How better to complement the garish spectacle that is the Super Bowl than with a Glee that did its best to be more garish, more aggressive, more competitive than the football game itself? The episode titled “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” pitted the glee club against McKinley High School’s football team… in an effort, as the show proceeded, to bring them together and make peace with each other.
Granted, after the wretched pre-Bowl performance by Christina Aguilera (anyone can flub a lyric, but it takes malign arrogance to sing so floridly), a rerun of Grease II would have seemed like musical magic. This Glee, however, written by Ian Brennan (who’s penned so many of Sue’s zingers) and directed by Brad Falchuk, was at once in-your-face and under-handed, very clever about its very cynicism.
Jane Lynch’s Sue spoke for many of us Glee-jaded viewers early on, when she said she was “bored [with] things I used to think were hilarious.” Thus the opening number that had been circulated for days before the broadcast — the Cheerios shimmying to Katy Perry’s California Gurls” in blue wigs, with blazing-fire batons — turned out to be used here as an example of the kind of by-now-standard Glee production number that was predictable, according to Sue. “You have to find a way to top yourself,” she was told. By implication, of course, so did Glee itself.
Thus, all the recurring bits on the show were hyped up or turned in on each other. Sue, for example, went on a temper tantrum to end all tantrums.
The jerry-rigged plot found the footballers who have been most hostile to the glee club forced to join the show choir to learn lessons in equality and brotherhood. They had to get into costume and perform a mash-up of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll.” Meanwhile, some of the “glee girls” opted they wanted to join the football team. Inspired by a Felix the Cat cartoon, Sue decided she wanted to shoot someone — well, Brittany — out of a cannon the full length of the football field. (The cannon also inspired a nice little joke from Sue about the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” and after the Peas’ poor showing at the Super Bowl, they deserved all the ribbing they got.) Everything in this episode was chaotic and topsy-turvy, but you never had the feeling the silliness was getting away from the producers. It all came together.
Well, most of it did. The boys-and-girls football game was nearly as tedious as a real football game, and the scene with Kurt and his blazer-wearing buddies singing “Bills, Bills, Bills” seemed wedged awkwardly into the show, dragging down the momentum. And the big “Thriller”/”Heads Will Roll” production number looked like something a bunch of hooligans would perform late at night on the deserted Texas football field of Friday Night Lights.
Better was Finn and his fellow football players in zombie make-up singing the Zombies’ “She’s Not There.” Heck, Kurt and his “Bills, Bills, Bills,” as marginal as it was to the plot, had more snap and vigor.
Katie Couric made a nice cameo interviewing both Sue and Will. There was also a clever running-joke — er, running-commercial, about the Glee crew shilling for Chevrolet. Lea Michele’s Rachel singing “See The USA in Your Chevrolet” in the glossy manner in which Dinah Shore used to do it in the 1950s.
“The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” ended with a smooch between Finn and Quinn that will doubtless reverberate in future Glees.
As a Glee apostate, I enjoyed this one, but I also may have been punchy from too many Super Bowl commercials and salty snacks.
What did you think of the post-game Glee?