Follow us on

Featured TV on DVD Review: Glee - Volume One: Road to the Sectionals

January 21st, 2010

Glee - Volume One: Road to the Sectionals - Buy from Amazon

At the beginning of the 2009 Fall Season, there were a number of new TV shows announced, but few that generated a lot of buzz. The word that could be used the most to describe any of the news shows would be, "Generic." Going down the list most people would say, "That one's generic. So is that one. Generic. Generic. Generic. What were they thinking? Generic. Generic." Glee is one of the few exceptions. After all, when was the last time there was a musical on TV? However, just like "generic" isn't a kiss of death (a show could be rise above a crowded genre) "unique" isn't always a good thing either (Cop Rock comes to mind here). Can Glee capitalize on what sets it apart? Or will it be one good core idea ruined by sloppy execution?

Glee focuses on the show choir at the William McKinley High School. Back in 1993, the team won the nationals, which was the highlight of Will Schuester's life. Back then he was a student at William McKinley, but now he's the Spanish Teacher. After the previous Glee Club director, Sandy Ryerson, he takes over, re-names them "New Direction" and hopes to return them to their previous glory. This will be quite a hard task, as initially he only gets five people, and he needs at least 12 to qualify for the nationals. His initial group consists of Rachel Berry, Mercedes Jones, Kurt Hummel, Artie Abrams, and Tina Cohen-Chang. He gets one step closer when he blackmails the star quarterback, Finn Hudson, into joining after planting some medical marijuana. He's still several members short. That's where Sue Sylvester comes in. Sue is the head of the Cheerleading squad, named "The Cheerios", and she wants the Glee Club destroyed. (I'm not entirely sure why. It could be just to make her laugh.) She sends three cheerleaders to Glee Club to act as undercover agents, including Finn's girlfriend, Quinn Fabray, and Quinn's two cohorts, Brittany and Santana Lopez. (No, they are not sisters. It's just that Brittany doesn't seem to have a last name.) After Will and Kurt help the football team win their first game of the season, three players join and they have the full compliment. At least for a while. It turns out there's not a lot of glee in Glee Club and it isn't long before personalities conflict and scandals erupt.

As I've said in the past, in some ways it is easier to tolerate a movie, TV show, whatever if it is really bad rather than really close to being awesome. With a terrible show, you can write it off and move on with your life. After watching a few shows, I felt this show is very close to being awesome. On the positive side, the music is amazing. It's not just the quality of the singing, which is top-notch, but also the selection of the songs, as there's a mix of traditional show songs and top 40 hits. Granted, a lot of the top 40 hits are from the 1970s and 80s, but I like bands like Chicago, Queen, Journey, CCR, Billy Idol, etc. so this was a definite positive for me. (I'm not as familiar with the newer stuff; I stopped listening to the radio about the same time .mp3s became commonplace.) So the music selection is excellent, and the performances live up to the songs. ... Why did it make me cringe so much early on? The villains in the show, Sue Sylvester, Quinn Fabray, and Terri Schuester are all so evil at the beginning that it felt like they were cartoon characters. For instance, the day-to-day actions of Terri, Will's wife, are terrible. She's egocentric, overly demanding, has an inflated idea of her self-worth, but faking a pregnancy goes above and beyond the normal realm. Meanwhile, Sue is so over-the-top in her villainy that I'm surprised she doesn't wear a top hat and cape and twirl her mustache a la Snidely Whiplash.

However, and this is important, while they start out about as subtle as a two-by-four to the crotch, we do see hints of humanity in Sue and Terri, while Quinn went from a one-dimensional "Mean Girl" to a much more sympathetic character by the end of the autumn run. She had arguably the most character growth out of all of the characters on the show. I'm still not 100% happy with Sue and Terri, but by the end, the show had become awesome.

The first DVD release is less than awesome, on the other hand. First of all, it's a split season release and I'm quite sure the full season would have fit on six discs, and absolutely no more than seven discs and its price-per-minute is an issue. Secondly, the extras are not enough to compensate. Granted, there are a lot of extras, including featurettes on the making of the show, the casting of the roles, teaching the cast to dance, etc. There are also a few short, short "X things you didn't know about..." featurettes on some of the cast, video diaries with some of the cast, three songs, and more. It's a lot in number, but most are too short to be of value.

The Verdict

Glee is a great show but I wish the studio had waited to release the full season on DVD instead of splitting it into two volumes. As it is, Volume 1: Road to the Sectionals is worth picking up, but a full-season set with a few more extras, like audio commentary tracks, could have been a Pick of the Week contender.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review