Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Matthew Morrison and Glee

Did you watch the pilot of the new show choir comedy Glee last night? Unfortunately, there's no rush. In an odd carrot-dangling exercize from FOX, you can watch it all summer long on their website. You just can't see anything new. Not that Glee is "new" per se. We've seen high school shows with well meaning adorable teachers and can-do dorky kids before. We've seen musically self aware comedies (Ally McBeal / Pushing Daisies). It's not "new" but it is very very welcome. It's another blessed flag planted down in the pop culture sand, with the inscription "the musicals are back."

I swear to god if I read one more opinion piece / review of anything musical that feels the need to use the disclaimer...
I'm not really a musicals guy/girl...
I'm going to...
Well, I'm going to ... bite my pillow!

How about we drop this foolish bias and twittering nervousness about anything show-tuney or theatrical. Let's just admit that it was out of fashion for about twenty years -- roughly the years in between the genre's final 70s classic All That Jazz (1979) and its masterful rebirth Dancer in the Dark (2000) / Moulin Rouge! (2001) -- and two decades is a lot of time to train people to believe that a particular genre is "uncool" or "gay" or "only meant to be in animated movies" and that they're not supposed to like it.


Stop being sheep opinion-makers! Why the disclaimers? It's like many bloggers, talking heads and critics are worried about being seen as uncool. And that's so, well, high school. Stop worrying about what's cool and enjoy anything that's passionately created, well executed and joyfully performed. Enjoy anything that is glad to be what it is. There are so many joyless money-making exercizes out there. [*cough* Wolverine... seriously? I think everyone involved needed major injections of anti-depressants]

Glee is certainly glad to be what it is. The first episode is funny, mostly well cast (yay Jane Lynch. Never can get enough Jane Lynch), moving and bursting with promise. It was also just casually adorable. That light touch was particularly surprising given that musicals are more prone to tilt towards the charm offensive. Not that there's anything wrong with that: if you've got it, flaunt it and whatnot. Glee doesn't whip out its razzle dazzle into the rousing "Don't Stop Believing" finale, but by then you're already a believer. B+/A-

My only quibbles: Why no singing from Matthew Morrison in the lead role as Will Schuester? I've seen him thrice on stage (Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza, 10 Million Miles) and his voice is beauteous. As is the rest of him.

Matthew atop a pickup for a solo in the short-lived 10 Million Miles.

Glee did manage to sneak in one beefcake shot of Morrison in bed but no singing to stamp it with an exclamation point. For a while Broadway and Off Broadway were combining his hunk quotient with the killer voice to great effect: shirtless for the romantic highlight in The Light in the Piazza (the unbelievably gorgeous "Say it Somehow" --god, that show was so fab), Broadway Bares 18, extra pumped-up and wife beater clad for most of 10 Million Miles (the show wasn't so hot but the music was super. You really can't go wrong with Patty Griffin, now, can you?),

<--- Matthew with puppy. Awwww

When Glee returns there will supposedly be guest appearances from other glittery musical theater types like Kristin Chenoweth, Cheyenne Jackson, Victor Garber and John Lloyd Young. But given the show's concepts (which seems to only allow for the high schoolers to be singing ... how are they going to give all these giant voices their own musical numbers?). Either way, this show will be a much better rent-paying option for Broadway stars than Law & Order (their previous cash cow) sine though none of them ever got anywhere close to a musical number on that procedural. They usually just got a paycheck for delivering some exposition as victims, criminals or witnesses. Snooze.

Two videos: Matthew Morrison and Zooey Deschanel in Once Upon a Mattress and "Don't Stop Believing" from Glee (though I'd advise watching the whole show first. It's more moving that way)



In conclusion: September/October can't come soon enough. Summer is my least favorite season, anyway. Let's skip ahead to fall. That way we get the new TV shows, falling leaves, Oscar buzz and prestige movie season.

I'm totally into time travel this month, huh? 1984, Fall 2009, Terminators 91. How to stay in the present tense? Where When am I?
*

35 comments:

foolishblatherings said...

Being a big 'mo, I had to watch it. It was a good show. I think Matthew will sing on the show when the club going to the finals in the fall.

E Dot said...

Yes yes yes. Matthew Morrison is 'don't-stop-believing' gorgeous. I saw him at the Idol taping where he donned a sports jacket and '70s wire-rimmed glasses, and I watched him more than I did the contestants.

Yes, I'm that creepy.

adelutza said...

I'm not really a musicals girl but I bet I'll like it when I'll watch it.

Seriously, I love musicals - I had no idea there are musicals on TV now (other than American Idol). Should watch more TV.

Cengiz said...

I LOVED Glee. I pee'd my pants when the rival school sang "Rehab" (how do you make that into a Glee song?) Jane Lynch was awsome and Matthew Morrison was delicious!!!! I say we fast forward through the Summer months and pick up in the fall where we can watch Glee and Nine will only be a 2 month wait instead of 6.

