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Glee: Acafellas

"I want you to smell your armpits. That's the smell of failure, and it's stinking up my office."

Ryan Murphy is not a subtle man.

Anyone who has ever watched Nip/Tuck, the show that made him a Hollywood power player, knows this. No doubt the show has fantastic actors, character development, and cheeky commentary on the value our society places on beauty. But it also uses shock and taboo to drive forward the plot: a 16 year old having an affair with his friend's mother, who happens to be a post-op transsexual that had an incestuous relationship with "her" son. A killer being pursued by a detective who happens to be his sister that he's had sex with. You see a pattern here?

Now, Glee has never claimed to be a sensitive teen drama a la My So Called Life. But "Acafellas", the 3rd installment, was about as subtle as Christian Troy's bare behind. The theme of the night was confidence. I know, because it was repeated four times. Oh - and in case you didn't get the memo - Ryan helped us along with helpful synonyms like "balls", "guts", "cajones". I'm not sure if I felt so stupid at the end of the episode because my head had been bashed in with an anvil, or if it was because we, the viewers, were treated like we were borderline retarded.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed "Acafellas" a lot. There were some excellent isolated moments, and overall, I am pleased by the continued character development. I just think that they tried a little too hard to be "deep" this week. It's always great when you have parallel story lines to tie together a theme - such as they did last week with "Showmance". Or when you can get seemingly unrelated characters or plots to come together into a greater whole - like Heroes did in its first season.

But this was rather ham-fisted. Four male characters and one female all having a crisis of confidence in one episode? That was all resolved by the end of the hour? Come on, this is high school, parenthood, life. Confidence and identity issues don't go away - they could have developed these themes over time as characters grow and become more complex.

Ok, rant over. Now onto the good stuff...

First off, how great was it to have Sandy "not allowed within 50 feet of children" back? And stalking Josh Groban, an "angel sent down to deliver platinum records unto us"? The only thing that made me more excited was more Figgins screen time. He is definitely my favorite secondary character. Who else would mollify angry parents ("they found out we were serving prison food") with an acapella version of "I Wanna Sex You Up"?

Speaking of which, I'm not sure I ever needed to know the lyrics of "Poison" or "I Wanna Sex You Up", which seemed so much dirtier when sung by Ken Tanaka. One of the things I love most about the show is that the songs they showcase are really just ... wrong. And the audiences who are watching (in the show) don't even blink. I wonder if that's deliberate or an oversight, especially after they made such a big deal about the "Push It" performance last week. You'd think it would occur to at least one parent that "Rehab" is not exactly an appropriate high school show choir song.

On the character development front, Quinn and Terri both continue to grow on me. Terri has now noticed Emma's overenthusiastic support of her husband. She also seems to be appreciating how great Will is more and more. I can forgive Quinn for watching Bring It On one too many times, as she seems to have defected from Camp Cheerios. Hooray.

But the star of the night was Mercedes. Besides the fact that she blew the roof off with her rendition of "Bust Your Windows", I'm glad that all the characters are getting their share of screen time. Glee could have easily focused on Emma/Will/Terri and Rachel/Finn, but it is truly developing into an ensemble cast show.

Last, but far from least, Kurt's coming out to Mercedes was a touching moment.

GLEEful Moments:

Victor Garber! In a bow tie! I know that he's played many more roles than Spy Daddy, but it still throws me off a bit when he smiles. He looked adorable, but I can't wait for him to sing.

The lead singer from Vocal Adrenaline was named Best Female at Absolutely Tampastic.

Henri and the two thumbs up cake. He had to bite the thumb off because he couldn't use his fork.

Sandy: "I told Figgins that you are going to have a school full of nancies unless you get some hot wood in those teenagers' hands."

Doctor: "There's no baby."
Terri: "Did it fall out?"

Mercedes: "Just because he wears nice clothes don't mean he's on the down-low."
Rachel: "He wore a corset to second period."

Sue: "You know, the way you use your mental illness to help these kids is really inspiring."

Puck: "Dude, my bowels have better movements than you."

Josh Groban: "Josh Groban loves a blowsy alcoholic."

BTW, Ken Tanaka also plays Chang on True Blood. He looked familiar, but the knee high socks threw me off.

The Music:

"This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan, sung by Acafellas

"Poison" by Bel Biv De Voe, sung by Acafellas

"Mercy" by Duffy, performed by Vocal Adrenaline

"I Wanna Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd, performed by Acafellas

"Bust Your Windows" by Jazmine Sullivan, performed by Mercedes

No singing by Rachel this week... I definitely missed it.

All in all, it was a solid episode. The emotional bits felt awkward, especially when juxtaposed next to the musical numbers and the snarky comedy, both of which Glee does seamlessly. But it's still better than the majority of shows out there. I'm optimistic that things will smooth out as the show finds its footing.

Two out of four missing thumbs.


  1. Another nice review, Serena. Thanks.

    Awhile back, Dan and I were watching the movie Godspell, and were shocked when we realized that Spy Dad was playing Jesus -- under about five pounds of frizzy hair. They specifically recruited a singer to play Will's father. We'd better get to hear Victor Garber sing, that's all I have to say.

  2. It seems like the general consensus is that 'Showmance' was better than 'Acafellas'. But I actually kind of enjoyed 'Acafellas' more. I think because it seemed to have more hilariously inappropriate songs and more moments that made me laugh out loud (the scenes with the thumb cake and Josh Groban had me rolling). The only thing it lacked for me was enough Jane Lynch.

    I guess with this show I'm more interested in the tunes and the funny than in the character drama. Usually I'm all about characters, but when they are so over-the-top and campy (for the most part), I just can't get as invested. Most of them feel like caricatures and not real people, which makes it kind of hard to care about their messed up lives.

    That said, I did really like the moments between Will and his dad. Of course, that may be because it was Victor Garber. If only they had let him sing!

    Another nice review, Serena. So glad you included the quote about Josh Groban liking a blowsy alcholic. I loved that one!


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