The second season of 'Glee' was full of blatantly preachy episodes that confused cloying sentimentality with genuine acceptance. It got really hard to like the show after another not-so-subtle acceptance lecture was forced down our collective throats, especially when the writers were seemingly hell-bent on presenting every character at their most stereotypical. 'Glee's message is usually, "Look past the stereotypes and accept people for who they really are, even though we can't seem to write characters who don't exist within those rigid stereotypes." At times it almost felt like the show was reaching out and slapping our knuckles with a ruler, chastising us on how unloving of a society we are. The episodes usually focused on one subject – obesity, racial tensions, sex, bullying – and proceeded to drum Ryan Murphy's thoughts into our heads. It's not that 'Glee's messages were bad or hurtful, it's just that they were so overbearing. Like watching an episode of 'Saved by the Bell' but with more music. A few episodes made me think, "Okay. I get it. Please give it a rest."
The third season still features some of those annoying lessons, but not nearly as many and not nearly as blatantly, as the second season did. Instead the third season is more set on moving the main storylines forward. The season feels more like a cohesive unit, rather than a jumble of public service announcements packaged in with some entertaining singing and dancing.
Fresh off their relative no-show at Nationals, New Directions is looking to revamp their style. Everyone is onboard at first, but as with every 'Glee' season the backbiting and drama threatens to tear the group apart for approximately the 23rd time.
Early on in the season tempers begin to flare. Jealousy hits the group as Mercedes (Amber Riley) is furious that she doesn't get picked over Rachel (Lea Michele) for the lead in the school's production of 'West Side Story.' Santana (Naya Rivera) is having a tough time trying to hide her own sexuality which causes tensions within the group. Kurt (Chris Colfer), Brittany (Heather Morris), and Rachel are at each other's throats during a multi-episode story arc where the three of them run for class president. Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) has glimpses of his old cutthroat ways when he decides to push a few of the glee club members a little too far for the sake of Sectionals.
It's all the normal 'Glee' drama really, but it's nice that the show seems a little more focused on storylines than preachy messages. They still do preach about things, don't get me wrong, but in more subtle, abstract ways. Like in one of my favorite episodes of the season, "An Asian F," where Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) faces down his father in a war over his own future. Mike wants to dance, his father wants him to be a doctor. The emotion in this episode feels much more genuine than most 'Glee' episodes and they end up covering the, "Follow your dreams," lesson without shoving it in your face.
I know a lot of people really like Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). As much as I really like Jane Lynch as an actor, this has become the most tiresome character in the show. It's really annoying to see her learn something in one episode, to show a bit of kindness, and then see that all forgotten once the next episode rolls around simply because the writers love writing her pithy long-winded diatribes. Many of the characters suffer from this sitcom formula, where most of the things learned in the previous episode are forgotten or dismissed for the next episode so as not to change the status quo. This is one of the show's major drawbacks.
While the singing and dancing is entertaining at times, the novelty is gone. I know some people fast forward to the musical numbers, but I find myself wondering when they'll be over. Some of the song choices are so painfully obvious that it's hard not to laugh at the fact that they just picked Coldplay's "Fix You" to illustrate how sad everyone's life is right at that moment in the show. Then, just so we know everything's all right, a little while later an upbeat, emotional song is picked so the once at-each-other's-throats glee clubbers can now hug, make up, and move on.
I did end up enjoying season three more than season two, but many of the show's formulaic problems remain. Season three's finale does provide a good lead-in to season four. A season that promises a shake-up in the cast as members graduate and move on. So, season four potentially holds a little more promise for characters that will grow and develop rather than sit stagnant.
The first season of 'Glee' on Blu-ray was somewhat troublesome because of errant noise. Season two handled that problem well and corrected it. Season three follows in season two's footsteps and provides a spunky, colorful 1080p presentation.
'Glee' is a highly-detailed presentation that actually appears filmic in texture since it's actually still filmed on film. A light grain structure accompanies the show. It doesn't really have an impact on the overall clarity though as there is plenty of detail to be had, from facial to textual.
Darker scenes, specifically those with black backgrounds (which is a few of the musical numbers) do feature some blips of noise here and there, but nothing as bad as season one. Banding was noticeable in one or two episodes that had particularly hard gradients while lights were flashing around on stage as people were singing and dancing. Colors are vibrantly vivid. From the scorching pink of Quinn's new rebel hairdo to the bright crimson red lettering on the cheerleading uniforms, and even the multi-colored slushies that get thrown on the glee-clubbers, the colors here are rich and satisfying. Fans will be quite happy with this presentation. It's extremely faithful to the colorful, bubbly personality of the show.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation will also please the many fans who tune in just to see the numerous song numbers performed. While most of the show tends toward the sitcom-style of dialogue, it switches the whole audio mix up routinely once the musical numbers kick in. When that happens the mix morphs into more of a concert Blu-ray type of a mix instead of a plain old TV show. Yes, the dialogue and all that stuff comes across clear. But that's not what you really want to hear. What you want to know is if the musical numbers pack a wallop and will keep you singing along with the characters. I'm here to tell you that, yes, it will.
Once the show changes over to music mode the bass kicks in (especially during rock songs like "Hot for Teacher"). The rear channels echo the lyrics and create a very concert-like atmosphere. Will the presentation blow you away like the best concert Blu-rays out there? Not especially. It still seems a tad on the reserved side, but will do for fans who want to crank it up loud and have a karaoke night with friends.
'Glee' has always struck me as too preachy for its own good, especially when it makes no real effort to give its characters many more layers than the ones that are already provided by their cultural stereotypes. Season three seemed to lay off the acceptance lectures and tried to tie up a lot of the character arcs as best it could, which was a nice change from the second season. This season has some well-done audio and video presentations, but I'd still say it's for fans only, simply because if you're not into 'Glee' by now there's no sense getting in on the show's third season.