Blu-ray
For the Fans
3.5 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

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The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
1 Stars
Bottom Line
For the Fans

Glee: The Complete First Season

Street Date:
September 14th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 17th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
20th Century Fox
Length:
1040 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

'Glee' has a huge fanbase, and rightly so. It's a huge success by any stretch of the imagination, and the fact that it debuted on Fox with a completely original concept and didn't get canceled after three weeks is a miracle. It's a fun-loving, high-spirited, musically-oriented show full of hilarious plot lines and funny characters. It's become a TV sensation, but there's just something about it that rubs me the wrong way.

For those of you thinking about getting into 'Glee's first season with this Blu-ray release, here's what you can expect as far as the plot goes. Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) wants to start a glee club at the high school where he teaches. We're not really sure whether Mr. Schuester started the club for the kids or for himself. He says it's for the kids, but deep down Mr. Schuester wants to be a stage performer. His neurotic wife wants him to be an accountant. Needless to say their marriage isn't the healthiest.

There's a heavy helping of subplots floating around, one of which involves the hilarious Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester. Sylvester is the coach of the nationally recognized Cheerios (the school's cheerleading squad). Sylvester hogs all of the school's funding, because the Cheerios have appeared on ESPN. They're the celebrities of the school, and Sylvester doesn't like the idea of another club tying up funding.

A variety of people join the club, covering all the bases for the show to feature the down-trodden and school misfits. There's a gothic Asian girl named Tina C; a fashion conscious gay student struggling to find a place in the social structure of the school named Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer); an overweight African American teenager named Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley); Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), a wheelchair-bound student who always feels less of a part of the group because he can't walk; Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), a muscle-bound jock with a heart of gold and a hidden singing talent; and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), a talented, attractive young girl who is endlessly ridiculed by the school's cheerleaders.

'Glee' wants you to feel for these kids. They're the outcasts, the ridiculed, and the tormented. The problem is they almost go out of their way to say so. The long-winded diatribes from the long cast of characters about why we should accept people for who they are wears thin at times, and becomes so melodramatic I often found myself saying, "Look I get it. I know she feels bad about her weight and I know this singing group helps her. You don't have to tell me that. I can see it happening."

I like 'Glee' for the most part, I really do. It's got some great acting and the musical numbers are a whole lot of fun, but when 'Glee' tries to tackle the issues facing today's teens – like bulimia, homosexual discrimination, peer pressure, obesity – it comes across as way too preachy and one-sided. Take for instance the jocks of the school who hate that their star player Finn is now in the glee club. In order to initiate him back to the team they lock up Artie inside a port-a-potty and tell Finn he's got to tip it over. The jocks are your typical high school numbskulls and Finn teaches them all a valuable lesson with his heartfelt speech afterward about how they are the losers and not the kid in the wheelchair.

A lesson is learned in every episode of 'Glee' and most of them come across preachier than the last. It's almost as if the audience can't get it so the show has to spell out what the characters learned through dialogue.

What sets 'Glee' apart from other shows is its unique musical style. Are there any other TV shows out there that can claim to be part musical? I don't think so. The quick, witty banter between the characters is a staple of the show. I can see why it's such a big deal.

I wouldn't call myself a "Gleek." I find myself on the fence with this show. On the one hand, its creativity and spontaneity should be rewarded, but on the other hand its pandering for sympathy feels like it's trying to beat the tears out of me with a baseball bat while singing "Another One Bites the Dust."

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

The set is packed tightly onto 4 50GB Blu-ray Discs. This seems like too little room for 22 episodes of an hour-long show, plus all the special features they've added. It comes packed in an oversized keepcase, like season seven of '24.'

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Glee' looked great in its HD broadcasts on Fox, so why does it only look so-so here? Maybe it's because 22 hour-long episodes presented in 1080p are crammed onto four 50GB Blu-ray discs. Along with more than two hours of special features, each episode seems a little compressed and packed too tightly. Compare that to season seven of '24' which was spread out over 6 discs for 24 episodes.

This isn't to say that the first season of 'Glee' looks terrible on Blu-ray, but it doesn't pop. A lot of scenes look flat and lifeless. Whites seems out of control during some of the stage scenes, but I'm chalking that up to hard spotlights being shown on the characters. Detail seems soft, and colors, overall, just less lively and vibrant.

I did detect banding over the majority of episodes. Bright lights and skies harbor most of it. Aliasing was also detected on clothing with fine lines. Noise hampers quite a few scenes. Heavy grain takes over, and not in a good way, frequently. Check out Sue Sylvester's protein shake as it falls and hits the ground, or another scene where she shakes her protein shake. It looks like ants are crawling around in it. The grain just takes over and becomes bothersome.

Skintones are nicely rendered though, giving everyone a natural look. Black levels are also nicely done, giving much of the darker scenes a nice balance of black without gobbling up faces and characters.

