Recap: 'Glee' - 'Extraordinary Merry Christmas'
New Directions splits its attention during the holidays, and HitFix starts a tradition of its own
“Well, tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you!” That line, sung by Bono in “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, has always bothered me. I’m sure it’s bothered a lot of you as well. I understand the meaning the song was probably going for, but it comes off completely condescending at best, and totally tone-deaf at worst. Is Bono sarcastically berating those who have the technology to listen to the song? Is he mocking those in Africa who might not get MTV, satellite radio, or Spotify? For reasons only Ryan Murphy can probably answer, New Directions sang this song, including that infamous line, AT A BUNCH OF HOMELESS PEOPLE TONIGHT. Essentially, New Directions said, “Look, you’re down and out, but at least you don’t live in Africa.” I think. I honestly don’t know. All I know is that when I heard, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you,” I heard “Glee” singing it at everyone no longer watching this program.
Even for a show that prides itself on avoiding continuity whenever possible, the Christmas episodes of “Glee” really stand outside the scope of the show’s normal arcs, serving as a stand-alone holiday special. That’s fine, in theory: having a pause to be a stop gap between the Fall and spring arcs is fine, and even in this Bizarro Holiday World, there’s actually some internal continuity. Case in point: Artie’s Magic Legs returned tonight, at least in passing mention. Why haven’t we seen them since last year? Apparently they broke the following day. Didn’t Coach Beiste get Magic Leg insurance from Progressive? That company insures EVERYTHING. In any case, I’m not here to analyze how this show fits into the overall structure of this third season. We all know there’s no actual structure, so let’s stop worrying about how Santana is feeling mere weeks after Finn accidentally outed her, her grandmother disowned her, and then everyone in New Directions sang at her until she sang some Katy Perry in joyous acceptance of her sexuality. None of that now, ya hear?
What we had in “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” was the usual overpacking of plot, the usual schizophrenic characterization, and the usual “damn the torpedoes” approach to dropping songs out of nowhere. If anything, the Christmas episode gives “Glee” license to not even pretend about connecting one scene to another. It’s Christmas, damnit: so sing! The nominal plot surrounded the scheduling conflict from the now white-hot New Directions: the local PBS affiliate asks them to do a Christmas special, and Sue asks them to help at a local homeless shelter. But stuffed in as well were some attempts to give Rory some character depth and attempt to make Rachel the shrillest harpy on television. Good God, “Glee”, pick a character for her and run with it. You’ve finally decided that Finn is a dumb but earnest and moral guy. Sam? He’s aged about 25 years since last we’ve seen him, but at least he has perspective others don’t. But Rachel? She’s whatever you need her to be in any given episode. It’s not “character development” to have her pinball between “stuck up” and “chastened”. If she doesn’t learn, she doesn’t change. If she doesn’t change, she doesn’t grow as a character. And if she doesn’t grow as a character, I don’t care about her getting into NYADA.
In the middle of all this was a section that I imagine will split everyone down the middle. I’m willing to actually concede that in and of itself, as a stand-alone piece, that Artie’s holiday special was fairly entertaining. It was entertaining in a “my God, I need to save these actors from the hell that is this show” sorta way, but “Glee” really found a tone with this retro show-within-a-show and ran with it. Do I believe that set cost $800? No. Do I believe they could have pulled this show off in 3 days? Of course not. But as a piece of constructed television, with its own internal illogic, I certainly wasn’t bored for those 20+ minutes. Those 20 minutes had nothing to do with anything that happened outside of them, outside of Itchy the Elf going rogue at the end and reading a passage from the Bible with which Peanuts fans would be familiar. But I loved the idea of a gay couple, a Jewish girl, and an African-American girl being the leads in a 1950’s holiday special. Had this actually aired in the Eisenhower Era, we wouldn’t have baby boomers. America would have collectively pulled a Jonestown that night.
However, as train-wreck entertaining as that segment was, hanging over it was the fact that they were trading in a shot at fame over helping out at a local shelter. Sam calls them on their BS, but it’s never actually addressed inside the special itself until Rory’s speech. So the show just puts its major dramatic conflict aside for fun, whimsy, and phallic light sabers. Had the show pulled a “Noises Off,” detailing not only what happened onscreen but also off, we could have seen some guilt and drama played out away from the creepy, “Twilight Zone” canned laughter. Having not only Rory, but the rest of the group, deal with their selfish impulses while Sam and Quinn worked the food line could have been a great way to structure the episode. But there I go again, talking about “structure” when it comes to Glee.
WELL TONIGHT THANK GOD IT’S THEM, INSTEAD OF YOOOOOOUUUUUUU…..
Look, I’m saving what holiday spirit I have left to get through the rest of this season. I can’t hate anymore on this show in this calendar year. So I’ll leave you all with my own contribution to the “Glee” holiday oeuvre, and extend a warm thanks to everyone that’s read these reviews this year. Thank God it’s you, instead of them. See in 2012.
‘Twas The Night Before Glee-mas
Twas the night before Glee-mas, when all through the school
Not a show choir was working. For that was the rule.
Artie’s Magic Legs were hung up with care
In hopes the show would remember that they were there.
New Directions were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of Nationals danced in their heads.
And Emma with her sani-wipes, and Will with his rap,
Had just settled down in a bed booby-trapped.
When out on the lawn there arose such a shrieking
The pair sprang from the bed to see who was gleeking.
Away to the front door they quickly sashayed
Pirouetted around and danced unafraid
The cold Lima night shone bright with neon
One soon could expect a number by Dionne
When, what to their dumbfounded eyes should appear
But New Directions bearing holiday cheer
With a middle-aged driver, eating a ten-person feast,
They knew in a minute it must be Coach Beiste
More rapid than eagles they started their verse
Because who on this show has need to rehearse?
“Here’s Artie! And Tina! And Mike Chang’s here too!
Here’s Brittany, and Rachel, and some Irish fool
To the top of the charts, our sales cannot fall!
Now buy away, buy away, buy away, all!
And then, above the lip-synching, they heard from above
Kurt Hummel singing “To Sir, With Love.”
As he spun on the roof and turned himself round
Blaine was below smiling wide from the ground
Will’s eyes, how they twinkled! They all looked so merry
Despite a Fall in which things had gone quite hairy
But why bother think on such dreadful things now
The only thing left was to sing, dance, and bow!
Forget about the future, forget about NYADA
At this point let’s all sing “Hakuna, matata”
Quinn’s actions this Fall should have led her to jail
But here in this “Glee” world, she’s going to Yale!
We shouldn’t care that Puck slept with Shelby for weeks
Continuity has no place for adoring gleeks
As for those elections, the less said the better
Reality hangs on “Glee” like a big Scarlet letter
Santana’s long journey had given fans hope
That the show would not always treat us like a dope
But her outing was botched in the usual way
Now Trouty Mouth’s back, and all is OK?
Will looked at them all, a sorry young man
Whose use had expired in the “Glee” master plan
Once he had promise, the story was his
But he’s been eclipsed, so here’s a pop quiz…
Why keep him around, or any adult?
Just send them away, have Sue join a cult
The kids are the stars, in them lies the drama
Cast out the elders from this “Glee” diorama
The writers said not a word, but went back to their work
And started to curse that dumb HitFix jerk
Who dared to proclaim the show had fallen from grace
If he didn’t like it, why not head into space?
I sprang to my laptop, to give my readers a review
And to here they did come to bid this show adieu
At least for just now, next year we’ll be back
C’mon now, it’s “Glee.” This show is like crack.
What did you think of this year's Christmas episode? If you could give the show any holiday advice heading into next year, what would it be?