Some Glee Clubs Need to Learn the Meaning of “Team”

December 3, 2010

Another Glee competition, another missed opportunity to truly shine as a team.

After the every competition episode, I seem to blog about teamwork and vocal arrangements. (Here’s my post on last season’s sectionals, and last season’s regional competition.)

A good Glee club showcases all of its talent. It can’t just be a star with a bunch of back up singers. That’s not a Glee club. That’s a music video.

This past episode was actually about teamwork and why New Directions needs to work on it! YAY! Mr. Schue finally called Rachel on her massive ego and finally told her that it wasn’t all about her. And he gave the solos to people we don’t hear from much.

But… in the end, concept never met execution.

The soloists were new, but it was still soloist + backup singers. As much as this episode focused on teamwork, when push came to shove, there was a lot more teamwork in their singing in last season’s regional competition.

That competition featured several singers in most of the songs. Solos were only a line or two long and pretty much everyone got one. This week they said they were doing teamwork, but all the did was elevate people who we usually don’t hear from. The only teamwork we actually saw was spoken, when Rachel helped Kurt prep for his audition and when the team cheered for Kurt’s new team.

So close, yet so far.

The Warblers, Kurt’s new Glee club they tied with are just as bad, if not worse. Kurt’s told not to try so hard, to not stand out, that they wear a uniform because it’s about the team, not the individual. But… that’s perfectly fine for Blaine to say because every song we’ve heard the Warblers sing has been all-Blaine-all-the-time, with his backup singers. Now, as a Darren Criss fan, I don’t mind too much, BUT don’t make him say a bunch of lies about teamwork.

The dialogue’s not matching the vocals. Part of me wonders if the writers need to learn what teamwork is, because as much as the characters talk on and on and on and on and on about it, they’re not actually doing it.

They need to stop talking the talk if they’re never going to walk the walk.

New Directions Lost? What?!

June 8, 2010

In January, I wrote a post about why New Directions would lose Regionals. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a Glee thing.)

My premise was that New Directions relied too heavily on the “strong soloist with backing vocals” arrangements, while their main competition, Vocal Adrenaline truly performed as an ensemble.  Because of this, I said that Vocal Adrenaline was the stronger group and would therefore win the great sing off.


I was right, they did win and our plucky heroes lost, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Why New Horizons is going to lose Regionals

January 20, 2010

In order to get me through the dark months before Glee starts back up in April, I’ve downloaded all of the songs from iTunes and have been listening to them nonstop.

If you download the songs that just aren’t on the albums, you get two songs that are performed (in the show) by Vocal Adrenaline, the best glee club in Western Ohio, and our plucky little group’s main competition. The two tracks by Vocal Adrenaline are markedly different than the others by New Horizons, and it shows why they are the superior group. The answer is all in the arrangements.

As much as Mr. Schuester protests in every episode that Glee is a team, it’s not. It’s Rachel and Quinn Finn (sometimes, for variety, Mercedes and Artie) singing lead vocals and everyone else oohing and ahhing in the background. Now, if Michelle Lea (who plays Rachel) were in my Glee club, I’ d give her every solo, too (Did you hear her sing “Don’t Rain on my Parade” in the finale?!) But… this style of arrangement, with a soloist or two in front and everyone else providing rhythm backup is the trap of the crappy glee club.

Vocal Adrenaline (which is cast with actors playing characters who don’t get names) doesn’t do this. The choir sings the song. One or two lines might be a solo, but the entire choir sings the bulk of the song. The show is probably only doing this because the focus is on our stars, and it’s about showcasing their talent, but in the end, they made Vocal Adrenaline an actual team, where New Horizons should be renamed “Rachel and the Misfits.”

The cast breaks into song enough that isn’t a rehearsal, the producers can still showcase their star soloists and still have a glee club that actually acts and, more importantly, sings, like the team they keep claiming they are.

And then they can get around to singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” because that’s a song that they need to sing.

-posted by kidsilkhaze

Is Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse the Most Intellectually Engaging Series on American Television?

October 10, 2009

Do you believe you have a soul?

Season 2 Promo

Dollhouse Starring Eliza Dushku

Forget for a moment whether that soul continues to exist after you die; I’m not asking what color your religion is. Instead, I’d like to know whether you believe there’s something more to being human than mere material subsistence: consciousness, the capacity for rational thought, the emotional, intellectual, and logical processes that in some important way set us apart from our animal friends.