Peter Chan said...

Yay! A Matt Morrison post! I totally melted in my seat when he sang 'Love To Me'.

Shawn said...

A very good show. I'm so sad we won't see the next episode until 4-5 months from now. :-(

Bluefish said...

Nat, Matthew did sing in the director's cut, which will be showed this fall as the real pilot.

Watch it here: http://www.zshare.net/video/60216014051005f4/

Brad said...

Liked it, but I think it will need to find its wings. This was the show all about introductions. I would love to hear him sing, but we can we get some love for how insanely great Lea Michele is? Her voice is amazing, and she really picks up the weight for the guy they cast as the other juvenille, who's fine, but not so fascinating. I can't wait to see more, and more Lynch! More numbers!

NATHANIEL R said...

yes Lea Michele was super!

Yancey said...

The "Rehab" and "Don't Stop Believin'" songs were awesome. Yay show choirs! Lea Michele's stunning. Matthew Morrison. Yum. That bedroom shot made me happy. Down there. Jane Lynch is a goddess. Is it fall yet?

Kurtis O said...

OMG, I am ga-ga for "Glee." I think I've listened to their fab rendition of Don't Stop Believin' nearly twenty times since last night. It's prob. going to become appointment TV for me come fall. Besides, my BF is a big Lea Michele fan.

cinemadventurer said...

Nathaniel, I am so glad that you (and seemingly everyone else) liked Glee! Now let's hope this grueling wait will be worth it...

Mason Mahoney said...

Loved it! This could totally be a hit if people give it a chance.

NATHANIEL R said...

it's even better the second time if you haven't watched it twice. Noticing some underplayed comic lines I didn't notice the first time (i musta been distracted)

Anonymous said...

I liked it, but I hope those other two girls get a chance to sing lead, because I liked their voices better.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Love the chart!

Speaking of TV musicals...You folks haven't seen anything unless you see ANY DREAM WILL DO. Cute Britt boys competing to the next Joseph on the west end in London. It's complete with Andrew Lloyd Webber on a golden throne and Graham Norton calling him the Lord.

I just love the campy shows on the BBC

Patrick said...

They have me, 'cause both Rehab and Don't Stop Believing were awesome, and the promise of Victor Garber and Chenowith, but plot and character-wise, I liked it better when it was called Election and it was a movie. Or was I the only one getting a total Tracy Flick, Paul Metzler, and Mr. McAllister vibes from the three leads?

Kamikaze Camel said...

Was Morrison in Piazza when we saw it together or was it when you saw it for the first time?

NATHANIEL R said...

glenn... i don't remember! i think it was still the original cast but if anybody had left by then, it was him.

patrick you weren't the only one. but the Election feel was only really blatant in the Lea Michele will get her way... even if she has to report sexual misconduct and lie about it business.

par3182 said...

speaking of the sexual misconduct, what happened to glee club member hank who was given the lead by "that closet case sandy ryerson"?

interesting to read that here's a director's cut, as it seemed very rushed

i saw matthew morrison in hairspray - that man's got the moves, baby

Patrick said...

And not the popular, a little dim but sweetly earnest jock getting coaxed into a school group by a teacher with marital issues and a serious commitment to education who's not above using ethically dubious methods business? Alright, different motivations, different outcomes, I understand that past that point I'm stretching, but it was really the voiceover thoughts that sealed the connection for me. That same device, in the same setting, with such similar characters- it was just distracting.

It also bugged me that in a show that so clearly champions misfits, it chose its two most non-misfitty students as its leads. When are we gonna get a show with Mercedes or Tina in the front instead of just the background?

I'm being way harsher then I intend to be. I already love the cast, it really does make me smile, this has the potential to reach Pushing Daisies levels of love, and I'm really hopeful that this preview gives the show the chance for the fine-tuning it needs to reach that point. And is saying that its like a musical version of Election really a complaint?

par3182 said...

oh, and speaking of sandy ryerson, i wonder if he's related to stephen tobolowsky's groundhog day character ned ryerson?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Patrick, the show is full of stereotypes. The Big Sassy Black Girl with the Big Voice and she's probably going to be a background character. The Nerdy guy in the wheel chair another background character. The weird Asian girl another background character. The questionably over the top gay singer....yet, another background character. Let's get the two pretty normalish characters as the lead teens (even though that guy isn't the greatest singer and the other girls are better than the female lead). Ugh, I had high hopes for this. I hope I'm wrong, but the rest of the season looks predictable.

Catherine said...

I'm a bit blah about this show, even though I moderately enjoyed it.

