MAMMA MIA! Wham! Spice Up Your Life! What is it with guilty pleasures and exclamation points?! Well, last night's Glee definitely earned an emphatic exclamation point for the ooey-gooey "Guilty Pleasures" show - it was so bad it was pretty good, just like it should have been... against all odds, as it were. Zig-a-zig-ah!
Against All Odds
Take a look at Glee now! Glee Season Four has been a consistent joy and last night offered yet another very fun and entertaining episode, penned by Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner and directed by show stalwart Eric Stoltz. Guilty pleasure though Glee may be - the bloom is off the rose as far as many are concerned, though the spark still flickers on - it is in theme shows that the show seems to excel, now and seemingly always. While last night's episode will not go down as a landmark show for the still-respectably successful series, it is a reminder of why Glee occupies a rarefied place in entertainment history and continues to deliver on the promise established in the pilot when it aired nearly a half-decade ago. It's stupefying to consider the show has racked up more than eighty hour-long episodes thus far in its run with showing clear signs of continuing to reign as the most widely-viewed and most important performing arts-related series on TV - SMASH, NASHVILLE, Bunheads and the rest, as fabulous as they are, were or may be again, included. So, how does "Guilty Pleasures" measure up in the ever-important music department? Not guilty!
Blaine (Darren Criss) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am-ed Wham with the 80s ear candy supreme "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" to kick off the well-balanced show - complete with short-short, neon-napalmed spectacle as only Glee can do and dares to do. Let's hope for more George Michael music for Blaine in the future, for sure - that material fits his fine instrument like a silver-studded finger-less glove. Sam subsequently revealed he was a, gulp, fanilow - that is, a fan of Barry Manilow - and the ensuing "Copacabana" performance was enjoyable, if a bit slight. Packing the biggest punch was Blaine's immense and impeccable cover of a tricky Phil Collins anthem, "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)". It is moments like this that make Glee always must-see TV. Breathtaking - and heartbreaking.
So, too, did Jake (Jacob Artist) croon a controversial modern music figure's tune with winning ease and charm - though not Chris Brown as it first seemed like it might be, but Bobby Brown. He made it our prerogative to pay attention to a talent worthy of watching. Also controversial may be Rachel (Lea Michele) and Brody (Dean Geyer)'s soulful iteration of the unusual Radiohead hit "Creep". Thom Yorke's material is tough to navigate or re-interpret - and, more to the point, make work - outside the context of the original recording and this made a case for the song to be sung by other artists and it was a risk that generally paid off, if did not totally overwhelm in its power. Appreciably, it was tastefully rendered in black and purple and shadow - like a bruise. Smart effect. So, is that it for Rachel and Brody or will they work it out? "It's over, for real." Or, so said Rachel - for now, at least.
Back in Lima, Wham was nearly one-upped with by iconic female pop group in the form of the Spice Girls and their essential world takeover single "Wannabe" thanks to the ladies of New Directions. Zig-a-zig-ah - and how! The episode went out on a high-energy high note, as well, with a NYC & Lima dual-set production number paying tribute to the cheesiest pop group of them all - whose song catalog formed the basis of one of Broadway's biggest, and still running, guilty pleasures, MAMMA MIA!; to say nothing of the recent feature film version, the most financially successful movie musical of the modern era - ABBA. Yes, yes, yes - it's all about ABBA, isn't it? White fringe, fabulous hair and a jaunty disco beat, what more can you want; I mean, really, really want?!
As far as plot points go, last night's "Guilty Pleasures" was pretty light on story - Mr. Schue (Matt Morrison) was absent yet again, while Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and the rest of the faculty of McKinley High were scarce to be seen for the most part. In an ever-developing plot point, Blaine's crush on Sam was addressed, at least, while their friendship grows all the time. "Against All Odds" was a satisfying pay-off for that storyline, anyway, and, as far as their bromance goes, supposedly, "nothing is going to change" between them now. We shall see. Also, some respite was given at long, long last to all of us who have begun to dread Kitty (Becca Tobin)'s generally dour disposition whenever she appears - or, her being just a "big bitch" in general more often than not, as Brittany (Heather Morris) put it more frankly on the umpteenth ep of the audience-favorite webshow-within-the-show, FONDUE FOR TWO (if anything ever required an exclamation point, it's that!). Speaking of which, Lord Tubbington delivered in his cameo, as always - scientology?!
In the NYC-set portion of Glee 4.0, Santana (Naya Rivera) continued to bicker with roommates Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer), while proceeding to once again call out sketchy gigolo (aka "pseudo-man-whore") Brody to an enamored, love-struck Rachel. Michele delivered exquisitely with her dramatic break-up scene leading into the NYADA-set "Creep" musical number and it seems that the trio of Lima transplants will make it work out after all in the Big Apple in the end - and, I must admit, it was a treat to see the entire cast of young GLEE characters (more or less) converge to create a musical number once again, in unison - complete with Unique (Alex Newell), Marley (Melissa Benoist), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Artie (Kevin McHale) and Ryder (Blake Jenner) to round out the festive finale. Dig that scene!
Last night's Glee was a macaroni portrait brought to life - with lots of gooey extra cheese slathered on top. Next week? Songs about sweaters - no, no; just joking! No new episode until April 11, when the show returns for the first of the final five of S4 with "Shooting Star".
Photo Credits: FOX Broadcasting