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TV Review: Glee – “Funk”

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There’s a reason FOX’s Glee stays away from funk music most of the time. It doesn’t go very well with the characters or tone of the series. Yet, in “Funk,” the penultimate episode of the first season, funk music is smashed into Glee throughout the episode, regardless of the low quality of much of the resulting material. There’s a reason the “Funk” numbers do not end the Volume 3 soundtrack, despite airing last. And that’s only part of the problem with a mostly lackluster episode.

Perhaps the best, most interesting story happening in “Funk” is that Jesse (Jonathan Groff) returns to Vocal Adrenaline. His mission over, he must reintegrate back into his group. But the other members are suspicious, and test his loyalty, even making him crack an egg on Rachel (Lea Michele) to prove it. Given that Jesse undertakes the assignment to go to McKinley in the first place shows his level of support for his director and the group. So it is no surprise that, despite his feelings for Rachel still being present, given the expressions on his face, he does what he needs to to re-win the trust of his classmates.

This is cool, because it gives some depth to Jesse. The face of the villain, Glee fans have gotten to know him these past months during his tenure at McKinley. As such, it’s easy to care about him and his feelings. The test of Jesse’s character comes in returning to Vocal Adrenaline at all, considering that buzz is the New Directions are poised to topple their reign. If Jesse were just a selfish jerk, he would stay at McKinley and take the win, with no regard for where he comes from. That he goes to such lengths to go back, and to prove that he’s one of them, shows that Jesse is someone who has character, and who cares about his glee club.

Though, it is hilarious to see his dispassionate “I’m so depressed” following his teammate’s declaration that they are “soulless automatons” at the end of the episode!

Rachel is upset, of course, not seeing why Jesse is doing what he’s doing. If she were privy to his motivations, she’d probably forgive him, and help him do what he needs to do. Instead, she talks of feeling betrayed. This reveals that Rachel doesn’t care as much about Jesse as he does for her. While he does choose his group over Rachel, were their positions reversed, he would probably stand by Rachel as she humiliates him for the sake of her group. Instead, she abandons Jesse, not even giving him the chance to explain himself. So Rachel is as selfish as she is so often accused of being.

Will (Matthew Morrison) and Terri’s (Jessalyn Gilsig) signing their divorce papers is also an effective moment. It’s an end of an era, and one that both look like they regret to some extent, even if the union does need to be dissolved.

As far as musical numbers go, there are two good ones. Vocal Adrenaline rocks “Another One Bites the Dust,” and with the emotional investment established for Jesse, viewers will actually care when this other group does well. “Loser” is also a fun performance, not least of which because Terri, Howard Bamboo (Kent Avenido), and Sandy (Stephen Tobolowsky) get to perform along with Puck (Mark Salling) and Finn (Cory Monteith). Unfortunately, just as fans are enjoying the shot of the characters looking like robots, the song is cut short.

And that’s it for positive parts of “Funk.” Pretty much everything else in the episode is terrible. From Will seducing Sue (Jane Lynch) just to prove a cruel point, to Finn and Puck slashing tires, to various songs and one-liners, nothing else really works in the episode.

For example, let’s examine Puck and Finn’s story line. Setting aside that Finn likely would never do something illegal like slashing a bunch of tires, they come off pretty well, since they offer to pay back the damage they’ve done. And that’s not even nitpicking about why a local glee club in Ohio would buy all of their members SUVs! Is that legal? Not even the popular college football players get those! But I digress.

Were the guys actually loyal to Mr. Schue, as they are in other episodes, they’d never go to work for Terri. There must be plenty of other jobs they could be doing! Why work there? Simply so Glee doesn’t have to build new sets?

Now, if one can set aside the circumstances that lead to this job, logistics enter the picture. Shelby (Idina Menzel) claims that the tires Puck and Finn ruin cost $200 each. Doing the math of $200 times 4 tires times twenty-six vehicles, the total the boys must pay back is over $20,000! Finn thinks they will have it paid back in a month. Given their age and experience, and the place of employment, Finn and Puck likely make $7.40 per hour, minimum wage, a fact backed up by Terri talking about how little they are being paid. Even if the two work forty hours a week, unlikely because of their extracurricular activities, they could only make about $2,400 in a month, before taxes. As such, they are looking at a very long road to paying things off.

Plus, this is supposedly a legal issue. Shelby mentions choosing to not press charges, something she very well could do. Why isn’t there a police officer present in the meeting between Shelby and the McKinley people? None of it makes sense.

Glee is a musical series, so perhaps some people may not care about the factual matters facing the characters. But the songs in “Funk” are no better. Will’s “Tell Me Something Good” is anything but seductive. There’s no chance Sue would fall for his games, even if she were inclined. Which she isn’t, and she’s too smart to be tricked so quickly. “Good Vibrations” rings hollow, even with Mercedes’s (Amber Riley) fantastic runs, mostly because it’s a song that just doesn’t fit the series. The same can be said for “Give Up the Funk,” despite the dedication that each of the cast members use to sell the performance.

Worst of all is “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” For one thing, Dianna Agron does not have the right vocal quality to convincingly pull off the number. For another, it’s distracting that she is suddenly visibly pregnant after barely showing a bump all these months. And now she’ll be giving birth in a week? And how bad a town is Lima that there are half a dozen other teenage mothers, coincidentally at the same stage of their pregnancy, and who can sing, available to back her up?

Overall, “Funk” is a failure. Glee can, and usually does, do much better.

Random Bits:

  • The New Directions talk about the buzz in the Ohio show choir chat rooms. Who still uses chat rooms? Especially among teenagers? And even if anyone does, would there really be multiple ones dedicated to such a narrow concept?
  • Sue cites betting odds in Las Vegas for the New Directions’ Regionals chances. Las Vegas does not care about high school show choir, and certainly not a little Regional competition. Again, a load of baloney.
  • Mercedes asks Quinn to move in with her. Just how many of her fellow glee club members’ houses will Quinn be staying at during her pregnancy? This marks the fourth, starting with her own, in about as many months.
  • Why is Artie wearing a medical mask when the group cleans up the toilet paper job Vocal Adrenaline does to the choir room? No one else is, and there’s really not a point to it. Did someone just think it was visually funny? They were wrong.
  • Will suggests to his kids that they steal a rival school’s statue. Besides being illegal, he usually tries to talk them out of escalating things. Not cool. Why aren’t any of the kids shocked by the suggestion? This would probably cost him his job.
  • Kurt (Chris Colfer) says he is so depressed that he wore the same outfit to school twice this week. In the previous episode, he wears the same Lady Gaga costume all week, and it doesn’t appear that he is doing it because of depression. Why is this week so different? If he cared so much, wouldn’t have have made multiple Gaga costumes the previous week?
  • Sue wins the cheerleading Nationals after not practicing the entire week before? And with a fourteen minute Celine Dion medley in French? They expect us to buy this?
  • How is Sue able to get a display case built for her trophy right in the choir room without disrupting the New Directions’ practices? Not to mention, who paid for it, and why would the school allow such a thing?

Only one more Glee season one episode left to review! Check back tomorrow for the “Journey to Regionals.” And don’t miss the Glee season three premiere this coming Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com