On a day when we were reminded that Glee is not simply a “comedy” (no Golden Globe nominations this year), Glee vividly demonstrated its more well-rounded appeals itself with the series’ best holiday season show yet.
Glee, Actually, while gimmicky, got the job done. It told many tales, and told them well, freshening and updating characters and relationships, laying out important turning points and events, and always — always — entertaining with a spritely, spunky spirit.
A third annual Kurt and Blaine holiday duet, with a hep cat White Christmas sung on a Gotham ice skating rink. (Leaping lounge lizards, that was fun!) A warm and meaningful bonding of the extended Puckerman family. A black-and-white nod to It’s a Wonderful Life in which Rachel is a librarian and Artie dances. A Mayan Apocalypse delirium for sudden soulmates Sam and Brittany that leads to an altar — and I don’t mean a sacrificial one. I mean, what more can Gleeks ask for heading into six weeks of winter without our beloved show (which won’t return until Jan. 24, as Fox announced Thursday)?
And the music lived up to the story — without wallowing in sentiment. Sure, Sam and the Cheerios’ Jingle Bell Rock was a bit hokey and borderline relevant, but besides White Christmas’ retro charms, Marley’s heartfelt singing of The First Noel to her mother as their sole Christmas gift was touching, while Rachel’s tender I’ll Be Home For Christmas scored a masterfully intercut montage of Yule yearnings.
And don’t forget Puck and Jake’s rousing, infectious Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah as roaming troubadours on the Paramount lot. While the brothers had to travel absurdly far to tell this part of a fragmented tale, the actors didn’t have to go far at all, since Glee is shot at the same studio on Melrose — the most beautiful and classy lot in Tinseltown.
Artie’s Feliz Navidad from Jose Feliciano was about as pertinent as Sam’s spin on Bobby Helms’ ’50s rock hit, but also fun. And the closing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was classic Glee — fanciful, tuneful and heart-tugging. Even Scrooge-like Sue had to smile. (And thanks, Sue, for your O Henry generosity toward Marley and her mom.)
But for all the warm-fuzzies, this show also had edge, including Marley’s continuing (and still forced, in my opinion) subplot about an eating disorder (which is all the more shaky since she never evinced such an inclination until Kitty put the idea in her head). We also learned that Burt, Kurt’s beloved dad, has prostate cancer — a major health issue, as it should be, as my good friend who founded the Blue Cure Foundation can tell you. (Now, don’t go killing Burt off, Ryan Murphy. This most common male cancer is curable and slow-moving — and Burt is a gem — so let him live.) We also learned Puck is returning to Lima, and Blaine is applying to NYADA — a portentous declaration if ever there was one.
But largely this show was about warm holiday spirit and seductively sweet serenades. Sure, it followed a bit too closely Glee’s similarly sentimental Thanksgiving episode, but Glee, Actually was still welcome and worthy, and it sealed the deal for what’s now a new Glee tradition beyond maddeningly rote recycling of old styles and standards. Again, Glee has melded its snarky, offbeat bent to old-fashioned holiday sentiment, and balanced them beautifully.
So thanks, Glee, and director Adam Shankman. You’ve delivered a splendid holiday present worth unwrapping with repeat viewings.
Now if only it will keep us warm while awaiting new adventures in the new year.