TV on DVD: “Glee, Vol. One: Road to Sectionals”

Written by Television, TV on DVD

The first 13 episodes of Fox’s new hit musical series, Glee, released here in a 4 DVD set, are an entertaining, yet wildly inconsistent group of episodes that sees the show finding its footing. As many of you probably know, Glee is a high concept show about a group of misfits at an Ohio high school who come together to form a glee club. It’s entertaining because the producers have been able to license popular songs, both current and classic, and somehow fit them into the storyline of each hour. Moreover, the characters are all quite likable and very easy to root for. However, the quality of the show’s writing is all over the place. There are episodes that deal with sexual identity, disability, teen pregnancy and marital strife that are so heartfelt and true that you come away hoping that Glee is the next Friday Night Lights (albeit, with singing football players). These standout episodes are generally followed by an hour that is so eye rolling ridiculous that you’ll think you’ve stumbled into an episode of the current run of Grey’s Anatomy.

Yet, I can’t help watching.

It’s that hope that you’ll come across one of the great episodes that kept me going.  I’m thinking of “Preggers” in which the flamboyant character Curt (Chris Colfer) comes out to his mechanic father (Mike O’Malley). Curt’s father’s reaction is both surprising and wonderful; a great reason to follow the show. Another exceptional episode was “Wheels.” In it glee club supervisor, Will (lead Matthew Morrision), learns that budget cuts will prevent wheelchair bound member, Artie (Kevin McHale), from riding to competitions with the rest of the group because the school can’t afford a handicap accessible bus. Will asks the club to raise money and spend time in wheelchairs to get a small understanding of Artie’s life.  This was a moving and serious hour of television accompanied with some exciting musical arrangements.

However, off setting the finer points of the series are ridiculous subplots, most notably the fake pregnancy of Will’s wife, Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig). Fearing she may lose her husband to the fetching fellow teacher he pines for, Terri lies to Will, telling him she’s with child. This charade goes on for months and Will actually believes her. I almost threw my remote at the television because of this preposterous storyline. Thankfully the writers wisely decided to end this storyline and, in one moment of brilliant acting by Morrison, Will puts Terri in her place. This episode,“Mattress,” is the second to last episode on this collection; it is exceptional. In fact, by the last three episodes of the first part of season 1, Glee found the right mix of comedy, drama and musical choices.

As I mentioned above, all of the characters are likable and this cast of mostly unknowns are all fine discoveries by the producers (who include Nip/Tuck’s Ryan Murphy).  Glee is on hiatus until April and it’s my hope that the writers and producers will look back on the first 13 episodes to review what worked and what doesn’t.

Included on this DVD set are a group of trivial bonus features. There are a couple of informative featurettes about the casting of the series and also two full versions of songs featured in the wonderful pilot episode (one by show breakout star, Lea Michele). However, the rest of the bonus features are 2-3 minute clips, primarily footage featured in promo material for Glee. Should a full edition of the first season see a release someday, I expect we’ll at least get some commentary by Murphy and his other producers, as well as a more in depth look at how the show is put together. For now, the only real reason to buy this collection is for the episodes themselves.