Monday, July 19, 2010

Glee 1.19: "Dream On"

“Show choir kills.”
-Bryan Ryan

“Dream On” was probably the most anticipated event of the spring TV season (other than the “Lost” finale, perhaps) for me. It combined three of my favorite things: Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris, and “Glee.” How could it not be great! On most levels, it met or exceeded my expectations. Really, the only thing I found lacking was some of the dialogue. I wished that Joss had written the episode in addition to directing it. The direction of this episode, however, was indeed fantastic. I could see Joss’ vision all over it. The shots seemed more carefully composed than they usually are, and he has a knack for catching beautiful little moments like the sunlight glinting off a school bus window. Neil Patrick Harris as Bryan Ryan also gave as good of a performance as I expected of him, even if the producers’ constant overuse of Autotune didn’t allow him to truly showcase his considerable talents.

The episode opens with Will being called into Principal Figgins’ office to meet a new member of the school board, Bryan Ryan. It turns out that Will already knew Bryan Ryan, who attended McKinley High at the same time Will did. Bryan was popular, or at least as popular as you can be and still be in Glee Club. Will flashes back to watching Bryan sing “Daydream Believer” with a hot girl, complete with a burning-piece-of-paper-turning-into-a-bouquet-of-flowers magic trick. I love how, like with Barney Stinson on HIMYM, Harris’ love of magic tends to be written into the roles he plays. Both Bryan and Barney also seem to really like to incorporate pyrotechnics into their magic, which had me laughing hysterically. Bryan is auditing spending on all of McKinley’s arts programs, and he seems determined to cut the Glee Club. After he graduated, Bryan worked at an amusement park and did the cruise ship circuit, then found himself unable to break into show business further. He now runs a show choir support group. Bryan asks Will if he can speak to the glee club, and Will allows it. Will comes to regret this, though, when Bryan gives a long speech about how all their dreams of show business are never going to come true.

Since every episode of “Glee” sticks pretty closely to the title theme-wise, the other plots in this episode also deal with following dreams. When Bryan gave his demoralizing speech, he asked everyone in the glee club to write their dream down on a piece of paper, then he ripped Artie’s up and threw it in the trash can. Tina snooped in the trash can after class and discovered that Artie’s true dream is to be a dancer, even though Artie says he’d like to learn how to do camerawork. Learning to direct is a realistic goal, considering his condition makes dancing unlikely. Tina doesn’t see it that way, though. She wants to put together a dance number for their glee club assignment of the week. We also explore Rachel’s dream in this episode. After a lot of prodding by Jesse (who is back from “spring break” and not so angry about “Run, Joey, Run”-gate), Rachel says her true dream is to meet her biological mom. Jesse thinks a full-on investigation into the situation is in order.

Will thinks he can change Bryan’s decision about the glee club if he can reconnect Bryan to his musical past. They go out for drinks, and Will tries to make his pitch. Bryan reveals that he still does love music and theatre, and three times a year he tells his wife he’s going on a business trip but goes to see a Broadway show instead. Will queues up Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on the jukebox, and the two of them have a lovely sing-along. This was my favorite musical performance of the episode, and I really wish it had been included among the show’s many iTunes downloads. Although, I fear that if it had been released to iTunes, it would have been horribly produced and Autotuned and wouldn’t retain any of what I loved about it. When you have Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morrison singing together, there is absolutely, whatsoever no need for Autotune. There ends my rant about Autotune for this post.- I think. Anyway, after the duet, Will encourages Bryan to audition for a local production of “Les Misérables” and Will says he’s going to audition, too.

At the audition, the competitiveness between Will and Bryan ramps up. They try to psych each other out. Will says he’s going to sing “The Impossible Dream,” and Bryan says that’s what he was going to sing. Will then says he’s changed his mind to Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” and Bryan says that’s what he’s going to sing too. Soon, the director has had enough of both of them and says they should sing “Dream On” as a duet. Both actors seem to have quite a lot of fun rocking out to the sing, although the Autotune kind of ruins the whole thing. Which is a shame, considering “Dream On” is one of my favorite songs. Bryan’s rejuvenated by the whole experience, and he decides he’s going to cut the Cheerios budget to give New Directions more funding. And he manages to be so charismatic about the whole thing that Sue sleeps with him even though he’s cutting her budget. Well, she sleeps with him because she likes “angry sex,” but that’s really besides the point. Sue isn’t out of the funding game for long, though. As Bryan is happily showing off some costume and sheet music purchases to New Directions, Sue barges in to the choir room to announce that the casting decisions have been made for “Les Misérables.” Will will be Valjean, and Bryan will be a townsperson with one line.

Bryan’s decided to cut glee club again, and Will trys to talk him out of it before the first “Les Mis” rehearsal. Will’s first tactic is to show Bryan a yearbook and explain how all the New Directions kids were pigeonholed by labels before they had a chance to shine as part of the glee club. Bryan’s not buying it through. Finally, Will offers to resign as Valjean and give the part to Bryan. Bryan happily accepts, and New Directions has their funding back. Personally, I think the more amusing solution would have been to give Bryan the role of Javert, then he and Will could sing the Confrontation Song. It wouldn’t be the first time Neil had done so. Anyway, the kids protest a little bit when they find out Will gave up the part to keep the club going, but Will says he’s willing to sacrifice his dream to help make theirs come true.

Rachel keeps vacillating about how much she really wants to know about her mom. First she makes up stories about how Patti LuPone or Bernadette Peters must be her mom, but Jesse still wants to do a real investigation. While they’re going through all the information Rachel’s dads have stored in her basement, Jesse sneaks a tape into one of the boxes. When Rachel finds it, we discover it’s a tape from her mom. She doesn’t want to listen to it at first, but eventually Jesse gets her to. It turns out he’s been secretly meeting with Shelby, director of Vocal Adrenaline, who just happens to also be Rachel’s mom. She claims that she regrets not getting to know Rachel and she’s trying to right a wrong. It still makes Jesse look like a jerk though, considering he got close to Rachel under false pretenses. The tape is of Shelby singing “I Dreamed a Dream,” and Rachel sings along to make it a rather beautiful duet. It’s one of the episode’s better musical performances.

Artie and Tina’s dance number doesn’t go as well. Artie, not satisfied with “tap wheels” on his wheelchair, wants to try to use crutches, and he’s humiliated when he immediately falls down in front of Tina. Tina doesn’t give up, though, and she gives Artie a bunch of research she found online about new cutting-edge therapies for spinal cord injuries. Tina and Artie take a trip to the mall, and Artie’s newfound hope leads him to daydream a big flash mob dance scene to “Safety Dance.” The scene is quite a lot of fun, and it looks like Joss had quite a bit of fun filming it, too. He got to go all Busby Berkeley again like he did with “My Freezeray” in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.” Artie makes an appointment to see Emma, explaining that when one of these new therapies works, he’s going to need some counseling to deal with his newfound mobility. Emma is quite the buzzkill, though, and she brings Artie back down to Earth by explaining to him that medical trials can take decades. Artie gives up his dream and tells Tina to find someone else to dance with. Tina asks Artie to still sing the song even if he won’t dance, and the final scene of the episode is a dejected Artie singing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” while Tina and Mike Chang dance. What? Joss Whedon directed this episode. You were expecting the ending to be upbeat?

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