Do you believe that part of your existence is prospectively separable from your physical existence, intellectually, mechanically, digitally, or spiritually? That’s what I mean when I ask whether you believe you have a soul – is your essence distinct from your substance?

From militantly devout atheists to eagerly martyred Islamic extremists, almost all of us believe in this kind of a soul, an intellectual consciousness somehow divisible from our skin and bones, our axons and dendrites, a soul which is the source of our notion of justice and our capacities for abstract reasoning. We are logical and emotional and not merely biological beings, or so we believe.

But what do these beliefs imply? What if we could literally separate our consciousness from our body while that body continued to live? Would we want to? What is the moral status of our body while we are separated from it? Are we still connected to it, or has it somehow taken on a moral existence of its own?

And what if we could watch a television series that engaged these questions, and each week explored further the questions generated by that scenario? Fox’s Dollhouse, created by Joss Whedon (Firefly, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and starring Eliza Dushku (Bring it On, True Lies) and Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica), does just this, and may be the most intellectually engaging television series in the history of American television.

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Saying goodbye to Reading Rainbow

August 28, 2009

The news on the radio this morning told me that today is the final day for Reading Rainbow. This makes me incredibly sad. It is the 3rd longest running show on PBS, after only Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. I am only 3 years older than this show, so it has effectively been around for my entire life. I found myself spontaneously singing the theme song just this past weekend when I spotted a butterfly in the yard. In elementary school, when we were waiting for our parents to come pick us up, tapes of Reading Rainbow episodes were among the few approved things we could watch once outside time was over. (Episodes of Square One were also approved. Man, now I miss Mathnet.)

I loved Reading Rainbow. I loved the illustrations from the books. I loved hearing the new stories and seeing them present ones I’d already read. I loved Levar Burton and the strangeness of seeing him in both that show and Star Trek, which was, of course, another childhood television mainstay. But the show has been on for 26 years now, so I think I could more happily let it go, if it weren’t for this explanation of why the show is ending:

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No. 1 Ladies Detective to be No. 1 TV Star?

May 20, 2009

When Mma Ramotswe hit the literary scene as the No. 1 Ladies Detective, she made quite a splash and it wasn’t just her “traditional build”. Alexander McCall Smith, a native of what is now Zimbabwe, has managed to create a credible African female character – not an easy task. McCall Smith clearly knows his subject matter well and takes great care to create an Africa that most of his readers don’t know exists: peaceful, charming, modern, traditional and most of all personal.

As someone who lives in the part of the world that McCall Smith writes about, it’s the balance of the modern and the traditional that is so hard to get right in contemporary Africa. Where else in the world could you drive past a mud hut with a pickup in the driveway and a satellite tv dish on the roof?

It’s this delicate balance that McCall seems to hit so squarely on the head.

In a similarly subtle vein, the mysteries that arrive on the doorstep of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency are gentle and nonviolent, caught somewhere between where Africa has been and where she’s going, but also cutting to the heart of what makes us all human: love, jealously, lust, greed and compassion.

What the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency doesn’t have much of is action.

Not entirely unlike Africa herself, McCall Smith’s storyline are more talk than action, with characters focusing on reviewing their interactions with one another far more than solving the mysteries at hand. In fact, it is usually this pondering of life and humanity that leads our heroine, Mma Ramotswe, to her mystery’s solution. In turn, McCall Smith’s serial mysteries have a somewhat formulaic pattern, not entirely unlike the way most of us would think of everyday life.

As Mma Ramotswe moves from our imaginations to HBO, it will be a challenge to break away from McCall Smith’s redundant tendencies and continue to capture a viewer who wants to see something different each week.

If there’s one thing the series should keep coming back to, it’s the stunning visual of Botswana’s clear open sky and endless veld.

-posted by bodyinmotion

Yet Another Immortal Detective

March 5, 2008

As if the television sprites were reading this blog last week and decided to grant my wish, Fox has finally actually started airing episodes of New Amsterdam. As I said in a comment on my last post, I found it very interesting this summer when they started advertising both this show and Moonlight at the same time. Immortals have become trendy again.

Last night was the first episode of the show, and if it seems like I’m writing about it awfully early in the game, well, it is a Fox show, so I’d better talk about it now before it gets cancelled, eh? It is definitely a show that fits in well with the “angsty immortals with relationship issues” genre. Which, I should emphasize, is not to say that it’s a bad show in any way; I actually quite liked it. But it was amusing to me that, even though this show is not about a vampire, it neatly sets the stage for a hefty focus on relationships quite early.

