Who the hell saw this one coming? Just how did an absurdly overblown, garish, soapy, shamelessly sentimental high school musical knock-off become one of the most talk about TV phenomenon of our time as catnip for kids and adults alike? Well, because it's damn fine bubblegum fun that's why. A giddy, intoxicating cocktail of youthful zest tempered with coming-of-age Glee's simple, heartfelt message to not let other people define your boundaries is infectious and the upbeat, energetic, non-stop song & dance numbers are irresistible. Try as you might you can't help but be swept up in every impossibly clichéd, wildly over choreographed, auto-tuned routine. You'll hate yourself, but you won't be able to help yourself.
Bigger, brighter, bolder, brasher, this second season amps up everything that makes this show such a guilty pleasure, as the downtrodden outcasts of McKinley High's show choir - the eponymous "glee club" - return for another year of painful heartache and hallway slushy-dodging on the road to nationals in New York City. The tentative truce between the superbly sociopathic Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and the naively idealistic Will Schuster (Matthew Morrison) is quickly discarded, with the Cheerio's coach once more the fountain of every cruel and sardonic scheme hatched to derail the glee club's ambitions because, well, because!
Far more even-handed in song distribution, this second season departs from the virtually uninterrupted Leah Michelle love fest that was season one, gradually rounding out the supporting cast into a genuine ensemble. Everyone gets at least a couple of solos this year (not Tina, of course. That would be silly, wouldn't it?), group numbers feature prominently, and Heather Morris as the delightfully ditzy Brittany continues to steal each and every scene she's in with one deadpan one-liner after another. The show also welcomes several new additions to the supporting cast this year, including Kurt's new crush, Blaine (Darren Criss), transfer student Sam (Chord Overstreet), and plussized Greco-Roman wrestling goddess, Lauren (Ashley Fink), who rocks Puck's world hard.
In terms of story this second season is all over the place like a tween on Red Bull, with character and continuity falling by the wayside, and perhaps more storylines than they effectively know what to do with. Characters don't feature for weeks at a time and then show up inexplicably with a bombshell of some kind. Plotlines get picked up and dropped off more times than Lindsay Lohan at a rehab clinic. Sue's careering back-and-forth between nice and nasty in expedient service to whatever the plot calls for that week is lazy, and don't even gets us started on the relationships; Finn and Rachel, Finn and Quinn, Quinn and Sam, Brittany and Artie, Brittany and Santana(!).
But just as you might be about to lose your patience the series comes at you with something special; the empowering Britney Spears' themed episode Britney/Brittany, the audacious Rocky Horror Glee Show, or the much publicized Born This Way, and all is forgiven. The show isn't quite is progressive as it might think it is, and at times even pulls it's own punches. You can't be seen to kiss a girl with Down syndrome on the mouth, apparently, the word "transsexual" is a no-no, it would seem, and in their race to be all-inclusive the powers that be sometimes don't stop to think just how patronizing they're being (Artie on the football team? Really!?). Yet you can't help but be won over by the blindly defiant nature of it all. For better or for worse Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and their people really believe in what they're doing and there is a lot to be said for just letting it all wash over you. The songs might be as artificially manufactured as a politician's sex scandal apology, but the sentiment behind them is entirely genuine. And in this age of wearily-hip cynicism that is very valuable indeed.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
A bumper crop of extras means that this set doesn't shortchange gleeks. There is a production design featurette on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, and an on-location featurette in Times Square, New York City. Guest stars from this season share their experiences, Stevie Nicks visits the choir room, and Jane Lynch gets waxed for Madame Tussauds. Also included is the show's cast and creator panel from the 2010 Comic Con. Mini-reels feature barbs from Sue, slams from Santana, and the bizarre worldview of Brittany. A jukebox feature allows you to instantly relive any song from five different episodes, including Born This Way and the season finale, New York. Best of all A Day in the Life of Brittany sees Heather Morris gives us a tour of the Glee lot in character.
"Glee: The Complete Second Season" is on sale September 13, 2011 and is not rated. Comedy, Drama, Musical. Directed by Brad Falchuk, Elodie Keene, Ryan Murphy. Written by Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy. Starring Amber Riley, Chris Colfer, Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron, Heather Morris, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin Mchale, Lea Michele, Mark Salling, Matthew Morrison, Naya Rivera.