When I first started watching GLEE nearly three years ago, it was totally out of curiosity. I have always liked Jane Lynch in every role she’s played, whether it be comedy or drama, and her portrayal of Sue Sylvester was hilarious. I liked the music and was excited that it introduced a whole new generation of viewers to old classics that I had grown up with. Mind you, I know I don’t exactly fit into their target demographics but I was interested in it enough to keep tuning in every week.
These days, I still watch GLEE, usually while cooking or eating dinner, and mostly to see what they do with their roster of talented guest stars, and yes, they do rely heavily on bringing in the big guns to push up the ratings – and perhaps to attract audiences like me who would otherwise have no interest in most of the regular cast.
Before the seven-week hiatus, we saw David Karofsky (Max Adler) – former football hero/chief school bully/closeted homosexual in love with Kurt (Chris Colfer) – attempting to commit suicide after becoming a victim of bullying himself. I would have liked to have seen this storyline develop more but all we got was a brief discussion amongst the teachers about how they could have prevented this and the school principal effectively saying it’s not their fault or responsibility. The kids had a little group discussion amongst themselves, too, but where was the school counselling?
Of course, I should have remembered that the teachers at McKinley High, in fact, are not qualified to do much. There’s a Spanish teacher (Matthew Morrison) who actually doesn’t know Spanish and a germaphobic OCD school counsellor (Jayma Mays) who thought “afternoon delight” was a dessert. Even Sue Sylvester has become nothing more than a “cray-cray” caricature of herself – she used to be mean-with-a-purpose but now seems to have developed multiple personalities.
The cliffhanger we were left with before the hiatus saw cheerleader Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) texting while driving and getting into a car accident. The season returned with Quinn in a wheelchair and bonding with Artie (Kevin McHale). Rachel (Lea Michele) spent the entire episode feeling guilty because it was her text message that Quinn was replying to when the accident happened but the up-side of that was the “Finnchel” (Finn – played by Cory Monteith – and Rachel) wedding was called off. I’m not sure how much time supposedly passed between the accident and when Quinn returned to school because I’m pretty sure spinal injuries would not be this easy to recover from…but I’m not medically trained and this is TV-land, after all.
This episode is titled “Big Brother” and that’s the best part of the show. Anyone who has been reading my reviews of USA Network’s White Collar or following me on Twitter will know what a huge fan I am of this week’s special guest star, Matt Bomer, and his performance here does not disappoint. I have long admired his many talents beyond just his (if I may steal a line from Bomer’s White Collar co-star Tim DeKay’s Peter Burke) “good looks and charm”. The best thing about his guest star turn in GLEE is that we get to see just how funny he is.
So, Bomer plays Cooper Anderson – big brother (hence the episode title) of Blaine’s (Darren Criss). Cooper is a “big Hollywood star” (not really) who found fame and employment as the face of a popular internet credit rating agency’s series of commercials. Apparently, I was wrong in thinking there was only “pilot season” in TV-land, there’s also “commercial season”, so while Coop is on hiatus, he comes home to visit little bro. It does not take long to know why Blaine has never talked about his big brother even to his boyfriend Kurt (although you’d expect if Kurt has ever been to Blaine’s house he would have at least seen a picture of Cooper around the house).
They say first impressions are important and Sue Sylvester wastes no time in 1) asking Cooper to sign her chest (something that many fans have dreamt of doing if given the chance), 2) calling him a “Disney Prince” and 3) asking him to give New Directions an acting master class to help improve their chances at “nationals”. Flattery gets you everywhere, especially when you think you’re a bigger star than you actually are, and Cooper accepts the challenge without hesitation.
Every scene Bomer is in is pure gold. His duet with Criss of the Duran Duran mash-up of “Hungry Like A Wolf” and “Rio” takes me back to my school days. Their dancing reminds me of everything I missed about the Warblers’ two-step (Blaine’s former school’s glee club) and exactly what boy bands are made of. The master class is so ridiculously good (in that every bit of advice Cooper gives is so bad) that I actually laughed out loud, especially when you know Bomer’s own real-life background. For example: “Don’t go to college” – Bomer studied at prestigious Carnegie Mellon University and “don’t go to New York” – Bomer worked in theatre in New York after graduation. Other advice includes “ignore your scene partners,” “point in a dramatic scene so people know who you’re talking to,” and “YELL because I’M AN INTENSE ACTOR, like Nicolas Cage.”
Blaine has always lived in the shadow of the brother he once admired and finally has had enough of his put-downs, and like a good Elvis movie, sings about it. Criss’ version of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” is strong and powerful (although I think many of his fans may be distracted by visions of him in the shower) and big brother finally realizes that his little brother didn’t want a star but a brother/friend – cue their duet of Gotye’s hit “Somebody That I Used To Know.” As much as I love this song, their performance on stage reminded me of soap actors (of which Bomer used to be one) who turn their backs to each other when they’re speaking.
Anyway, long story short, the Anderson brothers made up and hugged – Cooper holding on to Blaine longer than necessary so that he can remember the feeling in case he needs to use it for future roles. But the best part of the episode perhaps is what didn’t make it to air. A “Cooper Anderson Audition Tape” clip was released after the episode aired which featured Blaine helping Cooper auditioning for director Michael Bay’s Transformers 4. Incidentally, Bomer starred in Bay’s 2006 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
In other storylines in this episode, we found out the sex of Sue’s baby – it’s a girl and she’s likely to have some birth defects – although we still don’t know who the father is; senior ditch day will be at Six Flags (although I’m not sure why the entire Glee club ditched school given we have been told that only a few of the kids are seniors); and Puck (Mark Salling) is trying to convince Finn to move to California after graduation and partner with him in his pool-cleaning business which is threatening to break up “Finnchel.”
As I mentioned before, GLEE is like an Elvis movie – often the story is just there to serve whatever song choice is the theme of the week. It reminds me of my old school reports – full of potential but never quite getting there. For the purposes of TV awards, it is called a comedy, though it never quite gets the laughs that a comedy should (say, Modern Family, New Girl or Suburgatory) but it isn’t a drama because, well, it simply isn’t. For all the teen issues the show raises, the writers seem to always skirt around the periphery and never offering any closure.
Maybe that’s all their viewers are interested in, but the cast is large and there’s so much more that can be done with the characters of Santana (Naya Rivera), Brittany (Heather Morris), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Mike (Harry Shum Jr) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) instead of obsessing over Finnchel every week. The storylines go around like an iPod shuffle each season so it will be interesting to see how this season will wrap up, with the seniors graduating, and whether they will introduce yet more characters, no doubt from winners from the show’s talent contest offshoot The Glee Project.
If you have never watched GLEE before, don’t despair. You will still be able to enjoy this episode without prior history. At the very least, check out Cooper Anderson’s Audition Tape on YouTube.
“Big Brother” Review – closer to meeting its potential
Air date: April 10, 2012 on FOX
By Valerie Leung