It turns out, you see, that John Amsterdam was made immortal by a Native American shaman back in the early colonial days, so that he would remain alive until he found “the one, and your souls are bound together.” So for the last 400 years, he’s been living in New York, looking for his true love, which, as his friend puts it, really means that he’s looking for his death. Amsterdam seems very tired of living forever, and when he ends up having a heart attack near the beginning of the episode and technically dies for a little while, his friend says he looks actually happy for the first time in a long time. This is apparently supposed to mean that his true love was nearby for the first time, presumably to get the overarching plot rolling.

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Vampire Detectives of the Small Screen

February 29, 2008

Where was I? Oh, yes, the angst and drama surrounding vampire/mortal relationships. As it turns out, TV has been a wonderful place for these to play out. sonetka alluded to some of that going on in Buffy, but I never watched Buffy regularly. Instead, I watched two amazingly similar shows about vampire detectives, separated in airtime by a little more than a decade.

The first series, Forever Knight, I first saw during my impressionable youth, watched regularly for a while, lost track of, never finished, and then rediscovered upon joining Netflix during the dark days of graduate school. It was a Canadian show that had made its way down to the US, to which I was introduced by my aunt and uncle from Chicago, who could always be counted upon to feed my interest in fantasy. It was an awesome show, in a really-bad-early-90s-special-effects kind of way. In the first season, for example, the transformation to vampire mode was signified by the screen darkening and a yellow rectangle of light appearing in a bar over the vampire’s eyes, because they hadn’t yet figured out how to change just the eye color. But these are minor issues, I assure you.

The show is pretty much entirely driven by the main character, Toronto police detective Nick Knight.* Nick has been a vampire for 800 years now, and for the last several hundred has been looking for a cure. As the opening credits narration so eloquently puts it (in the voice of Nick’s nemesis and master, no less): “He was brought across in 1228. Preyed on humans for their blood. Now he wants to be mortal again. To repay society for his sins. To emerge from his world of darkness. From his endless… Forever (K)night.” Can you see where all the tension between the pros and cons of vampirism and mortality might come in here?

Here are the dichotomies, as embodied by various major characters:

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Vampire Detectives of the Page

February 26, 2008

Like sonetka, I too have been thinking about vampires. In part this is due to the recent resurgence of immortality on TV, (namely CBS’s Moonlight,) but I’ve actually had vampires, and more specifically vampire detectives, in my life since high school, so I’m going to backtrack and look at this weird theme from the beginning, starting where sonetka left off, in books.

My first encounter with the combination of vampire and detective fiction came through my high school enjoyment of Mercedes Lackey‘s books. Her Valdemar series is gaining something of the never-ending quality of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, but, also like McCaffrey, she has been prolific in other series as well. One of those other series was the Diana Tregarde Investigations set. There were only three books in the series, Children of the Night, Burning Water, and Jinx High, due to, I kid you not, unbalanced fans threatening Lackey for revealing the truth of occult police work (and a bunch of other stuff.)

In any case, Lackey’s main character, Diana Tregarde, is a Guardian, who guards the force, fights evil, etc., etc. She must solve occult-based mysteries to save the world, which makes for some weird and wacky plots, but with some good fantasy/horror suspension of disbelief, everything makes sense within the context of the book. They’re fast-paced, like any good adventure mystery, and not nearly as cheesy as they sound initially. But what does Diana do to pay the bills when she’s not out fighting monsters? She writes romance novels. And who does she meet in the first book, who helps her gain insight into the dark side of the occult world, and also happens to be tall, dark, devastatingly handsome, and averse to sunlight? A vampire boyfriend, of course. Sound familiar? The vampire boyfriend turned out to be one of the more interesting side characters, but given that the next two mysteries took place out of town, he mostly became relegated to phone conversations and textual references, and then the series ended and we heard of him no more. Alas.

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Dead Handsome: Buffy Vs. Bella

February 23, 2008

Last week a friend lent me a copy of Twilight, swearing up and down that I would love it – she never buys hardbacks but made an exception for this, so she really thinks highly of it. I’d heard of the Twilight series before but until I looked the books up on Amazon I hadn’t realized what a phenomenon they were; since the author is a Mormon BYU grad I had thought her popularity was more local. But apparently, girls across the continent are fighting over first rights to Edward Cullen, brooding, conflicted vampire hero who’s in love with a high school girl approximately 1/6th his age. Now, where have I heard a story like that before?

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