Saturday, November 21, 2009

Poodle Bitch is Irritated by the Latest Episode of "Glee"

"Glee" has become one of Poodle Bitch's favorite shows. Overall it is a well-written, well-acted, and well-sung look at human high school life that is surprisingly sensitive and complex. With some exceptions, of course. Poodle Bitch feels that they have yet to fully explain why Will Schuester would have married the venal, manipulative Terri in the first place (other than the fact that she bears a superficial resemblance to Jessalyn Gilsig, the actress who portrays her), while at the same time the writers seem to be trying too hard to "humanize" the entertainingly venal, manipulative Sue Sylvester.

However, for this week's episode, "Ballad," there was not a single moment that rang true. It felt as if Poodle Bitch were watching just another television show, in which some of the characters occasionally break into song. Awkwardly.

For starters, why would Mr. Schuester break everyone up into pairs to sing ballads to each other? Poodle Bitch is a close watcher of shows she likes, and she cannot for the life of her remember his justification for doing this. Moreover, why was it that Mr. Schuester felt the need to offer himself up as a "partner" to one of the students? There seemed no reason for him to not just say "We'll wait for Matt to return," or "We're going to have one group of three." He's the teacher, the authority figure-- this despite the fact that he is young, hip, and clearly portrayed by an actor who is only a few years older than the students.

But even accepting that he allowed himself to be selected as a partner by one of the students-- and Rachel, no less-- why would he allow her to bully him into performing "Endless Love" with her? He knew the song well enough to sing it, so he knew the lyrics before they started. It is one of the most effective expressions of over-ripe teenaged emotions ever put to music ("you will always be my endless love"); of course it was going to have a hypnotic effect on a teenaged girl whose hormones are aimlessly raging.

Poodle Bitch questions the judgment of a teacher who would sing this song with one of his students.

Mr. Schuester's decision to sing "Endless Love" with a student was especially moronic and irresponsible given his past experience with student crushes. As he explains to the delightful Emma Pillsbury later in the episode, he can't just tell Rachel to stop and leave him alone because the last time he did that with one of his students, she attempted suicide.

Poodle Bitch is not joking. But the writers were; for, in a flashback scene played for laughs, the brokenhearted object of Mr. Schuester's previous rejection, Suzy Pepper, attempts to kill herself by ingesting the world's hottest hot pepper (she'd ordered it from somewhere in South America, Poodle Bitch believes). Paramedics are barely able to save her in time, and she requires years of psychotherapy and an esophagus transplant.

Poodle Bitch wonders why it is that the writers found this to be suitable comedy fodder. There is certainly a layer of darkness to some of the episodes, but she found this subplot to be bleak and insensitive.

However, for plot purposes it was necessary to explain why Mr. Schuester couldn't just tell Rachel to straight up "cut it out and leave me alone." He's worried about another attempted suicide. (Poodle Bitch would wryly note that, given the fact that Mr. Schuester married the abominable Terri, and has yet to realize, after several months of living together and sleeping in the same bed that she is not actually pregnant, there is perhaps little need to explain his lapses in judgment.) For this reason, Emma Pillsbury, who has her own crush on Mr. Schuester and, not surprisingly, her own decision-making problems, suggests that Mr. Schuester express his feelings in song. To let her down gently.

To that end, Mr. Schuester creates a mash-up of the songs "Young Girl" and "Don't Stand So Close to Me," altering the lyrics of each to make them even more combative and abrasive. Just so Poodle Bitch has this straight: Hearing the object of her crush sing to her, "Young girl, you're out of your mind, your love for me is way out of line," and "Don't stand- don't stand so- don't stand so close to me" is intended to be the sensitive way of letting her down. (As an aside, Poodle Bitch would like to note that any power contained in the song "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap rests in its idea that the narrator did not realize that the object of his affection was so young-- she's deliberately misrepresented to him her age-- and he is therefore struggling with his desire for her, which he now realizes on a rational level to be inappropriate. What Mr. Schuester did to the song, in addition to awkwardly "mashing" it into "Don't Stand," was to turn it into an angry diatribe that would belittle anyone with even a little self-awareness.)

Is this song creepy? Poodle Bitch would like to point out that the narrator is attempting to distance himself from the girl who led him to believe she was old enough to give him love. He isn't inviting her back to his hot tub for champagne and quaaludes.

