The “Glee” Enigma (and a review of S2 E15, “Sexy”) by Matilda Dixon-Smith

Posted on March 14, 2011

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Those on-and-off fans, like me, who SLOGGED through two thoroughly wobbly seasons of Glee, will be rewarded when they watch the show’s latest instalment. S2, E15, “Sexy”, is a Glee triumph. About flipping time, too.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Glee format, I’ll lay it out for y’all. The show follows a group of teen misfits from the McKinley High School glee club as they navigate through the trials and tribulations of teenage existence, with the help of some generally over-the-top and campy musical numbers. In this episode, “Sexy”, substitute teacher Holly Holliday (guest star, Gwyneth Paltrow) returns to McKinley as a sexual education teacher. She convinces Will (Matthew Morrison) to use the club to impart some much-needed knowledge about sex and sexuality to the kids. Seeing the premise all laid out there, it seems pretty hokey. Somehow though, it totally works.

Original Glee Club members (from left to right): Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Kurt (Chris Colfer), Artie (Kevin McHale), Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Rachel (Lea Michele)

I put this down almost entirely to Gwyneth Paltrow’s exemplary cameo. Look, I’m the first to admit that GwynGwyn’s droopy eyes send a shiver down my spine. Surprisingly though, as Holly Holliday, GwynGwyn just kills it. She is sharp, and delivers her excellent lines (some of the Glee writers best ones not afforded to Sue Sylvester or Brittany) with perfect comic timing. In particular, her dialogue with sexually inhibited guidance counsellor, Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), is hilarious. She also stands up pretty well against the slew of Glee performing veterans; all three numbers in which she performs are special. Her tango with Will, to Prince’s “Kiss”, is a stand out (not least because one is afforded the pleasure of drooling at Matt Morrison’s unexpectedly BITCHIN’ BICEPS).

 

GwynGwyn and Matt Morrison, EMBRACING. Yeah, EMBRACING.

“Sexy” isn’t just great because GwynGwyn is swell to watch. The premise of delivering a message, which is often something the Glee writers fail at, is executed with finesse here. So many teen shows fall into the trap of damning sexuality and sexual curiosity. Creators try to subtly convince the population that abstinence REALLY is the only answer. Glee creators, possibly following in the footsteps of THE GREAT DEGRASSI, impart the message that sexual curiosity or openness is not bad. They even poke a little fun at the Celibacy Club by pointing out that for raging hormone-filled teenagers, abstinence is a slightly unrealistic goal. The message is “get all the information you can, then do what you like with it”. Nice.

The Celibacy Club's hysterical rendition of "Afternoon Delight"

While the standard of the show has been steadily on the rise this season, I am surprised that they got it so right with “Sexy”. The songs are of a high-standard (no cringing), the character development is engaging and funny, the writing is sharp and the plot ACTUALLY progresses. Will and Holly acknowledge their (strangely exciting) sexual tension; Blaine (Darren Criss of the aforementioned fabulous eyebrows) helps Kurt and his father connect on an important level; and Brittany and Santana finally sort their junk out, in a most touching manner.

Brittany and Santana.

I have wanted to write about Glee for ages. I was merely waiting for the right moment. That time is now. Glee is a terribly inconsistent show. The show’s creators balance some really top-notch writing and brilliant character construction with a poor understanding of how to apply values and story-telling to a show written in the ‘musical’ format. We watch Glee for Sue Sylvester, or Brittany, or Matt Morrison’s arms, or Darren Criss’ eyebrows, or Finn’s HILARIOUS dancing, or the (increasingly flashy) musical numbers; yet we end each episode slightly unsatisfied. Last night, I finished “Sexy” with a grossly full T.V. stomach, and it felt darn good.

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Posted in: Television