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"Glee" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Glee: The Complete First Season DVD cover art - buy from Amazon.com Glee: Season One (2009-10)
Show & DVD Details

Creators/Writers: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennan / Directors: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Elodie Keene, Paris Barclay, John Scott, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Regular Cast: Dianna Agron (Quinn Fabray), Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel), Jessalyn Gilsig (Terri Schuester), Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester), Jayma Mays (Emma Pillsbury), Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams), Lea Michele (Rachel Berry), Cory Monteith (Finn Hudson), Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester), Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones), Mark Salling (Noah "Puck" Puckerman), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina Cohen-Chang), Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez), Heather Morris (Brittany)

Recurring Characters: Iqbal Theba (Principal Figgins), Patrick Gallagher (Ken Tanaka), Mike O'Malley (Burt Hummel), Jonathan Groff (Jesse St. James), Harry Shum Jr. (Mike Chang), Dijon Talton (Matt Rutherford), Josh Sussman (Jacob Ben Israel), Idina Menzel (Shelby Corcoran), Kristin Chenoweth (April Rhodes), Stephen Tobolowsky (Sandy Ryerson), Bill A. Jones (Rod Remington), Romy Rosemont (Carole Hudson), Max Adler (Dave Karofsky), James Earl (Azimio), Olivia Newton-John (Herself), Josh Groban (Himself), Molly Shannon (Brenda Castle), Eve (Gracie Hitchens), Charlotte Ross (Judy Fabray), Lauren Potter (Becky Jackson)

Notable Guest Stars: Victor Garber (Mr. Schuester), Gregg Henry (Russell Fabray), Sarah Drew (Suzy Pepper), Zack Weinstein (Sean Fretthold), Neil Patrick Harris (Bryan Ryan)

Running Time: 974 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned or Subtitled
Release Date: September 14, 2010; Season 1 Airdates: May 19, 2009 - June 8, 2010
Seven single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Clear Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $59.98; Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($69.99 SRP),
in Gleek DVD Giftset with Journal ($59.99 SRP), and in Season, Volume 1: Road to Sectionals
and Season 1, Volume 2: Road to Regionals DVDs ($39.98 SRP each)

Buy Glee from Amazon.com:
Season 1 DVD Season 1 Blu-ray Season 1 DVD Giftset with Journal Season 1, Volume 1 DVD Season 1, Volume 2 DVD Season 2 DVD Season 2 Blu-ray

 
By Kelvin Cedeno

It's strange how quickly "Glee" has caught on with viewers. The ratings were strong almost immediately and have stayed consistently so. Madonna and Lady Gaga have acknowledged the show's popularity, lending their song catalogues for the cast to cover. Actors like Susan Sarandon and Gwyneth Paltrow have expressed interest in guest starring. And you can't even enter stores like Macy's or Claire's without being confronted by "Glee" merchandise and colorful print ads.

Perhaps what makes the show's instant success so peculiar is its genre. Film musicals have had trouble finding an audience of late. For every Hairspray and Mamma Mia!, there are multiple flops like Nine, Rent, and The Producers.
If audiences don't consistently support the format on the big screen, how on earth could a musical weekly television series survive against its far more extensive competition? But survive, "Glee" has, astoundingly so.

I admit I was adamant when first seeing the advertisements for "Glee." Despite a deep love for the musical genre, I couldn't help but get a High School Musical vibe from the previews. Since my adoration for musicals doesn't extend to that recent Disney trilogy, I assumed Fox's new series wasn't for me. But, I kept hearing more and more about it and not just from people with similar tastes as mine. Critics and viewers who've openly admitted to not liking musicals in any format were professing their love of the show. Eventually, I caved into curiosity and gave the series a chance. Flash forward some time later, and I have officially become a fan (or, as others would say, a "Gleek").

Quinn (Dianna Agron), Brittany (Heather Morris), Kurt (Chris Colfer), Rachel (Lea Michele), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Santana (Naya Rivera), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Artie (Kevin McHale), and Will (Matthew Morrison) all stare anxiously at the clock, waiting to see if any of the football players will show up for glee club rehearsal.

For those who don't know, "Glee" takes place at McKinley High School. Spanish teacher William Schuester (Matthew Morrison) is in a stilted marriage with a neurotic, domineering wife named Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig). Upon finding out that the Glee Club director has been fired, Will makes the decision to take over in an effort to give purpose to his life. He renames the club New Directions and opens auditions to anyone wishing to try out. Unfortunately, not very many do.

