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"Glee": Season 2, Volume 1 DVD Review

Glee: Season 2, Volume 1 DVD cover art - buy from Amazon.com Glee: Season 2, Volume 1 (2010)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennan / Writers: Ian Brennan, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Tim Wollaston / Directors: Ryan Murphy, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Brad Falchuk, Eric Stoltz, Adam Shankman, Bradley Buecker, Carol Banker, Paris Barclay

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), Heather Morris (Brittany S. Pearce), Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester), Mike O'Malley (Burt Hummel), Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones), Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez), Mark Salling (Noah "Puck" Puckerman), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina Cohen-Chang)

Recurring Characters: Harry Shum Jr. (Mike Chang), Chord Overstreet (Sam Evans), Iqbal Theba (Principal Figgins), Dot-Marie Jones (Coach Shannon Beiste), Darren Criss (Blaine), Max Adler (Dave Karofsky), John Stamos (Dr. Carl Howell), Romy Rosemont (Carole Hudson), Lauren Potter (Becky Jackson), Ashley Fink (Lauren Zizes), Josh Sussman (Jacob Ben Israel), James Earl (Azimio), Robin Trocki (Jean Sylvester), Bill A. Jones (Rod Remington), Earlene Davis (Andrea Carmichael), Brad Ellis (Brad)

Notable Guest Stars: Cheyenne Jackson (Dustin Goolsby), Charice (Sunshine Corazon), Britney Spears (Various Fantasy Characters), Meat Loaf Aday (Barry Jeffries), Barry Bostwick (Tim Stanwick), Jeanine Anderson (Waitress), Gwyneth Paltrow (Holly Holliday), Carol Burnett (Doris Sylvester)

Running Time: 435 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Closed Captioned; Except for Jukebox Songs, No Extras Subtitled or Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 25, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.98
Season 2, Volume 1 Airdates: September 21 - December 6, 2010
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Clear Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
To be released in The Complete Second Season on DVD ($59.99 SRP) and Blu-ray ($69.99 SRP)

Buy Glee: Season 2, Volume 1 on DVD from Amazon.com / Preorder The Complete Second Season: DVD Blu-ray


There were several reasons for me not to get into "Glee". It was too long, quite possibly too gay, and thanks to Fox shows not being freely offered by Comcast on Demand, too inflexible to watch comfortably. But over the last few days of 2010 and the first few of 2011, I made my way through the entire 22-episode Complete First Season on a borrowed DVD. After that, I can't help but confess to being a bit of a "Gleek", although both that label and my appreciation for this acclaimed hour-long dramedy series exist with some irony.

"Glee", as I'm sure I don't need to tell you, became a phenomenon right from its 2009 start. The ratings were good, the reviews were largely favorable, and the fanbase was incredibly loyal and passionate. As with anything successful to such a wide degree, there became an immediate threat of selling out or burning out, of being unable to sustain the qualities that appealed to viewers while having to produce a new episode on a weekly basis. Digital song downloads, soundtrack CDs, and a variety of other merchandise have flourished. Awards have come piling in. No celebrity is too big to seek involvement, whether there's material for them or not. And with media attention intensified, the risk of offending someone with, say, a racy magazine photo shoot, rises.

Comprising three-quarters of William McKinley High School's Glee Club in Season 2: Sam (Chord Overstreet), Brittany (Heather Morris), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Santana (Naya Rivera), Artie (Kevin McHale), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.), Mercedes (Amber Riley), and Finn (Cory Monteith).

There are some signs of "Glee" becoming a victim of its popularity, but none of any major concern just yet. The second season maintains the show's original focus, on the diverse group of students who comprise New Directions, the Glee Club of Lima, Ohio's William McKinley High School. Under the affable leadership of Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison),
the teens endure the social stigma attached to the club in order to gather in the company of friends, take pleasure in song and dance, and strive for victories in competitions (though this last point has been significantly de-emphasized).

