DVD blog review: ‘GLEE: The Complete First Season: The GLEEK Edition’

For those who want to grouse about mean ‘ol Fox selling Glee in several configurations, look elsewhere. No one made you buy the fall season months ago, and you always can get the spring season separately now. Get over it.

But for those who’d rather celebrate TV’s finest show, here we go:

This week’s debut of Glee: The Complete First Season: The Gleek Edition on DVD and Blu-ray is worth such huzzahs, regardless of Emmy wins or losses or the haters who can’t get over the fact that Glee makes so many people so happy in so many ways. How dare Ryan Murphy and company!

But while eagerly awaiting season two’s premiere next week, those of us who love the show — and I don’t necessarily mean unconditionally — can take great satisfaction in its first full season’s job well done, as enshrined in this release.

Speaking of Glee co-creator, spokesman and head honcho Murphy, I will say this: I’m weary of his PC company line that Glee is all “about arts education.” Pleeease. If that were true,  it would be one of the lowest rated shows on TV. Instead, Glee is about original, heady, giddy entertainment in a rich hybrid that TV’s never seen. As a longtime entertainment journalist I have a perspective on this, so trust me. Glee is truly, inherently special.

Its saga of soul-searching misfits in a high school’s put-down show choir is technically a comedy, all right, but Glee also has many moving moments, from Kurt and his dad’s bonding to Rachel’s duet with a paralyzed boy for U2’s One to Mercedes’ stirringly defiant Beautiful. (And maybe that’s why Glee didn’t win an Emmy as TV’s best comedy — it’s not a half-hour sitcom with “here’s where it’s funny” laugh-track cues.)

But beyond being a comedy, a drama or a dramedy, Glee is about songs and their performances. And it’s about time. Try naming any scripted TV show over the past 60 years where that’s been more true. And if you love music as I do, that’s the chief reason you love Glee, which not only  reinterprets and “mashes up” great songs but also exalts an eclectic mix of music, introducing all of us to songs we didn’t know — and in a narrative context that makes them truly sing.

With music being central to Glee, I’m delighted that Fox has offered a new extra feature for the complete season release which it didn’t provide for the fall season discs: a “video jukebox.” For the spring “back nine” shows only (pity),  a menu displays the titles of each song on each episode,  which you can play in sequence, or randomly, or individually — you decide. It lets you go straight to the music if you don’t want to commit to seeing the whole show. (I’d advocated such a “songs only” feature in my review of Glee Season 1, Volume 1: Road to Sectionals.)

Along with Karaoke spins for four songs, other new extras include Bite Their Style: Dress Like Your Favorite Gleek, a revealing nine-minute look at how costumers cobble together outfits from So Cal buying sprees; Unleashing the Power of Madonna, an 11-minute study of creating that superb episode;  Staying in Step With Glee, a six-minute how-to on the choreography for Rehab; and Making of a Showstopper, a 17-minute report on shooting Bohemian Rhapsody. (Note that these do not add up to two hours of new material, as promised on the box, but apparently that claim includes the  extras from the fall season DVD,  now also included here.)

While I love seeing such extras, Making of a Showstopper is where I draw a line.

Has there ever been a more overrated musical element on Glee than Vocal Adrenaline WITH Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff)? Before he unaccountably appeared as its “star” in the spring, Vocal Adrenaline without him actually was better. First, they kicked the McKinley kids’ ass with Rehab, then again with Mercy. They were a GROUP — a glee CLUB — an ENSEMBLE, singing and dancing vibrantly like a show choir should.

But when Jesse appeared as their lead singer/dancer, they became a faceless backup act for a performer who, while charismatic, didn’t really have the chops to lead them and make the show all about him. Take AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, which became an embarrassingly bad example of hard-rock posing. Or take Bohemian Rhapsody, a flailing, unfocused mess which in no way made VA a slam-dunk to win regionals.

Yet in the featurette it gets heaps of hype from the creators, at the expense of a far better performance by New Directions for its Journey songs. Oh well.

Oops — there I go, picking nits about my favorite show when all I really want to do is sing its praises. Hush my mouth. Everyone’s a critic — especially me — but this boldly original show merits some slack. Back to boosting.

So, as we avidly await Glee’s return, let’s return to celebrating it, from the incredible cast led by Lea Michele, Matt Morrison and Emmy winning Jane Lynch to the edgy, comical and caustic writing to the memorable music that so often does its genres proud. I have never been more entertained or more fully satisfied by any TV program than this clever concoction which has songs in its heart and wears that heart on its sleeve — when it’s not being jabbed with Sue’s balancing barbs.

Thank you, Ryan Murphy and the cast and crew of Glee. You’re  not perfect — no one is — but you’ve delivered a debut season to beat all debut seasons, and I cherish having it on DVD.

Now let’s get busy and plunge into Season Two — from the top!

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