Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gleecap : Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)

(as appearing on


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I kick off a series of monthly episode-wise reviews of the pop-culture phenomenon that is Glee with the one that began it all.

Now, pilot episodes of television shows are difficult enough to craft, what with having to give a solid introduction to the show, establish its tone, and give a reason for harsh network executives to think that the darn thing is worth it. In the case ofGlee, that involved having to sell a musical dramedy set in a small town with big dreamers - quite a burden and one that the episode winningly acquits itself of.

Will Schuester is a soaring idealist of a teacher, now nearing burn out with a dead-end job and a high-school-sweetheart-turned-pessimistic-nagging-wife. When the McKinley High School’s present Glee Club instructor is fired for sexual harassment, he jumps at the chance to relive his own glory days by making the now-only-for-losers Glee Club into a force to be reckoned with again.

He has no idea, of course, what he’s signed up for.

In quick succession, starting with the auditions for the Glee Club optimistically titled “New Directions”, we’re introduced to the characters of the show: Kurt who’s obviously gay, Mercedes who’s obviously got quite an attitude, Tina who’s obviously … weird, the wheelchair bound Artie, and of course, Rachel Berry. Rachel’s got two gay dads, enough ego, and star power to fuel an entire town’s worth of auditorium’s, and this very first episode does a great job of showing us how one of the central conflicts of the show will be reconciling Rachel’s self-proclaimed destiny for greatness with that of the Glee club’s.

Soon enough, star quarterback Finn finds himself blackmailed into joining the club (kids, this is no High School Musical), while the chief antagonists of “New Directions” are revealed. Sue Sylvester’s portrayal of a ruthless cheerleading coach is one of Glee’s wonders, as are the performances of rival club Vocal Adrenaline.

Glee cast

The cast of Glee. Clockwise from back left - Mark Salling (Puck), Kevin McHale (Artie), Lea Michele (Rachel), Dianna Agron (Quinn), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Chris Colfer (Kurt) and Cory Monteith (Finn).

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And now for the songs:

1) Respect - Mercedes (Aretha Franklin)

Hell yeah! Mercedes gives us her first diva-belt-blast-of-goodness in style. She definitely has my r-e-s-p-e-c-t all right.


You can listen to a preview of Mercedes’ Respect here.

2) Mr. Cellophane - Kurt (Chicago OST)

Kurt’s solo does a great job of telling us about his sexuality (he likes Broadway and look at that fabulous dress sense) and introduces us to those impeccable upper registers, as he holds a breathtaking note without breaking a sweat.


You can listen to a preview of Kurt’s Mr. Cellophane here.

3) I kissed a Girl - Tina (Katy Perry)

Tina’s not the best singer on the show, but her voice is perfectly made for certain songs, which the show will later learn to utilise well. For now though, the only thing that works here is the attitude. Oh well.


You can listen to a preview of Tina’s I kissed a Girl here.

4) On My Own - Rachel (Les Miserables)

The other Broadway selection lets you know who Kurt’s diva-rival is going to be and by getting her own intro interspersed with the performance, Glee let’s you know who its star is going to be too. Great vocals - obviously.


You can listen to a preview of Rachel’s On My Own here.

5) Sit Down (you’re rocking the boat) - Cast (Don Henley)

The first number that the Glee club performs is a bit of a joke of course - and not simply because the lead solo “is by a boy in a wheel chair, Mr. Schue!!” As those kind of performances in the show’s universe goes, this is somewhere in the mid-range.


You can listen to Glee cast’s Sit Down here.

6) I Got Chills - Rachel, Finn and New Directions (Grease OST)

Another song played more for laughs than for anything else, but the arrangement is a fun toned-down version of the original, the looks on everyone’s face, particularly as Rachel does her Newton-John with Finn’s Travolta, are hilarious, and its capped off by Mercedes’ great “Hell to the no -”

4.5/ 5

7) Rehab - Vocal Adrenaline (Amy Winehouse)

The debut performance of the competing Glee club is capped off by a camera panning across the faces of the horrified New Directions members, as they realise just how formidable their competition is. It’s justified - this is a brilliant arrangement of the Amy Winehouse smash hit, with some fantastic choreography that makes you look forward to the next great Vocal Adrenaline number.


You can listen to their cover of Rehab here.

8) Don’t Stop Believing - New Directions (Journey)

Iconic. This performance - and this song - are the heart of the show, the furious cry of small town dreams fighting to be realised, with New Directions making their first bid towards preparation for the Sectionals competition, the centre of the Glee-verse. Great, soaring vocals and one hell of an emotional punch.


You can listen to the Glee cover of Don’t stop believing here.

I’m going to give this episode a 4.5/ 5 overall. A great job of setting the tone - even though, as the next few episodes will show, that this very tone is gloriously inconsistent, sometimes even within the same episode.

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