The few who show up also happen to be the misfits of McKinley High. Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) is an overachiever who does little to hide her lofty ambitions of being a Broadway star. Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), a flamboyant and unique dresser, struggles with his own sexuality. Kurt's best friend Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) is sassy and brassy around most people but secretly has self-esteem issues regarding her looks. Then there's Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) whose physical handicap makes him an outcast by default, while Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz) isn't able to muster up as much courage as her alternative wardrobe choices suggest.

Despite their differences, the kids click fairly easily and try to round up others to join who normally wouldn't associate with such a club. Among them are football quarterback Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and resident bad boy "Puck" (Mark Salling). Not everyone is pleased, however. Head cheerleader Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) notices her boyfriend Finn's time with Glee is causing them to drift apart, and when the ever-growing club needs funds to stay functioning, part of the gargantuan cheerleading budget is given to them. Such a move so infuriates Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) that she vows to do anything she can to destroy New Directions and get her budget restored.

Kurt, Rachel, Mercedes, Finn, and Tina perform Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" for no one but themselves as Artie and the band jam out in the background. In order to break her heat and tear her down, Will (Matthew Morrison) turns on the charm to a clearly uncomfortable Sue (Jane Lynch).

What strikes me about "Glee" is how offbeat it is. I was expecting a bland, cookie-cutter program obviously designed by focus groups. Instead, I found something with its own identity, an almost indie film flavor. There are some delightfully bizarre gags that you would certainly never find on Disney Channel along with many obscure pop culture references likely to go over some teens' heads. In that way, "Glee" emulates its cast of characters, being better suited for misfits than mainstream tastes (which, again, makes it rather peculiar that it's reached such a wide audience).

There have been complaints from devoted Gleeks that the show lost that initial sense of uniqueness when it became popular and was picked up for nine more episodes. While it's true that certain aspects of the season's latter half do feel a bit more manufactured, I don't think it's lost its individuality. The quirkiness and general insanity from the first half is still present, just among a greater degree of well-known numbers.

Speaking of which, I can't really discuss "Glee" without addressing said musical numbers. There are plenty, usually about five or six per episode. The biggest strength in regards to these is how electric they are. The show has covered everything from showtunes and pop to classic rock and modern R&B. There's enough diversity to ensure everyone gets at least one number they'll enjoy. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the series has clicked with so many people. The well-choreographed and impressively sung musical scenes, for the most part, push the stories forward. A few admittedly feel shoehorned in, with little consequence to what surrounds them, but even these are usually entertaining enough to not be a concern.

For her power solo at Sectionals, Rachel (Lea Michele) gleefully belts "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl." Puck (Mark Salling), complete with fedora, croons Frank Sinatra's "The Lady is a Tramp" with Mercedes (Amber Riley), though it really shouldn't be the type of song meant to woo her over.

Everyone in the cast turns in good work. Some actors, like Jenna Ushkowitz and Heather Morris, are underutilized due to there being such a wide cast of characters, an issue already being rectified in the currently airing second season.
The three who really get to shine and offer the most memorable performances are Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, and Jane Lynch.

Michele infuses the character of Rachel with a great deal of sincerity and optimism. Such qualities are vital as Rachel is the type of character who can become grating if any part of the performance is miscalculated. Thankfully, the actress rises to the challenge and satisfies on all levels - comedy, drama, and song. Likewise, Morrison shows seemingly effortless charisma as Will. Mishandled, this character could be a bland cipher, but Morrison brings a good helping of personality to the table along with a rather alarming ability to sing and dance to any and every genre.

As for Lynch, it's easy to see why she recently won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Lynch chews the scenery at every chance she gets, not holding anything back in Sue's blatant disregard for others. She's very clearly loving every second of the role. Sue is a character the audience loves to hate. In an era where villains are either disturbingly cruel or painted in sympathetic shades of gray, this sense of fun wickedness comes as a welcome change of pace.

Despite its widespread popularity, "Glee" is probably not for everyone. I know I enjoy it for its upbeat spirit, colorful characters, offbeat humor, and memorable musical numbers. I also appreciate the more dramatic aspects of it as it addresses certain topics other teen shows prefer to sidestep. That blend may not be everyone's cup of tea as some could find it all too perky or even too peculiar. Fans of musicals should find much to embrace here, though, as this program achieves what High School Musical failed to, which is making the genre relatable for today's youth.

