Glee does God: Christ You Know it Ain’t Easy

What if God was one of us Gleeks: Agron, Colfer and Rivera

I guess I was looking for a miracle from Tuesday night’s extra spiritual episode of Glee. Executive producer Ryan Murphy has faith in himself, I’ll say that. Setting up his high school musical as a pop parable on modern day spirituality is a tall task. He’s inviting scorn from the right and the left, from the Tea Partiers and the Agnostics. Only a producer with a two year commitment and riding a ratings surge would get a network to sign off on a religion in schools storyline.
The episode succeeded and failed about as often as any Glee episode. You applaud the reach, but wince when the grasp falls short.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Smart move opening the episode through the perspective of the dumb guy, Finn (Cory Monteith, and, while we’re at it, hats off to this smart guy for playing dumb so convincingly every week). Finn’s only religion is football. He would get spiritual nourishment from a George Foreman Grill.
The “Grilled Cheesus” motif was brilliant and led to all sorts of comic absurdities—Artie’s wheel chair football romp, Rachel’s generous mammary moment. (Although, again, a football rival is kicked out of the league for being over age, yet A PLAYER IN A METAL CHAIR IS CONSIDERED AN ELIGIBLE RECEIVER??).
Not having Josh Sussman show up as Jacob Ben Israel to sing Hava Nagila was either a blessing or a missed opportunity.

Where the show had less success was in Tuesday night’s many serious moments. Again, they were uneven. Mike O’Malley (left) grows each week as Kurt’s dad Burt. The scenes where Emma and Mr. Shue pull Kurt out of class were written, acted and shot to cinematic perfection. But Sue Sylvester’s knee jerk reactions, despite Jane Lynch’s best efforts, are getting way too predictable.
The premise of having songs about Jesus and/or spirituality be the glee club assignment for the week had the most promise. Some obvious titles made the cut. Puck (Mark Salling) made the most out of a simple rendition of Billy Joel’s Only the Good Die Young. Amber Riley (Mercedes) got to shine on a couple of numbers, including a full gospel choir arrangement of the old Simon & Garfunkel standard Bridge Over Troubled Waters. You could see What if God Was One of Us coming all the way up Broadway. Again, however, with Rachel and the Streisand number? My son should not be asking me every week, “What song is that?”
I wish they had done God Only Knows by the Beach Boys; this is a glee club. R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion was a nice touch.
Chris Colfer’s moody run at I Wanna Hold Your Hand was a surprise at least and might have been more effective if it hadn’t been stolen from Across The Universe.
Much was placed on Colfer’s shoulders in this crazy ambitious episode. He had to represent Gays and non-believers and risk being seen as stubborn and unsympathetic. We got a lot of close ups of Colfer’s red face. Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester registered predictable outrage at this violation of church and state and her mentally challenged sister was brought in as a device to soften Sue’s stance. As for Mr. Shue, we’re not really sure what he believes in, which was a lost opportunity. Mr. Shue really, in many ways, is this series’ “Father” figure.
The ending was far too predictable. You knew it would end with a touching hospital scene and a life affirming finger squeeze. Missing, I felt, was that Trouble with Angels moment that needed to come right before that. In that 1966 film, Rosalind Russell’s steely mother superior has a breakdown in a church where she clings to faith and belief after the death of a sister she loved. It made a powerful and lasting impression to see this authority figure struggle and reach, to see her reduced to a dark moment of doubt. It brought some meaning to her faith and context to why it mattered.
Looking for anything that profound in episode three of 22, season two, of any series, is unrealistic and ridiculous. It’s like expecting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
Still, hats off to Glee for giving God the same shot as Britney, Lady Gaga and Madonna.

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