The eclectic bunch that makes up New Directions offers plenty of personality. Most focal are overachieving go-to soloist Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), football team quarterback Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), gay fashionista Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), and head cheerleader Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron). They are joined by: agitative Jewish jock "Puck" (Mark Salling); chunky, sassy black girl Mercedes (Amber Riley); wheelchair-bound rapper Artie (Kevin McHale), and goth-fashioned Asian girl Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). Season Two promotes two of the less friendly, more popular Glee Club members to show regulars in Quinn's fellow cheerleaders: vain, multicultural Santana (Naya Rivera) and blonde ditz Brittany (Heather Morris). Also developed into more than glorified extra is "the other Asian", dance-loving Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.).

While the titular club remains the chief interest, the show follows its students home, around school, and to other extracurricular activities. Accordingly, we get regular looks at the football team and at the Cheerios, the cheerleading team taken very seriously by its moderator, the ruthless track-suited Sue Sylvester (Emmy winner Jane Lynch). Only a few other faculty members feature regularly here in timid, germ-fearing guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), amusing Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba), and manly new female football coach Shannon Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), who replaces Patrick Gallagher's wonderful Ken Tanaka in just a couple of hasty season premiere lines.

As if his perm and Mr. Rogers' sweater aren't enough inspiration, Glee Club moderator Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) throws a Breadstix gift certificate into the mix. Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) recreates the sexy schoolgirl look with which Britney Spears became famous in a shot-for-shot recreation of the "...Baby One More Time" music video.

The ensemble cast is large and interesting enough to barely notice the way that many characters disappear for an episode here and there. There is always plenty of drama occupying the students and somehow tying into the Glee Club's weekly assignment or challenge. Romances start and stall. Unlikely alliances are formed to meet ends. Secrets travel. Rivalries are renewed. The series is absolutely designed for you to feel you simply must see and know what will happen next. It does this without many gimmicks and cliffhangers, instead creating a complex universe you enjoy spending time in.

It is awfully easy to spend time with the McKinley gang and that explains why it seems like most people who have seen "Glee" are fans to some degree. Shows about teenagers typically aim for teen and tween viewers, but Gleeks range from about eight to eighty years of age. Even if, like me, you're not ordinarily drawn to musicals or, like me, you stopped caring about pop music a while ago, I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to still like the show for its sharp, smart, reference-loaded comedy and clever, complicated character entanglements.
And you'd have to be pretty narrow-minded not to get enjoyment out of the lively performances of a wide variety of music, from show tunes (including Season 2 numbers from Evita, Singin' in the Rain, and Chicago) to enduring favorites (R.E.M., Billy Joel, Bob Marley) to current Top 40 fare (Jay-Z, Cee-Lo, Katy Perry, Florence + the Machine, Rihanna), with signature mash-ups occasionally blending those classes.

What do we find in Season 2? New Directions gains a new member in moptopped football-playing transfer student Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet). Following the first season's tribute episodes to Madonna and Lady Gaga, another predominantly blonde pop icon, Britney Spears, gets similar treatment and one-ups the other songstresses by making some cameo appearances within it. One episode tackles religion in a moderately tasteful fashion. Conversely, another pays homage to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Gwyneth Paltrow and Carol Burnett guest star. This stretch includes the show's first holiday episodes in "A Very Glee Christmas" and the Halloween-timed "Rocky Horror Glee Show."

Romantic triangles (and squares) continue to be a staple. Though hurdles have been cleared for Will and Emma to become an item, she holds onto a good thing with her dentist boyfriend (sparingly played by John Stamos), an arrangement unlikely to last. Quinn becomes a couple with Sam. While still holding feelings for Tina (who has moved onto Mike Chang), Artie finds himself in an increasingly real relationship with (surprise!) Brittany. Even Kurt, the only openly gay kid at school, picks up a love interest at a nearby private academy. Meanwhile, leads Finn and Rachel start to feel a bit like Ross and Rachel (of TV's "FRIENDS").

