Judge Brett Cullum dreams of heading for New York City to sing show tunes for Whoopi!
Our reviews of Glee: The Complete First Season (published September 14th, 2010), Glee: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) (published September 29th, 2010), Glee: Season Two, Volume One (published February 28th, 2011), Glee: The Complete Second Season (published September 28th, 2011), Glee: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (published October 5th, 2011), Glee: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray) (published November 22nd, 2012), Glee: Encore (published April 27th, 2011), Glee: Encore (Blu-ray) (published April 28th, 2011), and Glee: The Concert Movie (published December 29th, 2011) are also available.
"Just thinking about me and you dating makes me dryer than the cast of Hot in Cleveland."—Kitty
Season Four placed the series narrative arc at a crossroads that had to be dealt with. In the third year, the ragtag gang of high school "losers" won show choir nationals, and all the New Direction stars graduated on to bigger and better things beyond high school. Creator Ryan Murphy wanted to create a spinoff show with a New York storyline, but the Fox network wasn't willing to invest in a new venture with the falling ratings. So it was decided to make Glee a show that takes place in both Lima, Ohio, and New York City, splitting storylines between a high school and a performing arts college. A new batch of teens were unleashed on McKinley High, and viewers still got to follow Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) as they tried to make it in the Big Apple.
Facts of the Case
Season Four of Glee began airing on September 13, 2012, quickly introducing the "new kids," or as many people referred to them, "the 2.0s," who seemed like echoes of the original cast. It also tracked the progress in New York as Rachel and Kurt navigated their way to and through the fictional New York Academy of Dramatic Arts (NYADA). The season, unlike the preceding ones, only takes us through half a school year, allowing for fewer competitions to elapse for New Directions, and a chance to extend actors through yet another season without having to graduate them or have them fail senior year to remain in the Lima storyline. Guest stars include Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) as a ruthless dance teacher in NYC to torture Rachel, and Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City) as a benevolent Vogue editor to coddle Kurt. Sadly this year also marked the final appearance of Cory Monteith before his death in July 2013.
The problem with having the old kids hang around was the new kids could never live up to their legacy, and little was done to develop the fresh faces that populated the ranks of the New Directions show choir. So in the end, we didn't care much about the new characters. They mainly felt like obstacles that meant we didn't get enough of our favorites. Meanwhile, the New York storylines were a bit too thin, and college felt just as juvenile as high school, even though Rachel graduated her look from nebbish nerd to chic chanteuse. Everything felt a bit too disjointed to make emotional sense.
Adding to the confusion of dueling storylines was the impact of juggling such a large cast on a smaller budget. What this meant was fewer episodes with everybody in them. Mysteriously, characters would simply disappear for a few shows. Noticeably absent for a lot of the season were all the adults, including Mister Schue (Matthew Morrison, As The World Turns), Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch, Wreck-it Ralph), and Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays, The Millers). They were given little to do, and often jettisoned off somewhere with a weak dismissal from the writers. All of the original kid cast shows up at some point, although some definitely got more time than others. New kids included a Rachel replacement in Marley (Melissa Benoist), a mix of Mercedes and Kurt in the cross-dressing Unique (Alex Newell), and new Puck even made his brother in Jake (Jacob Artist). There is also a replacement mean cheerleader in Kitty (Becca Tobin) and a new jock with Ryder (Blake Jenner). It felt like Glee was repeating itself and jumping the shark all at once. There were also episodes which felt far too heavy, such as a school shooting plot that betrayed the light tone of everything around it.
Misgivings about the new cast or new plots couldn't diminish the joy of the musical numbers because this is, after all, Glee. The songs and dances lived up to the title of the show, and the new kids sounded just as great as the old ones. There was more of a focus on pop hits like "Call Me Maybe," but now and then, there was also a show tune given new life. Lady Gaga met Jennifer Lopez in a mashup, and Sarah Jessica Parker even got to sing a number from her original star vehicle, the musical Annie. There were some misfires, but on the whole, the show shined brightest when letting loose with what makes it so much fun.
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray) looks stunning with near-pristine transfers, but there is a feeling that the budgets have dropped, so they sometimes seem softer than earlier years. Sound is fine, delivering the music very well. Extras are spread out over the four discs, with featurettes that focus on the changes showing up. We have a look at adding New York to the mix, an explanation of how the new romance of Jake and Marley is supposedly different than Rachel and Finn, a celebration of the 500th song, and a peek at the premiere party. On each disc is a handful of deleted scenes, which include some trimmed performances from the cast including a really funny take on "Mr. Monotony" from Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison. Also on every disc is a jukebox feature, which lets you play just the songs with none of the acting scenes to interrupt them.
In truth, if Glee had called it quits with the graduation episode in Season Three, it would have made more sense. The series was originally conceived as a simple movie, and then again only as a summer replacement with only a half year of episodes. It has felt stretched thin for a long time, and splitting up two storylines in two locations doesn't help matters. Introducing characters that feel like pale imitations of where we were in the first year hurts even more. Having a rotating cast rather than a regular one creates even more confusion, with characters dropping out of sight without warning. Losing the adult world also magnifies the feeling that the show is getting disoriented and running out of things to say. The only saving grace in Glee right now is it still knows how to do a musical number, and that is where the show shines and makes up for the shortcomings of the dramatic arcs…almost.
Fans are hanging in there. Since this is the last we get to see of Cory Monteith, Glee: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray) is worth a look for that reason alone. Finn got some sweet moments that allowed the actor to leave his legacy intact. Here's hoping Glee finds its footing in the next season and learn how to juggle the small-town dreams of the McKinley students and mixes them more strongly with the bigger ambitions of Kurt and Rachel in New York City.
Guilty of stuffing a confusing mixed bag with too many plots, too many
actors, and not enough real emotion.
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