Overall I expected more from this transfer. It looks great on TV and so in my enthusiasm I thought it would look even better on Blu-ray, like it should. I came away disappointed, though, in a picture that seems slightly compressed and hasn't been given enough room to breathe on four discs.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Wow! If there was ever a place not to mess up with a Blu-ray for 'Glee' it would be in the audio, but sadly this soundtrack fails to reproduce the show's happy-go-lucky, musical ambience.

The sound field is extremely front heavy, even during the musical numbers. It's fine that most of the sound is featured front and center, but when the characters start belting out their musical numbers the track stays in the front and hardly ever ventures to the rear speakers. As a matter of fact, even pressing your ear up to your rear speakers to see if anything is coming out will result in hearing slightly muffled music and nothing else. The rears are a complete disappointment here. When the musical numbers start, all the sound is crammed up in the three front speakers and never bleeds into the rears offering the kind of engrossing feel we'd be looking for with a show like this. Even scenes in crowded school halls, gymnasiums, or auditoriums have silent rear speakers that should be teaming with life.

Dialogue is presented clearly through the front channels, and the LFE is alive with bass from songs like "Gold Digger" from Kanye West. The problem is this entire audio presentation is crammed into a 3.1 soundfield, instead of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that's announced on the back of the box. It's sad to see a show so entrenched in its sound squander this high-def opportunity. There's nothing about this soundtrack that draws you in. Instead of enveloping you in its songs, it blasts them to you full force from the front and leaves nothing in the back to give you an engaging listening environment.

Perhaps the reason this audio presentation disappointed me so much was because I expected much more from it. A show that focuses on large, flamboyant musical numbers should be presented just as flamboyantly through its audio presentation.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • 'Glee' Music Jukebox (HD, Disc 1 – 4) –

    This feature allows you to watch each musical performance from each episode. They're tightly packed together so the first and last notes are usually dropped off. There's no gradual start or finish to the musical numbers; they start very abruptly and end just as quickly. This is a great way to skip to your favorite musical numbers though. Especially if that's what you like best about the show.

    Songs on Disc 1 - (30 min.)

    Episode 1 – "Rehab," "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and "Don't Stop Believin'"

    Episode 2 – "Gold Digger," "Push It," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Take a Bow"

    Episode 3 – "Poison," "Mercy," "Bust Your Windows," and "I Wanna Sex You Up"

    Episode 4 – "Single Ladies," "Taking Chances," and "Tonight"

    Episode 5 – "Maybe This Time," "Alone," "Last Name," and "Somebody to Love"

    Songs on Disc 2 – (43 min.)

    Episode 6 – "It's My Life/Confessions," and "Halo/Walking on Sunshine"

    Episode 7 – "Hate on Me," "Ride Wit Me," "No Air," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," and "Keep Holding On"

    Episode 8 – "Bust a Move," "The Thong Song," "Sweet Caroline," "Sing, Sing, Sing," and "I Could Have Danced All Night"

    Episode 9 – "Dancing With Myself," "Defying Gravity," and "Proud Mary"

    Episode 10 – "I'll Stand By You," "Don't Stand So Close to Me/Young Girl," "Having My Baby," and "Lean On Me"

    Episode 11 – "Bootylicious," "Papa Don't Preach," "Crazy in Love/Hair," "Imagine," and "True Colors"

    Songs on Disc 3 – (1 hr. 5 min.)

    Episode 12 – "Smile," "Jump," and "Smile (Though Your Heart is Aching)"

    Episode 13 – "And I am Telling You," "I'm Not Going," "Don't Rain On My Parade," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and "My Life Would Suck Without You"

    Episode 14 – "Hello, I Love You," "Gives You Hell," "Hello," "Highway to Hell," and "Hello, Goodbye"

    Episode 15 – "Ray of Light," "Express Yourself," "Borderline/Open Your Heart," "Vogue," "Like a Virgin," "4 Minutes," "What it Feels Like For a Girl," and "Like a Prayer"

    Episode 16 – "Fire," "A House is Not a Home," "One Less Bell to Answer," "Beautiful," and "Home"

    Episode 17 – "Ice Ice Baby," "U Can't Touch This," "Physical," "Run Joey Run," and "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

    Songs on Disc 4 – (1 hr. 2 min.)

    Episode 18 – "Jessie's Girl," "Lady is a Tramp," "Pink Houses," "The Boy is Mine," "Rose's Turn," and "One"

    Episode 19 – "Piano Man," "Dream On," "Safety Dance," "I Dreamed a Dream," and "Dream a Little Dream of Me"

    Episode 20 – "Funny Girl," "Bad Romance," "Shout it Out Loud," "Beth," and "Poker Face"

    Episode 21 – "Another One Bites the Dust," "Tell Me Something Good," "Loser," "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," "Good Vibrations," and "Give up the Funk"

    Episode 22 – "Faithfully," "Any Way You Want It/Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," "Don't Stop Believin'," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "To Sir, With Love," and "Over the Rainbow"