Of course this terrific plan doesn't work. Rachel lacks the self-awareness necessary to see that Mr. Schuester was belittling her, and Emma Pillsbury, who was also there to watch his performance, sits in dazzled awe of his skills as a performer.

It's not until Suzy Pepper, who apparently has returned to the school following her therapy and transplant (Poodle Bitch is unaware of how human schools work, but she wonders why anyone, from the psychiatrists to the administrators to parents, would believe it a good idea that she return to the school where Mr. Schuester teaches) corners Rachel in the bathroom and admonishes her about the dangers of becoming too attached to Mr. Schuester that she comes to realize how poorly she's been acting.

For his behavior, Mr. Schuester is let off the hook.

Meanwhile, there is pregnant Quinn. She has yet to tell her parents that she's pregnant (although most of the school already knows and anyone with access to the internet and Jacob's gossip blog can find out), and is, in her first scene of the episode, trying on her gown for the "chastity ball" (good golly Miss Molly-- isn't the term "chastity ball" oxymoronic?), with her mother's help. Mother, mildly tipsy, notes that the gown doesn't fit as well as it did last month, and Quinn explains that she had a big lunch that day.

It is clear that Quinn's mother realizes her daughter is pregnant, but is in a state of, perhaps, alcoholic denial. And, of course, she is a Christian who is preparing her little girl to attend a "chastity ball."

Quinn's father staggers into the room declaring Glenn Beck is on television, drink in his hand (Poodle Bitch does not watch Glenn Beck, but she has just googled him and discovered that his program airs at 5 PM weekdays, which means Quinn's parents have started getting drunk before five o'clock. This seems early to Poodle Bitch.), offering words of pressure about his lovely, chaste daughter.

Poodle Bitch harbors no particular animus toward religious people, nor conservatives, nor those who watch conservative television programs. Nor does she have any particular affection for them. But she wonders why it is that the writers of this show, who have displayed real sensitivity toward, as an example, Kurt's father, should present Quinn's parents as little more than typical right-wing caricatures?

And speaking of Kurt, Poodle Bitch notes that he, too, became a cliche in this episode-- the sensitive gay man in love with the dumb jock he can never have, who nevertheless offers advice and encouragement to said dumb jock in his pursuit of the woman he kinda-sorta loves. Although in this case, Kurt's advice was universally bad. Of course, in the ballad pairings Kurt was paired with Finn, who believes he is the father of Quinn's child. He is upset because Quinn is planning on giving up the baby for adoption (to the execrable Terri Schuester), and so he won't get to be part of his daughter's life. Kurt suggests that he sing a ballad to his daughter-- his suggestion is The Pretenders's "I'll Stand by You," which is a song Poodle Bitch admires, but has been used so often in movies and television shows as to have become an obvious cliche. Why not select "My Baby," or "Kid," or "Hymn to Her" (Poodle Bitch's own personal favorite) instead?

There were plenty of Pretenders songs to choose.

But that doesn't compare to the monumentally bad advice Kurt gives Finn later in the episode. When he encourages Finn to serenade Quinn-- during a dinner with her parents-- with the song "You're Having My Baby."

"You're a woman in love and I love what's going through you." Poodle Bitch is happy she has been fixed.

Perhaps the high school student Kurt is too young to realize this, but Poodle Bitch's humans are certainly old enough to know that that particular song has been a punchline almost since it was recorded. Poodle Bitch wonders if perhaps Cal Smith's "Country Bumpkin," or Terry Jacks's "Seasons in the Sun," or The Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love" will be sung in upcoming episodes?

And why did it take two verses for the parents to realize their daughter was pregnant? The very first line of that painful song is "You're having my baby." It doesn't get much more obvious than that.

The less Poodle Bitch says about the Glee Club's serenading Quinn and Finn with "Lean on Me," the better. But she would be remiss if she did not further add that Puck's admission to Mercedes that he is really the father of Quinn's child did little to advance her opinion of either character.

Over all, a very weak episode of what has been a very entertaining and uplifting show. Poodle Bitch is hopeful that next week's episode won't be quite so bad. Poodle Bitch is an optimist.

Glee cast photograph source.

Poodle Bitch's regular blog can be found here.

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