As with any popular person or property, backlash has already begun for "Glee" on the Internet, where complaining runs rampant (a subject slyly lampooned in Season 2's opening sequence). Most of it can be quieted simply by recognizing that every viewer has different tastes and expectations and that it's therefore impossible for creators/writers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan to please everyone. There are certainly some ludicrous turns in Season 2, as there were in Season 1. Seeing these out to create transparent drama can be frustrating; a Coach Bieste storyline especially feels like a reach, and a tackily-resolved one at that. A couple of the high-concept episodes (namely, the Spears and Rocky Horror ones) reduce non-musical portions to linking filler between excessive showstoppers. Finally, it must be noted that the overproduced, auto-tuned vocals continue to rob the performances of some humanity. An evident wealth of talent goes into the show, so it seems unnecessary for songs to not feel as if they're really being sung (and inappropriate given the series' status-disregarding, don't-stop-believing themes).

As part of "Glee"'s episode-long tribute to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", Santana (Naya Rivera) as Magenta, Mercedes (Amber Riley) as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and Brittany (Heather Morris) as Columbia perform "Sweet Transvestite." Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) continues to tell northwestern Ohio how she sees (or Cs) it on the local news segment "Sue's Corner."

The DVD release I'm reviewing here seems more divisive than the show it holds. That's because it is titled Season 2, Volume 1 and contains just ten episodes, or slightly less than half a season. This 3-disc set follows what Fox did for the first season, initially releasing the 13-episode, 4-disc Season 1, Volume 1 set in time for Christmas 2009. That made a little more sense because Season 1 had a four-month hiatus resulting from a cautious 13-episode order being followed by another nine. Keeping the show fresh in mind while providing an ideal, inexpensive Christmas gift for the Gleek in your life seemed to work for Fox and for viewers. This year, the tactic feels a little greedy and unnecessary. Fans have to wait just two months after the Christmas episode's airing for a new episode to debut on Super Bowl Sunday and the whole season is being produced in one run this year.

On the other hand, this volume approach could not work out better for me. A ten-episode collection of an hour-long series is a lot easier to review and in a timely fashion. It also lightens the load for covering The Complete Second Season, which is sure to come in September when practically every other returning TV show also has its preceding year released to disc. I'm now caught up on the show in time for the series' return, should I try to watch it on television or settle for computer viewing at my convenience.

As I see it, Fox can't be faulted. They're not requiring that you purchase the season in two pieces. The Complete Second Season is already preorderable on DVD and Blu-ray at Amazon.com. And though that will prove to be a better value whenever it comes, those who require quicker gratification of this Volume 1 set will not have to repurchase these ten because this DVD-only release is sure to be followed by a Volume 2 collection alongside the full season set.

Without further ado, let's look at the ten episodes here...

In sharp contrast to their Season 1 rivalry, "Schue" (Matthew Morrison) and Sue (Jane Lynch) team up in Season 2's premiere, but it doesn't last. Finn (Cory Monteith) finds religion praying to his "Grilled Cheesus", only to lose it shortly thereafter (his faith, not the Jesus sandwich).

Disc 1

1. Audition (43:58) (Originally aired September 21, 2010)
Will and Sue team up to stand up to the new football coach. The Glee Club recruits new members.
Songs: "Empire State of Mind", "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", "Telephone", "Getting to Know You", "Billionaire", "The Power", "Listen", "What I Did for Love"

2. Britney/Brittany (43:54) (Originally aired September 28, 2010)
Anesthesia from Emma's dentist boyfriend (John Stamos) causes members of the Glee Club to hallucinate themselves performing Britney Spears music numbers.
Will tries to show Emma he's not uptight.
Songs: "I'm a Slave 4 U", "Me Against the Music", "...Baby One More Time", "Sailing", "Stronger", "Toxic", "The Only Exception"

3. Grilled Cheesus (43:38) (Originally aired October 5, 2010)
After arrhythmia leaves Kurt's dad (Mike O'Malley) comatose, the kids wrestle with their beliefs, including Finn, whose grilled cheese sandwich with Jesus' likeness burned into it seems to be answering his prayers.
Songs: "Only the Good Die Young", "I Look to You", "Papa, Can You Hear Me?", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Losing My Religion", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "One of Us"

4. Duets (43:58) (Originally aired October 12, 2010)
The club pairs up for a duets contest to win a free dinner at Breadstix. To boost the team's morale, Rachel and Finn decide to throw the contest.
Songs: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", "River Deep - Mountain High", "Le Jazz Hot!", "Sing!", "With You I'm Born Again", "Lucky", "Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy"

Coach Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) materializes in student's sexual cool-off images, a fact that somehow gets shared with her. Fusing "Singin' in the Rain" with Rihanna's "Umbrella", Will (Matthew Morrison) and Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) keep the Glee Club both cultured and happy.

