Glee: Season 3 (US - BD RA)
Gabe tries so hard to find his inner Gleek, but even HD video doesn't help...
This Glee review screener arrived two days after its release date and am already quite busy, so I’m going to keep this review pretty short. All apologize to Glee fans hoping for something more substantial. I’m also finding it nearly impossible to break the series’ labyrinthine storyline down to a workable, single-paragraph plot synopsis, so I’m going to just leave this not particularly showy wikipedia wrap-up here: ‘The series features the New Directions glee club at the fictional William McKinley High School in the town of Lima, Ohio. Season three follows the club through local and regional show choir competitions to the national competition in Chicago while its members deal with college, life plans, relationships, sexuality, and social issues. The central characters are glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), and glee club members Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss), Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.), Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz), Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron), Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris) and Noah "Puck" Puckerman (Mark Salling).’
I come to Glee as a series outsider. I’m not here to judge the series or its fans, I just want to give my alien view on what I think is a unique television phenomenon that I happen to not really enjoy watching all that much. I get it, I’m happy that it’s popular, but I’m just finding it harder and harder to keep watching (not that I watched a lot in the first place). As I understand it, most fans have even begun to lose faith in Glee, which makes me feel a little better about generally disliking this experience in spite of myself. Perhaps those fans will even forgive the next thing I’m about to say: Glee has always been a reasonably clever, funny, and sometimes even cleverly funny show, but, as a phenomenon outsider, I can’t help but compare it to the ostensibly kid-friendly High School Musical series. As an adult male I feel like I’m supposed to hate both shows, but what I’ve seen of both is generally well-made fluff. Glee has more social ‘importance’ based on its treatment of fringe culture, minorities, handicapped/handi-capable culture, and, obviously, gay culture (there’s no question it has had at least some effect on Middle America’s developing acceptance of homosexuality), but High School Musical came first, and I can’t help but assume it set the stage for Glee’s success. There’s also the matter of the High School Musical series featuring original songs and compositions, which is ultimately my biggest problem with Glee, even during its more ‘successful’ seasons.
I love a good musical performance and a theatrical film-like representation of said performance, which gives Glee a pretty big pass. There are huge thrills in the show’s musical moments – for example, I get genuine thrills when characters hit that impossible note. It’s really great. But I’ve heard so many of these songs before and, besides maybe the show tunes, I find that I’d almost always rather listen to the original versions. I know appropriation has been the show’s thing since it blew everyone’s mind with that a capella rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. Straying from the formula at this point would be, I don’t know, awkward, and I’m sure all the original artists appreciate the bump in iTunes sales, but cover songs rarely have the shelf life of original songs. This is really glorified Karaoke that the audience is physically incapable of interacting with. Only three seasons in and Glee already feels like old news, even among its fan base, and this can’t be a good thing. This said, I do find the occasional original song quite entertaining and often the best way for the series to deal with particularly dramatic character interactions. Also in this season’s defense, there is a pretty solid lean on show tunes over pop tunes and the bulk of that is spent with West Side Story, which is my personally favourite musical. I very much appreciate the not so subtle way the writers keep blending the subtext of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim music into the story themes, especially in episode five, The First Time.
The part of the show that is most obviously lost on me is the soap opera, ‘will-he/she-won’t-he/she’ melodrama, not only because I find it tiring, but, because I haven’t been sticking with the series in any way. At one point I had to ask my girlfriend, who was watching the season with me and who has a fan’s understanding of the characters, one of the silliest questions I’ve ever asked – ‘Is this character that character’s mom, that other character’s child’s adoptive mother, and that child’s biological father’s lover?’ She told me yes, except for the lover part that was going to occur later on in the season. There are decades-running telenovelas and comic books that aren’t this convoluted. If I’d been with the series from the beginning, I’m sure these convolutions would be a big part of the fun and addiction, but I’m an outsider and as an outsider, this stuff is exhausting. There are some potent politics mixed in with the soap opera hysterics and it’s rare that the show ever takes itself too seriously, so those of us rolling our eyes at repetitive character issues have something else to latch onto. It’s easy to laugh both along with and at the show. I’m also forced to appreciate the shows dynamic filming and editing styles, which carry the melodrama and quirky comedy along between the perpetually more entertaining musical moments.
