Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Two Sides Of Glee

I get the Glee love, but I don't really get "Glee". It is so fraught with dramatic storytelling problems and repetitive plots that I can't seem to forgive its shortcomings as easy as most people. Plus so many of the songs feel like a dated setlist on karaoke night. So it doesn't really work for me. Or it doesn't work for me on any sort of level beyond a few fun moments per episode, and so far the moments haven't been greater than the whole. And this has been frustrating because I like to understand why a show works for audiences, even if I don't really like the show.

MacLean's Jaime Weinman tweet discussed this last night after I read via The A.V. Club Todd VanDerWerff's review of the Glee season finale HERE wherein Todd ultimately gave the episode and series a thumbs up even though half the review was pointing out all the problems with it. And though I grasped Todd's further assertion that the show really just wants to make you 'feel', Jaime came through today with an excellent post that explained it in terms I could relate to (not that I don't want to or can't feel, but the whole has to track for me in order to do so effectively - comedy and making me laugh is a different fish kettle) and perhaps even coined the phrase 'scattershot' drama.

I’d compare Glee to shows like Family Guy and (on a higher level) 30 Rock, which are from the school of “scattershot comedy.” The basic idea behind that kind of show is to do a comedy with all the boring parts cut out and filled in with more jokes. They’ll barrel through the exposition, conflict, resolution stuff as fast as they possibly can, and make sure that a new joke is coming at us every few seconds. This means certain dramatic/structural values don’t get serviced (plus most of the characters become tiresome freaks). But it also means that there’s something new and entertaining all the time, and we don’t have to sit through dry set-ups in the hope that they’ll pay off with something funny later on.

What Glee is doing is taking that approach, familiar enough in pure comedy, and applying it to episodes that are twice as long, and include elements of scattershot drama. That is, it’s giving us the big juicy dramatic scenes without all the usual build-up, just as other shows (including Glee itself) give us rapid-fire jokes. I guess this isn’t a completely unfamiliar approach; you can also find it in daytime soaps, where the writers are often trying to avoid doing a scene that doesn’t have some big hook to it. But a soap opera scene will often start small and build to the big dramatic moment at the end. Glee doesn’t have time for that, because it’s doing three different shows at once and the scenes are very short. So whatever type of scene they’re doing will start big and end even bigger.

Go read the rest HERE, and thanks Jaime. I still might not understand why viewers are so forgiving, but I better understand what Glee is doing and why.

And on another Glee-related note, check out this interesting piece by Christina Mulligan at the Balkinization site discussing the issue of copyright.

The absence of any mention of copyright law in Glee illustrates a painful tension in American culture. While copyright holders assert that copyright violators are “stealing” their “property,” people everywhere are remixing and recreating artistic works for the very same reasons the Glee kids do — to learn about themselves, to become better musicians, to build relationships with friends, and to pay homage to the artists who came before them. Glee’s protagonists — and the writers who created them — see so little wrong with this behavior that the word ‘copyright’ is never even uttered.

In these days where copyright seems to be on every one's brain, it raises some very interesting points. Read the rest HERE.

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