Disc 2

5. The Rocky Horror Glee Show (43:34) (Originally aired October 26, 2010)
To impress Emma, Will decides the Glee Club will put on The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the annual school play in an episode that largely pays tribute to the iconic '70s cult classic film musical. Sue encourages the controversial selection, seeing a local Emmy in it for her. Meanwhile, the guys have body image issues.
Songs: "Science Fiction Double Feature", "Over at the Frankenstein Place", "Dammit Janet", "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul", "Sweet Transvestite", "Touch-a, Touch-a Touch Me", "The Time Warp"

6. Never Been Kissed (43:01) (Originally aired November 9, 2010)
When learning that the guys are visualizing her to "cool off", a hurt Coach Bieste considers leaving. Also, the Glee Club does a second battle of the sexes, this time defying gender expectations. Puck spends time with Artie for his community service. And an increasingly bullied Kurt checks out an all-boys private school and likes what he sees.
Songs: "One Love (People Get Ready)", "Teenage Dream", "Start Me Up / Livin' on a Prayer", "Stop! In the Name of Love / Free Your Mind"

7. The Substitute (43:28) (Originally aired November 16, 2010)
A sick Will has both his Spanish class and Glee Club duties taken over by popular, easygoing substitute teacher Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow). Newly promoted to principal, Sue banishes tater tots from the cafeteria, to Mercedes' outrage.
Songs: "Conjunction Junction", "Forget You", "Make 'Em Laugh", "Nowadays / Hot Honey Rag", "Singin' in the Rain / Umbrella"

8. Furt (42:28) (Originally aired November 23, 2010)
When Kurt's dad proposes to Finn's mom (Romy Rosemont), it becomes time for a "Glee" wedding, with New Directions naturally supplying the entertainment. Tying into that, Sue plans to marry herself, reason for her long-gone Nazi hunter mother (Carol Burnett) to visit.
Songs: "Ohio", "Marry You", "Sway", "Just the Way You Are"

At sectionals, Kurt (Chris Colfer) sings with the Warblers of Dalton Academy. As you might expect, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) looks and acts the part of the Grinch in "A Very Glee Christmas."

Disc 3

9. Special Education (43:54) (Originally aired November 23, 2010)
Kurt adjusts to life at his new school, with whom he sings at sectionals, where New Directions is unfocused.
Songs: "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina", "The Living Years", "Hey, Soul Sister", "(I've Had) The Time of My Life", "Valerie", "Dog Days Are Over"

10. A Very Glee Christmas (42:58) (Originally aired November 23, 2010)
Though they struggle to spread seasonal cheer at school, the Glee Club tries extra hard to make Christmas nice for Brittany, who still believes in Santa Claus. Sue rigs the faculty Secret Santa.
Songs: "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year", "We Need a Little Christmas", "Merry Christmas, Darling",
"Baby, It's Cold Outside", "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", "Last Christmas", "Welcome Christmas"

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality is just as excellent as you'd expect to be. That is no surprise since it's 2011, everything is digital one way or another, and subpar presentations have become just as rare for TV-DVDs as they are among new theatrical films. The 1.78:1 widescreen video is clean, sharp, colorful, and beautifully detailed, exhibiting only the rarest and faintest of issues.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack stands out for offering an active experience more typical for feature films. While the dialogue is all crisp and clear and the occasional bit of atmosphere appreciated, it is the many musical numbers which call the mix to action. On them, the sound originates from all directions and at a slightly higher volume than the rest of the track. It is all about as good as standard DVD can offer. And, though TV DVDs are among the rare ones not always equipped with subtitles, Fox provides them in four different languages as well as closed captioning, all of which even transcribe or translate song lyrics (as some studios neglect to do). Success!

