Last night, "Glee" season 4 premiered with a new dual format that featured scenes in New York City as well as McKinley. While there were many enjoyable bits during this week's episode, it was all a bit uneven and disjointed.
This show is starting to lose direction with its growing cast and overextended story lines. I'm thinking that it would have been better to pursue a spin-off featuring Rachel (Lea Michele), Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Finn (Cory Monteith), or to simply replace the graduating seniors every year in a format akin to UK's "Skins."
So many of this season's characters are very appealing--individually, but as a whole, the show seems to be losing its focus.
There simply isn't enough time in a one-hour weekly series to resolve 20 plus story lines, while trying to juggle between the graduated seniors and the current students.
The New Rachel Berry
The season 4 premiere featured Rachel's struggle to find her place at NYADA. Her demanding dance instructor Cassandra (Kate Hudson) pejoratively nicknamed her "David Schwimmer," appropriate given that the former New Directions star was now struggling to swim in a sea full of Rachel Berrys.
Cassandra is the anti-dote to Mr. Feel Good Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison). After four years of nurturing and positive encouragement from Will, Cassandra's negative reinforcement served as a sobering reality check on just how difficult it was to make it in New York City.
Fortunately, there were a few bright spots, including hot NYADA junior Brody (Dean Geyer) who also fulfilled this week's shirtless guy requirement. Brody gave her the confidence to impress Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg) in the "Round Room" with a soaring rendition of "New York State of Mind." He also encouraged her to embrace the New Rachel and to find herself outside of Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith).
So far, I really like this New Rachel. New York is the right place for her because the city is pushing her out of her comfort zone and challenging her to grow in her art.
Of course, I would prefer Rachel's story line to be part of a separate spin-off series rather than the main show. These seniors have already graduated. Do we really need a bunch of ex-show choir champs hanging around like "depressive sad sacks desperately clinging to the past?" Thank you, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).
Ryan Murphy's Wish Fulfillment
As an added lifeline for struggling Rachel, Kurt finally made his way to New York after perfect boyfriend Blaine (Darren Criss) and perfect dad Burt (Mike O'Malley) encouraged him to stop hanging around McKinley and to go pursue his dream.
We love the fact that Blaine was willing to let his boyfriend go. If you really love someone, then you will want what's best for them. Yet I can't help thinking that Blaine and Burt are figments of Ryan Murphy's wish fulfillment fantasies. I'll bet Ryan wishes he had a guy like Blaine and a dad like Burt back in high school!
The New Rachel At McKinley
While Rachel was searching to find her new self, the remaining New Directions members were struggling to find the next star to lead their show choir. After a sing-of featuring "Call Me Maybe," Artie (Kevin McHale) consulted poll data and concluded that Blaine was the "new Rachel."
New Directions also saw some promising new talent, including Marley (Melissa Benoist) whose rendition of "New York State of Mind" gave Rachel a run for her money. We also met "Just Jake" (Jacob Artist), Puck's (Mark Salling) half-brother with a killer voice, and anger management issues to accompany it.
Still, I'm not feeling some of the new characters. Kitty (Becca Tobin) is a "young Quinn Fabrary" (Dianna Agron). She tries to be a Regina George (Rachel McAdams), but she comes across as one of those bland "junior plastics" they featured at the end of "Mean Girls."
I'm also not on-board with the decision to keep Unique (Alex Newell) and Joe (Samuel Larsen). Alex is a one-trick pony while Samuel's character was clearly intended for "Glee Project" drop-out Cameron Mitchell.
They really dropped the ball by dumping Damian McGinty and Lindsay Pearce in favor of Alex and Samuel.
Chang(e) is Good
Still, I am liking some of these new developments on the McKinley front. While it was a bit sad to hear about the Chang-Chang break up, it was ultimately the right move for Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), as she and Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) were starting to hold each other back.
Hopefully, Tina will finally have a moment to shine and to have a story line that involves something other than being a supportive girlfriend, or background fodder for Rachel Berry.
Many of last year's seniors, including Finn, Puck, Quinn, Mike, Mercedes, Santana, and Karofsky were MIA this week. But that may not be such a bad thing. I'd love to see these characters again, but as part of a spin-of series, not the main show.
Is "Glee" becoming too overextended with its growing cast? Or did you enjoy the dual format of New York and McKinley? Is Marley the "new Rachel Berry"? Should Rachel give this hot new guy a shot?
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