According to specs, Glee is shot on 35mm film, which I find surprising based on its outrageously colourful production design. This makes total sense watching the series on full 1080p Blu-ray disc, where all the grain and usual impurities of film are made plenty clear. It actually creates a unique look among modern television series in its mix of old-school film and newfangled digital grading processes – sort of a natural versus theatrical thing, which is in keeping with the show’s more obvious themes. Foreground textures and details are quite sharp and mostly natural with little compression or even film grain, but backgrounds are usually left somewhat out of focus, even during the big, sweeping musical/music-video moments. Background clarity is rarely incredible and features a bit of noise over the fuzzier edges. There’s also a little issue with some of the harsher contrasts showing a minor haloes. Colours are relatively natural, specifically skin tones and basic school building décor, but are given an obvious boost throughout, especially in costumes and theatrical set pieces. Red levels, which are used as highlights, are particularly clean without noticeable compression artefacts or bleeding. Blacks are deep without crushing out too many details, though it is a bit difficult to discern blacks from deep blues and browns.
Glee is, as you might already know, largely based around musical sequences and these sequences encompass many, many musical styles. This Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack helps ensure every one of these disparate musical types, from show tunes to modernized pop music and rock ‘n’ roll numbers. The music is presented in a nice wide stereo spread with the major vocals appropriately centered, plenty of non-distracting rear channel additions, and a heavy, punchy LFE presence. The lossless quality of the track helps keep the volume levels consistent and allows higher volume punches to build without any notable distortion. It would be easy for some of the more noisy bits to blow out or turn to mud on a standard DVD release’s audio. More simply stated, the music on this track is just so rich and warm that I can’t imagine anyone complaining. Music is rarely absent from the mix, shuffling throughout the channels during character discussion without overwhelming the dialogue. Directional and immersive ambient effects are also mostly delegated to the big song and dance numbers, but there is a bit of generic ‘school noise’ in the hallways and outdoors that settles well against the buzzing background music.
The extras begin on disc one with Glee Under the Stars (7:50, HD), a look at an event featuring cast and crew members doing a Q and A with fans. This is followed by a ‘Ginger Supremacists’ extended scene (4:10, HD) and a ‘Sue Flashback’ deleted scene (2:40, HD). Disc two features a ‘Santa Baby’ deleted scene (3:50, HD). Disc three features Glee Give a Note (7:50, HD), another fan event where the people at Glee and Fox donated a big pile of cash to a middle school musical theater troupe. The fourth and final disc in the collection starts with Glee Swap: Behind the Scenes of ‘Props’ (5:40, HD), a making-of featurette on the ‘character swap’ episode, complete with cast interviews. Meet the Newbies (13:20, HD) includes interviews with new cast members Damian McGinty, Samuel Larsen, Lindsay Pearce, Alex Newell, Vanessa Lengies, and NeNe Leakes. Saying Goodbye (15:20, HD) interviews actors leaving the series (or so they say), including Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin McHale, Cory Monteith, Harry Shum, Jr., and Chris Colfer. Also on the last disc is Ask Sue: World Domination Blog (6:10, HD) and Return of Sue’s Quips (3:00, HD). Each disc also features a Glee Music Jukebox. This allows fans to access musical moments from each episode on the disc and includes a shuffle option. This is a branching option, so the musical moments are presented in full HD and DTS-HD MA 5.1.
I whole-heartedly hope this pseudo-ending to the series (some characters are leaving, some are staying) satisfied the show’s ardent fans. From what I can gather the finale hit the correct dramatic notes, they just didn’t mean much to me as an outside party. Glee feels like a stunt of a show, but even without enjoying it I can appreciate it and all the things it does for its fans, some of which might feel out of step with most popular television entertainment. This Blu-ray release looks very good and sounds fantastic, but doesn’t feature much in the way of special features.
* Note: The images on this page aren't representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 21st August 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Glee Music Jukebox, Glee Under the Stars, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Glee Give a Note, Glee Swap: Behind the Scenes of ‘Props’, Meet the Newbies, Saying Goodbye, Ask Sue: World Domination Blog, Return of Sue’s Quips
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Cory Monteith, Jane Lynch, Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin McHale, Cory Monteith, Harry Shum, Jr., and Chris Colfer
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Musical
Length: 960 minutes