby." Dumb. A Broadway musical - a la
High School Musical - would have had the singing emerge natrually as part of the dinner - they are clearly singing but the characters aren't actually aware of it. Quinn could have then joined in the duet. Bollywood would have set the incident at a performance of some sort - perhaps at the Chastity Ball. Finn would have grabbed the microphone and let loose. Both options are acceptable. The awkward, winking, choice of "Finn bursts into song because that is what they do in musicals" is just weird.

I understand that these shows were written and recorded BEFORE they could have any meaningful audience feedback, so I can only hope that the writers do some studying up on musicals before the second season because this concept will never be seen again on American TV and if it gets people interested in musicals... well, we will all be winners.


just another frog said...

hi! this is my first time reading your blog...I saw it on one of the Bollywood blogs I was visiting!
I totally agree with you, this episode was a mess. I really don't know what to think about this show...I loved the Pilot, and the first few episodes, but lately the characters are just starting to annoy me more than anything. I'm personally hoping that we can get over all this baby-related melodrama and get back to focusing more on the actual glee club and dealing with more typical high school problems like they did in the first few episodes, you know what I mean?

Filmi Girl said...

Hey!! Thanks for stopping by!

And, yes, I hope they back to Mercedes and Puck and Kurt and Artie very soon. :)

The baby-mamma drama is too dull...

just another frog said...

definitely! One thing I did like about this episode- I found Kurt's crush on Finn kind of cute (ok, his whole plan with getting Quinn to hate him was incredibly moronic), especially some of his voice-overs. Then again, I find pretty much everything Kurt does cute. :)
Did you see the preview of next week's episode? It looks like it's getting back to the actual Glee competition

Filmi Girl said...

Kurt's crush on Finn was adorable!!!

And, the competition next week should be really fun... :)

Anything to get away from all the stupid love triangles. I just hope the Finn/Rachel storyline is dead.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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