Fox released this Complete First Season DVD exactly one week before the season two premiere. "Glee" had first come to DVD in December of 2009. Season 1, Volume 1: Road to Sectionals delivered the first 13 episodes before the series was picked up for nine more. Season 1, Volume 2: Road to Regionals, released alongside the Season 1 collection, held those nine. The Complete First Season takes its seven discs directly from those sets (four from Volume 1, three from Volume 2).

Episode summaries follow and readers are cautioned to beware of spoilers that may lie within them. My ten favorite episodes of the season are noted with a star ().

Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel (Lea Michele) share an unexpected intimate moment on stage. An uninvited Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) presents herself in Quinn's car in order to make a deal regarding the yet-to-be-born baby.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (48:04) (Originally aired May 19, 2009)
High school Spanish teacher Will Schuester takes over the Glee club and attempts to restore it to its former glory. Finding members to join, however, becomes a challenge for him.
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Note that this presents the director's cut of the episode as it appeared on all media outlets other than the original broadcast.

2. Showmance (44:16) (Originally aired September 9, 2009)
The group has its first assembly performance, but there's division over the song and dance choice. Meanwhile, Quinn notices Finn and Rachel growing closer.

3. Acafellas (43:10) (Originally aired September 16, 2009)
Rachel questions Will's ability to lead the Glee Club and seeks out a new choreographer. Will starts an a cappella group to boost his confidence.

4. Preggers (43:10) (Originally aired September 23, 2009)
Kurt joins the football team in order to impress his father. Quinn finds out she's pregnant, and while this causes a stir within in the group, it gives Terri a way out of her dilemma.

Will (Matthew Morrison) lives out his high school dream of performing with April (Kristin Chenoweth), though a karaoke bar probably wasn't what he had in mind. Fake nurse Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) serves the girls of New Directions Vitamin D in order to help them outshine the boys.

Disc 2

5. The Rhodes not Taken (43:30) (Originally aired September 30, 2009)
In an effort to revive the Glee Club, Will lets April (Kristin Chenoweth), a former schoolmate of his join in despite her age. Rachel feels more and more isolated from the group and decides to leave.

6. Vitamin-D (43:22) (Originally aired October 7, 2009)
Terri takes a nursing job at the school in order to keep a closer eye on Will. Ken, also dubious of Emma's relationship with Will, decides to take the next step with her.

7. Throwdown (43:26) (Originally aired October 14, 2009)
Now co-chairman of the Glee Club, Sue devises a new way to destroy them. She splits them into two groups, taking the minorities for herself and convincing them that they aren't valued enough by the others.

8. Mash-Up (43:05) (Originally aired October 21, 2009)
Will and Ken's fight over Emma spills onto the Glee Club and football team, forcing students to pick one or the other. Rachel and Puck begin a somewhat awkward romance.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) tries to "help" Rachel (Lea Michele) look her best for Finn when, in fact, he wants Finn all to himself. The gang performs Van Halen's "Jump" for a local mattress dealer commercial, unaware of complicated copyright laws.

Disc 3

9. Wheels (43:58) (Originally aired November 11, 2009)
When there's no bus available to bring Artie's wheelchair onboard for Sectionals,
the group raises money for one. Sue brings a girl with Down Syndrome into the Cheerios, which gets Will suspicious.

10. Ballad (43:06) (Originally aired November 18, 2009)
Quinn's parents find out about her pregnancy and don't take the news lightly. Rachel finds herself falling for Will after they perform a duet together.

11. Hairography (43:48) (Originally aired November 25, 2009)
The club engages in a scrimmage against two other groups, and Will's faith in his students is shaken. Quinn and Finn go on dates with Puck and Rachel, respectively.

Disc 4

12. Mattress (42:13) (Originally aired December 2, 2009)
Worried about their image with yearbook photos on the horizon, the group lands a mattress commercial spot. Will discovers an ugly secret Terri's been hiding from him.

13. Sectionals (44:38) (Originally aired December 9, 2009)
Sectionals arrive at last, but there are too many issues standing in the way. Finn quits after finding out something new about Quinn's pregnancy, and Sue leaks the set-list to the competing groups.

Buy Season 1 from Amazon: DVD Blu-ray DVD Giftset / Preorder Season 2: DVD Blu-ray

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Reviewed September 29, 2010.



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