Blu-Ray Review: GLEE COMPLETE SEASON 2
With the third season about to land on small screens - in the UK this Thursday - we review the brand new blu-ray release of the Complete Season 2 of Glee.
The second season hurdle is always difficult for any show that does as phenomenally well in its debut as Glee did, and with the addition of new characters, and the promise of some established background figures like Mike Chang and Brittany getting more primary story lines, it seemed from the outset that the show makers had grand plans to shake things up. The show is popular because at its heart, Glee is a modern meshing of High School Musical and Grease, with grander musical numbers based on musical theatre arrangements and irresistible reimaginings of classic and current pop songs. It has the same gleeful spirit as both of those reference points, with the added ingenious hook of the songs from the show being made available to buy and thus able to chart. For fans outside of the US, the show is also a wonderful, tacky slice of camp Americana at its best - yes there may be some more complex subject matter now, but the experience is always crowned with a big, glamorous musical number that adds some emotional weight through the universal truths to be found within the lyrics. Episode highlights this time around include the excellent heartbreaking Charlie & The Chocolate Factory episode - I won't spoil the revelation, but I will say that it is tragic, wonderfully handled, and adds further depth to the character of Sue Syllvester - and the Rocky Horror Picture Show redo, which is a very obviously flimsy set-up to allow the show makers to show their appreciation of the iconic musical. Overall, there are very few lowlights, though towards the end there are a couple of episodes that don't quite hit the same heights as the best episodes - like Born This Way and Prom Queen which feel oddly flat. Perhaps it's a personal thing, due to my personal feelings about Quinn as a character (not a fan), but I simply wasn't taken on either episode to the same degree as others. Of the new character additions, Gwyneth Paltrow's supply teacher Holly Holliday (god-awful name, sadly) stands out as the best, thanks to the generous story-lines she gets and Paltrow's exceptional musical abilities and performance credentials I would never have suspected were in her locker. Holliday also offers a more realistic romantic concern for Will, thanks to the writers' decision not to really allow Emma to develop much beyond her OCD condition (too much material potential I suppose), and it's nice to see something different in the romantic stakes than Will and Emma bouncing backwards and forwards for the entire season. Elsewhere the new faces are universally well-conceived: Lauren (Ashley Fink) is a feisty, firey new face who comes in more for comedy and intrigue than for actual musical talent, as proved during her hilarious, but hilariously bad rendition of "I Know What Boys Like" - a song forever spoiled for me by Family Guy's dirty old man Herbert. Trout-mouthed new boy-candy Sam (Chord Overstreet) started off very well, offering both an alpha male threat to Finn that Puck never really seemed to and a great musical presence, though his story arc towards the end of the season is somewhat unnecessary and even baffling. Those three main additions are supplemented with the introductions of new bit-part players like Dot-Marie Jones as new football coach Shannon Beiste, Filipina pop-sensation Charice as potential new New Directions member Summer, John Stamos as Emma's new love interest Carl and Darren Criss as lead of rival choir group The Warblers Blaine Anderson, and all in all the cast dynamic has been weighed up well. Based on the strengths of characters from the first season, characters are given extra focus, and the injection of new talent allows for a more balanced heirarchy with former back-ground figures taking more central roles. The story lines mix more grown-up themes like death, religion and homosexuality with accessible story arcs, as per the first season, and the writing is usually at its strongest when it is pushing some sort of politicised agenda. But having said that Kurt's temporary sojourn to Dalton Academy, where he becomes the newest member of the Warblers does occasionally feel like a bit of a cop-out in order to allow the introduction of a new musical group, but such is the strength of most of the Warblers' performances that it is forgiveable, even if we lose something of Kurt's self-worth and commitment to who he is with his decision to run away to a new school in the face of Karofsky's homophobic bullying. As ever, the musical numbers are outstanding throughout the season, with Holly Hunter's version of Turning Tables by Adele a particular stand-out moment, though in truth there are any number of very strong additions to the already vast Glee discography, and picking out too many would be a difficult prospect (though one I will endeavour to tackle for an upcoming article). Every number is treated with the same high production values, and the same musical theatre authenticity that makes them so much more than just a show choir singing a famous pop song. There is a nice spread of selections from modern and classic pop songs, mixed in with some of the iconic numbers from musical theatre, like "My Man" from Funny Girl, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from Evita and "Take Me Or Leave Me" from Rent. Fans will love it, especially the opportunity to see their favourite show in high-definition, and there is a lot in the package - mostly in the series itself, it has to be said - for anyone who's been living under a rock for the past couple of years and is yet to experience the wonder that is Glee. As I tend to say with every TV release these days, it's best to swerve the volumised versions, as they're a waste of money when there is invariably a Complete Series release following hot on their tails (and one boxset always looks better than two on the shelf). But that isn't exactly a help for those who invested in the season 2 part 1 collection, but that's the price you pay for impatience I suppose. So now it's just a short wait until Season 3 begins in its new screening slot on Sky One on Thursday in the UK. Perhaps this new season will bring victory at last? Who knows, but what is certain is that fans and the cast and crew will certainly have fun getting there. Look out for my Top Forty Glee songs landing in the next two days. Quality Full of vibrant, strong colours, Glee looks great on blu-ray and is certainly a step-up from the TV screenings, with a noticeable uplift in the quality of black levels and contrast. There is still some grain, which adds a filmic quality, and detail and textures shine. Particularly impressive are the musical numbers, with their added production quality, which both look and sound great. That sound quality continues across the board, with dialogue sounding nice and clear, and busier scenes, particularly in the school corridors buzzing with a lot of background noise. All in all a strong transfer. Extras There are a good number of extra features, but not a lot of content in terms of running time, which is a shame, as there was certainly scope for some more in-depth behind-the-scenes focus and a further look at the huge fan following. It would also have been nice to see cast and crew audio commentaries for at least some of the episodes. The Jukebox function that allows you to arrange your own musical playlists is fun though, and there are some reasonable, though criminally brief featurettes included. Glee Music Jukebox The Making of the Rocky Horror Glee Show Exclusive bonus song Planet, Schmanet, Janet Building Glees Auditorium with Cory Monteith A Day in the Life of Brittany Shooting Glee in New York City Guesting on Glee Stevie Nicks Goes Glee Sues Quips Santanas Slams The Wit of Brittany Getting Waxed with Jane Lynch Glee at Comic-Con 2010 Glee Season 2 is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD now.