DVD technology is put to perfect use in the Glee Music Jukebox, which offers random, chronological, and individual song playback on each disc. Chris Colfer is fitted for a bald cap to play Riff Raff in the Rocky Horror Glee Show.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

A swift release of this sort could easily be forgiven for skipping bonus features, but yet again, Fox doesn't do that here.

The one extra found on all three discs is the "Glee Music Jukebox." It allows instant access to every prominent song of every episode on that disc, letting you opt to play all in succession or to have them play in the random order of a Shuffle. There is no enhancement to the sequences: no lyrics or karaoke feature, just the singing (and, often, dancing) itself. That makes this a simple inclusion, but also a very wise and appropriate one. Since scene selection menus are rarely offered on TV shows, this is a perfect way to jump right to your favorite numbers or even put on as background music, creating a complete season soundtrack of sorts.

Two Disc 2 extras pertaining to one of the series' flashiest episodes. "The Making of 'The Rocky Horror Glee Show'" (6:45) gives us a pretty suitable look at that episode's creation, with comments from the cast and crew (including director Adam Shankman) and behind-the-scenes looks at rehearsals and makeup sessions. The exclusive bonus song, touted on the case as a "DVD WORLD PREMIERE", is merely the Rocky Horror lips singing "Planet, Schmanet, Janet" (1:08).

Is that the real Jane Lynch or just Madame Tussauds Hollywood's wax sculpture of her? Take a guess! (It's wax.) Just like Glee Club, Naya Rivera and Heather Morris sit next to each other at the show's Comic-Con panel.

The nifty "Getting Waxed with Jane Lynch" (6:06) documents the process of the Madame Tussauds sculptors creating a Sue Sylvester wax figure. It begins with the actress posing and being measured,
proceeds to show some of the construction, and wraps with clips from the Hollywood unveiling ceremony.

"The Wit of Brittany" (2:20) collects dozens of funny Season 1 and 2 one-liners delivered by Heather Morris' promoted fan-favorite cheerleader.

"'Glee' at Comic-Con" (14:53) preserves some of the panel discussion from last summer's convention in San Diego. Creator/writer Ryan Murphy, producer Dante Di Loreto, and actors Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Heather Morris, and Naya Rivera answer questions from moderator Tim Stack and the enthusiastic fans in attendance. They chat about their characters, their camaraderie, their personal highlights, and what is to come in Season 2. Though immediately dated and probably better suited for the Season 1 DVD, this substantive event is welcome here.

On each Season 2 disc's animated main menu, circular character shots move about until three members of the large ensemble get singled out in a clip.

The absence of audio commentaries is now expected but still surprising for something that inspires the amount of fandom "Glee" does. As is the lack of deleted scenes/songs and outtakes.

The DVD's inspired main menus stay close to Season 1's motif, with regular characters pictured in a moving grid of circles. On each disc, three different characters are chosen and zoomed in on for a silent clip featuring them. Submenus are static but mostly scored. Episodes are synopsized over two pages.

Season 2, Volume 1 is packaged in a clear, standard-sized DVD keepcase, which is topped by a snug cardboard slipcover that features Santana and Brittany on its second spine, should you rather display Cheerios than Finchel (Rachel and Finn). Each of the three discs is adorned by a different color and different color slushie and all encourage you to "Gleek out!" The interior of the cover displays group and individual character photos plus an episodes and extras breakdown. A couple of inserts advertise the seven and counting "Glee" soundtracks, the "Glee" Apple app, the "Glee" video game, and simply Gleeking out Tuesday nights on Fox.

New power couple Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) and Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet!) take the lead at sectionals, singing "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Check out this girl power! New Directions' females rock out with a mash-up of The Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Glee" remains highly entertaining in the first part of its second season. While many will choose to wait another eight months to get the full season in one transaction and one case, saving a few dollars in the process, there's no reason to be dissatisfied that Fox is giving fans the chance to get a head start on watching/rewatching or to catch up before the season resumes. With a current Amazon sales rank of 33, clearly enough people are taking the studio up on this offer to make it worth their while.

Buy from Amazon.com / Preorder Glee: The Complete Second Season: DVD, Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 30, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Brad Falchuk Teley-vision, Ryan Murphy Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, and 2011 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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