On one hand, it basically cribs from a lot of tv shows and movies I'm already fond of, which I don't mind actually. I spotted Mean Girls (the general high school tropes, plus a few more specific moments: a drug-dealing teacher, the moment where Lea Michele fake-cried in the principal's office), Best in Show (Sandy Ryerson is clearly a descendant of Corky St.Clair talking about his long-distance gf while tantruming over toiletseat-covers, plus Jane Lynch), and of course, the aforementioned Election. I did laugh aloud on some occasions, Matthew Morrison is totally watchable and believable as a can-do teacher and I LOVE Jayma Mays in general. I think the relationship between her Guidance Counseller and his teacher is the most interesting aspect of the show. Also, I really dig the background music all being done through glee-style vocal harmonies. It's a cute little touch.

On the other hand, I'm with everyone else who commented on the black/gay/wheelchair-bound/Asian characters being shunted to the side, which is just so frustrating. I've nothing against the two leads, but I don't particularly like either of their voices. Lea Michele (I keep going to write 'Salonga'!) is definitely better than the jock-guy, but I'd rather hear either of the other two girls. Hopefully, in future episodes the writers will focus their attention equally on each of the other members, and they turn out to have more than one ascribed character trait.

As for the music, the arrangement of 'Rehab' didn't totally wow me. Apart from the sprightly choreography, pretty dresses and the joyous novelty of the fact they were singing a Winehouse song, it was a fairly dull musical arrangement. Too much singing in unison! But 'Don't Stop Believin' did get me, I'll admit.

What's with all the MySpace references? Cringe.

Maybe I'm being too harsh on the pilot. Probably. I'll stick with it, though, if only because of the promise of Victor Garber.

Oh! One last thing I need to mention, which is definitely a strength of this show. There's no such thing as glee clubs in Ireland, but I was in a regular choir for all 6 of my highschool years and Glee captures perfectly the elation of group singing.

Urey said...

The other girls were not better than Lea freakin' Michele. Let's stop that foolishness right now. When those other girls pull off what Lea did in "Spring Awakening", then we can talk. I do agree that for a show that on the surface wants to celebrate outcasts and strive for a diverse cast, they end up focusing on three white leads (6 if we're counting the rest of the adult cast -- Lynch, Mays, and Gilsig). Throwing in one minority teacher would have been nice, but maybe that's coming. Can't wait to see where they go with things. The songs were great, and OMG was Matthew Morrison singing "Golddigger" in the previews for fall? Yeah, I can't miss this one in the fall. Good job, Fox. Now don't blow it and cancel it after one season.

Jer said...

I couldn't agree more about the need to end the "I'm not a fan of musicals" disclaimers.

Loved "Glee" and think it sings of promise, particularly with the relatively bleak landscape of network television shows in the Fall.

And let's remember that summer will bring more "True Blood" and "Mad Men". Natch!

Anonymous said...

I loved "Glee"! Enjoy it while it lasts. The ratings for the preview episode were not great, and at around 3 million dollars per episode to produce, this show won't last more than a season. Hope I'm wrong, though. I'd never heard of Lea Michele before this show, and man does she have a VOICE. Amazing stuff.

Wayne B. said...

Wow I have heard nothing about this show before. "I'm Canadian." *shrugs* This Mr. Morrison looks dreamy though, wish I had a high school teacher who looked like that! CHEYENNE JACKSON! will be appearing sometime? I'm instantly hooked, gotta watch Fox more often.

Anonymous said...

Urey, sure if you like bland and monotone. Her voice is Lily White bland. She's a better actor than that guy though.

Steve Hartman said...

I saw a screening of Glee on the FOX lot a few weeks back, and Matthew did indeed have a song. After his resignation as a teacher, he picked up an acoustic guitar and did a lovely version of "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" and ALMOST had me convinced he was actually playing the guitar (until his attempts at following the chord progressions faltered). Anyway, I noticed that this scene, along with about 45 seconds of additional locker room footage, didn't make it for the TV premiere.

NATHANIEL R said...

Steve... interesting that they cut it. Though not interesting in a good way. I love to hear him sing.

everyone... i've watched it three times now and i agree that they are leaning REALLY hard on stereotypes. I hope they manage to give the kids some depth in the real season.

par3182 said...

i watched the longer version and it's interesting to compare the two; the first half is cut very differently plus there's two more songs

(but the gay boy, wheelchair boy and asian girl don't get any more to do)

Urey said...

Lea Michele is anything but bland and monotone. She's one of Broadway's best upcoming talents. She should have been nominated for a Tony in "Spring Awakening."

viral vora said...

reminded me of the good old days of Eli Stone... such a travesty that they canceled the show... it was good ... well atleast Victor Garber will be here

i also heard talk of them having shot with josh groban who plays a snobbish character, interesting... am not from US and havent had the pleasure of hearing Lea Michelle's sing on broadway... but on this she blew me away... not at all bland

Aaron said...

For anyone interested in the "longer version" mentioned in a few posts, if you do a search for Glee director's cut you can easily find and download. It does indeed have a solo performance by Matthew Morrison, and a lot of additional backstory/character motivation that I was sad was missing from the premiere.