It has arrived, to the joy of Gleeks and Monsters alike - the long-awaited Lady Gaga week on GLEE. ‘Theatricality' opens with Tina and Mr. Schuester in the principal's office; Tina is told she must change her goth look in order to keep the school safe (and to allay Principal Figgin's fear of vampires). This, paired with the news that Vocal Adrenaline is attempting to tackle Lady Gaga in their repertoire, leads Will to give his own Gaga assignment about theatricality in performance.
‘Bad Romance' allows the girls (plus Kurt) to get glammed up Gaga-style, though a few fashion mishaps occur. Rachel's stuffed-animal costume is actually laugh-out-loud funny, as is Brittany's deadpan affirmation of the sheer dreadfulness that is Rachel's look while wearing a bizarre silver lobster mask. The number disappoints on many levels - namely the choreography and its inability to help further the plot. It is a blatant attempt to shoehorn a very popular song into a very popular series for the sole purpose of boosting ratings, and is not handled as creatively as one would expect of the highly publicized Gaga episode (which only uses two of her songs in performance and one as background).
Quinn, Rachel and Mercedes decide to check out Vocal Adrenaline's progress on their own Gaga number, which leads to the big moment in which Rachel and Shelby meet. Shelby uses ‘Funny Girl' to illustrate to Vocal Adrenaline how to be theatrical - at least, that's the only conceivable way for the writers to have Rachel make the connection that Shelby is her mother. The reunion between mother and daughter comes very, very quickly (this could be because the episode was pushed up in the season's lineup, however). Even quicker is Shelby's desertion of Rachel after the lack of instantaneous connection with her daughter, and the plotline is sloppily handled and ultimately discarded entirely as the episode continues.
Meanwhile, Burt Hummel invites the Hudsons to live with them, to the delight of Carole and Kurt and the horror of Finn. The clash between Kurt and Finn comes to a head over decorating their shared room, which in turn leads to a powerful (if bordering afterschool-specialish) scene in which Burt becomes fiercely protective of Kurt when Finn derogatorily calls the sheets "faggy." The scene is surprisingly well-written; I have long said that the material given to Mike O'Malley and Chris Colfer has been the most exemplary of the series, and the trend here continues. I just wish the writers would give the other storylines the same attention - whatever happened to Emma, for instance? Do Santana and Brittany have actual thoughts, ever? Who ARE those other male members of the club?
Lesser attention is given to Quinn and Puck - remember them? They're having a baby together. Quinn is frustrated with Puck's inability to be mature about their future child, despite his constant begging to be involved in naming the baby. Puck decides to reach out to Quinn and show her his seriousness through singing ‘Beth' and giving a speech about how he wants to be involved, though she plans on giving the child up after its birth. The moment is heartfelt, but the characters have been given so little attention lately that it hardly registers in the way the Kurt-Burt-Finn storyline does.
The duet of the acoustic version of ‘Poker Face' by Rachel and Shelby is performed well (I especially liked the harmonies), though it's sort of strange that mother and daughter are cheerfully singing together about male conquests as a means of farewell. The single piano is a nice change from the full orchestra that always seems to materialize at rehearsals, but the content of the song absolutely does not mesh with the emotional tone of the moment. Other than the Lady herself, who could possibly say "I'm bluffing with my muffin" to his or her own mother's face without a hint of irony or even embarrassment?
By now, I think it is absolutely clear how tired I am of the themed episodes of GLEE. Strong television series, with well-developed character arcs and storylines, do not rely on a string of episodes more concerned with concept than plot development as the latest episodes of the series have. I think the main problem GLEE has right now is that it does not know what kind of show it wants to be - whether an ensemble comedy driven by crazy characters, like The Office, or a dramedy that develops its characters bit by bit, like Dexter or Six Feet Under. GLEE is currently stuck in a limbo between the two kinds, and the back half of its first season has suffered as a result - I mean, the fact that the airdates for this week's episode and next week's, ‘Funk,' were changed after production does not say much for the writers' plan for their characters (and is evident by episode's end when Will proudly proclaims, "Next stop, Regionals!"). I want to like the show; really, I do. I love musicals and campy comedy as much as the next person. I just have problems trying to overlook the incredible disorganization and carelessness with which the latter half of the series has been constructed, the problems of which manifest in this episode.
As such, ‘Theatricality' fails on a lot of levels, and has actually made the episodes preceding it look better as a result (I almost want to go and revise some of the previous GLEE-Caps for their harshness because of this episode). The so-called Lady Gaga episode failed to live up to the artist's creativity and hardly used her songs in a way that informed the actual plot. But hey, maybe they'll get it right by the time they get to regionals.
GLEE follows an optimistic teacher who - against all odds and a malicious cheerleading coach - inspires McKinley High's Glee Club to conquer the world one singing competition at a time. GLEE stars Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling and Jenna Ushkowitz.
GLEE is produced by Ryan Murphy Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan are co-creators of the series. Murphy, Falchuk and Dante di Loreto serve as executive producers, while Ian Brennan serves as co-executive producer.
GLEE airs Tuesday nights at 9:00-10:00PM ET/PT.