Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ryan Murphy, greatest TV creator? Awww right....

So I'm watching Popular and enjoying it immensely due to it's over the top nature (although I can see how the plot may have become dangerously thin as the second season progresses, which could be part of the reason for its cancellation).

And I'm the biggest Nip/Tuck fan (one of the few shows that I've actually seen every episode, that and like Walker, Texas Ranger).

Thus it would be natural that I would be a fan of Glee, which aired a sneak episode tonight on Fox and will air several episodes to start the fall season. I've enjoyed Ryan Murphy's work until this point (even with some reservations) for many reasons, and Glee seems to be a really mainstream and punchy formula that could work. The plot might run out of steam but the characters have an endearing quality and Murphy's familiarity with the territory (he even takes several small plot points from Popular) gives the sensibility of the show a stylish quality.

I think, and partly because it's a pilot, a lot of things were shoved unevenly into the first episode, but hopefully the fun will smooth out in the fall. I'm not sure how they are going to constantly remind people about it through the summer (of all seasons how to do that could take some real ingenious marketing) but we'll see.

All I know is, that was the most exhilirating version of "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey I've seen. It kicked ass, and totally in earnest. It's pop in the purest, best form.

Murphy has done this with his previous two flagship shows as well; it's a matter of embracing the surface qualities, the junk and excitement of what people enjoy seeing, or what gets under their skin easiest. High school melodrama/wacky exaggeration campiness made Popular unpredictable in a lot of ways and a lot of fun to watch, and the serious moments are echoed in Nip/Tuck, where a lot of disturbing issues are brought to the table each episode. The problem with Nip/Tuck is keeping the soap opera shenanigans up; at certain points it gets tiring but there's plenty of skin-deep beauty that keeps 'em coming back. On top of that, the superficiality employed is a reflexive thing due to the premise of the show, which is very cool. It's Cronenberg-lite.

Glee seems a bit more sentimental and exudes a vibrancy from which we might need a breather to take in some more dramatic moments. It's the sharp writing that Murphy pens, because the level of wit carries shows as well as the superb acting. There might be concerns over the role of the teacher, Will, as being a bit on the bland side but hopefully we'll see more difficult decisions that he'll have to make. There will be problems; Murphy, with such a distinct style, might repeat some of those as the show moves along, but the cast seems well oiled and totally game.

There are a lot of similarities from Popular (who made a reference to Freaks & Geeks in the last episode I saw which was awesome) to Glee in tone and shape. In the Popular commentary for an episode, Murphy describes Popular as a show about high school girls written for 35-year-old gay men. Hopefully he has similar aspirations for Glee because it worked on Popular. The thing is, neither show is very realistic and both are over-stylized, but in a great way because realism is not the point. The show is a vehicle for big themes and that's what great pop TV and films are about. The thing that theoy hammer on that's real is the emotion and idea that most of the time, shit hits the fan. Sure they are more glamorous and are in a TV show, but there's a real drive I feel that Murphy has to really hit particular moments with more aplomb than anyone else. Yes there are plenty of sarcastic and satirical scenes, and it's through those that the earnest ones shine through. It's not even gentle satire really; the characters have a self-awareness that goes back to the unrealistic nature but for an audience it can be a lot of fun. It's like they know what is wrong and right for them and they never seem to make good choices. You follow them because at the moments of clarity, the characters get it right and that's the little jolt of sympathy we root for. Great combo. Not only that, perfect casting with huge vocals (who doesn't like huge vocals) and great re-working of songs just gives it a lot of heart with a good dose of sass. The music is already available on iTunes. I just might purchase a song or two.

In the end, Glee is also about something so typically dorky and suavely turns it into something fun to watch and the viewers who enjoy it into big dorks. And that's pretty cool in my book. Sure it's not for everyone, but what is. The one thing I was kinda worried about was them singing Gold Digger by Kanye in the season preview after the episode and doing the "Broke, broke" censored version. Sure, it's network television, and yeah, the white teacher is doing the rap, it's just kinda weird.

Did I mention the Journey cover? Here's a taste:


Anonymous said...

they look quite different.....

tohming said...

they look quite different...