  • 'Glee' Sing Along Karaoke (Disc 4, HD, 10 min.) – Using scenes from the show, karaoke words scroll along the bottom of the screen so you can sing along. Songs include: "Alone," "Somebody to Love," "Keep Holding On," and "Don't Stop Believing."
  • Staying in Step with 'Glee' (Disc 4, HD, 6 min.) – The choreographers from 'Glee' talk about the choreography from the pilot episode during the musical number "Rehab." They teach you how to do the dance steps.
  • Bite Their Style: Dress Like Your Favorite Gleek (Disc 4, HD, 9 min.) – Costume designer Lou Eyrich talks about the different costumes on 'Glee' and how they complement the characters that wear them. Each character has their own style. For example, Rachel Berry has a huge selection of knee high socks that are something her character wears often.
  • Unleashing the Power of Madonna (Disc 4, HD, 10 min.) – The cast and crew talk about the episode that featured tons of Madonna music. This feature has a very promotional feel. They talk about how they wanted to do a single artist episode and that they thought Madonna fit that role perfectly.
  • Making of a Showstopper: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Disc 4, HD, 17 min.) – This featurette talks about how daunting it was to create the "Bohemian Rhapsody" song and dance number.
  • Welcome to McKinley! (Disc 4, SD, 5 min.) – Principal Figgins gives an orientation video of kids who are headed on their way to William McKinley High School. This is a pretty funny featurette. Reminds me of the crappy PSA movies we had to watch in high school.
  • 'Glee' Music Video (Disc 4, SD, 2 min.) – A music video for the show featuring the whole cast in different situations set to "Somebody to Love."
  • Full Length Audition Pieces (Disc 4, SD, 4 min.) – Rachel Berry and Mercedes each perform their auditions for the club.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session (Disc 4, SD, 12 min.) – Your typical featurette that talks about casting the right people for the right parts. They also talk about the original pitch that Ryan Murphy brought to Fox and how they were apprehensive about making a musical TV show.
  • Deconstructing 'Glee' with Ryan Murphy (Disc 4, SD, 3 min.) – EPK featurette where Murphy is basically selling the show's premise to an audience.
  • Dance Boot Camp (Disc 4, SD, 3 min.) – Promotional fluff about the show's choreography.
  • Jane Lynch A to 'Glee' (Disc 4, SD, 1 min.) – Nothing much here at all. Of all the awesome extras that could have been produced with Jane Lynch, this is stupid. I'm not even sure what it was about. Just a clip of her in the show and a clip of her getting her makeup put on.
  • 5 Things You Don't Know About Jayma (Disc 4, SD, 30 sec.) – Jayma, who plays Emma Pillsbury, talks about five things she likes. This is just getting ridiculous now.
  • 7 Things You Don't Know About Cory (Disc 4, SD, 1 min.) – Same as above with Cory Monteith, who plays Finn Hudson.
  • 6 Things You Don't Know About Amber (Disc 4, SD, 1 min.) – Same as above with Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes.
  • 7 Things You Don't Know About Chris (Disc 4, SD, 41 sec.) – Same as above with Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel. These are annoying features.
  • Video Diaries (Disc 4, SD, 17 min.) – A few characters are given a video handheld camera to talk to. Jane Lynch's segment is the best. I've never been in a hotel that gives you a complimentary kaleidoscope.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary with Cast and Crew (Disc 1, HD, 48 min.) – A split screen is presented with much of the cast and crew sitting in a screening room watching the pilot episode. They all look very serious, even Jane Lynch, who seems to scowl at the screen, like it’s hard to watch or something. With 14 people in the screening room you’d think this would be a much more lively commentary. There is a lot of information dispelled by the show’s creator Ryan Murphy. Quite simply, I thought this was far too many people in the room and most of the kids stay silent as the people in charge of filming the show are the most vocal. Also, there’s a strange disconnect with the commentators, because we see their faces and they’re talking to us, but they’re staring off away from us at the screen they are watching. This feature, while well intentioned, is pretty awkward and cumbersome.

Final Thoughts

'Glee' is exciting, fun, and new, but can come across way too preachy at times. Some storylines seem to be completely one-sided and fail to take into account the feelings of the other side of the debate. My biggest problem with the show is that it tries too hard to focus on what makes the kids in the club different when its message is togetherness. At times it feels overly dramatic, especially during the long speeches from the characters about all sorts of hot-button topics. The music is a lot of fun though, but it's too bad the audio on this set isn't near what it should be. The video doesn't look all that great either. There's a good healthy portion of extras awaiting all you Gleeks, but the further you get into them, the more pointless they become.

I would recommend this for fans of the show, because I think they'll buy it anyway. Be warned though, this isn't the amazing audio experience you were hoping to have with a show like this.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
  • 4-Disc Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French Subtitles
  • Portuguese Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles

Supplements

  • Extended episodes
  • Sing-along karaoke
  • Behind-the-scenes look at "The Power of Madonna" episode
  • Glee Makeovers
  • Never-before-seen "Sue's Corners"
  • Dance tutorial: "Staying in Step with Glee"

Exclusive HD Content

  • Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary with Cast and Crew

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