FOX’s Glee fall finale is also their Christmas special, “Extraordinary Merry Christmas.” Artie (Kevin McHale) is asked to direct a televised holiday program featuring the New Directions. He decides to make it a cross between Star Wars‘ own special, and The Judy Garland Show Christmas episode. Unfortunately, the filming evening is the same as the one the kids promised to help now non-Grinchy Sue (Jane Lynch) feed the homeless. Rory the Elf (Damian McGinty) reminds everyone what is really important during the taping, and afterwards the glee club heads over to be with Sue.
“Extraordinary Merry Christmas” is a mostly stand alone episode, which is disappointing and unexpected. Last year’s Glee Christmas outing keeps the main plot points going, while sparkling them with holiday cheer. This year, there are really two separate episodes forced into one: couples (romantic and platonic) celebrating Christmas together, and the kids’ black and white holiday special, which takes up two entire acts. Considering how good the latter part is, and how bad the former one comes across, it would have been better to ditch any framework events, and just fully commit to the bold experiment.
From start to finish, the Glee Artie-directed (in the show; the actual episode is directed by Matthew Morrison, a.k.a. Will) piece is great. There is a certain cheesiness to it, but that fits the spirit of what is being accomplished. From dancing Santas, to a long camera shot through the window, to Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) affectation, there are some very obvious throwbacks to The Judy Garland Show, which is really an early ’60s classic. Even the tongue in cheek joke about Kurt and Blaine’s (Darren Criss) relationship and addressing the camera are period appropriate. Thus, this comes off very well.
The Star Wars influences are fewer but make the whole thing more than a straight Garland knockoff. Seeing Finn (Cory Monteith) and Puck (Mark Salling) dressed as Luke and Han Solo, and then denying it for copyright reasons, is funny. Also, the real Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) does a cameo! The only complaint here is that the opening credits are arranged completely out of sync with what the Christmas special actually is. Furthermore, Rory’s speech at the end is stiff, possibly exposing McGinty’s limits as an actor. Or it’s just bad writing.
The musical performances during these two acts in “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” are also quite good. Blaine and Kurt’s “Let It Snow” is sweet, with highly enjoyable dancing, and will delight all of the couple’s fans, a large percentage of Glee viewers. Adding close friends Rachel (Lea Michele) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) for “My Favorite Things” is smart, because it feels comfortable, and the grouping is totally believable. Finn and Puck lead the others in a rousing rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Finally, Brittany (Heather Morris), who rarely gets to sing lead, does a wonderful job with “Christmas Wrapping” in another delightful dance number. All in all, quite the success.
Except, why does Artie so readily agree to direct, right after stating he will not do TV because he doesn’t want to “sell out?” And why is their show called the “Glee” Christmas special, instead of the New Directions? The kids don’t refer to themselves as “Glee,” that’s just the series title. Also, that set and production value are far greater than the $800 budget given. Did the New Directions score some more primo donations? Fat Breadsticks money, perhaps?
As mentioned, the parts of “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” that are not in black and white are pretty bad. Granted, the episode begins well with Mercedes killing “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but where is her Shane (Lamarcus Tinker) vs. Sam (Chord Overstreet) build up to go with it? It goes downhill from there.
Rachel complains that Rory’s “Blue Christmas” is depressing, then answers it with her own weepy ballad, “River.” So did the writers of these two scenes not talk? Or was it just more important to squeeze in the numbers already recorded, story be damned? Why not cut “River,” and instead put in Santana’s (Naya Rivera) “Santa Baby,” which is cut from the episode? Terrible timing, considering that Entertainment Weekly just named Rivera “Sexiest Female.”
The couple stuff in this episode of Glee is weak, at best. Besides Mercedes being shoved aside, Finn and Rachel get really hokey. Rachel demands expensive gifts, and Finn can’t afford it, so he gets her something meaningful. This isn’t enough for her. But she learns her lesson, just after Finn does spend the dough, and they donate the money from their nice presents to charity. Even for Glee, this story crosses the line of fluff and ridiculousness.
Also ending up on the cutting room floor for “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” is a scene shown in the preview, where Blaine gives Kurt a present. It’s a promise ring! This would much better serve the episode than Finn and Rachel’s stupid bits, or even the tiny subplot about Rory accompanying Sam back to Kentucky for the holiday, supposedly in the car that neither the poor kid nor the exchange student owns. Back to the point, this is a major development for Kurt and Blaine. Will Kurt be seen wearing it? Will the boys discuss their commitment? Or will it be ignored, since the minutes were deleted this week?
Finally, two songs stand out as unacceptable in this music-packed Glee outing. “Extraordinary Merry Christmas,” while rightly given to Rachel and Blaine, sounds like so many other songs they have already sung. The series deserves applause for taking another chance with an original song, but write something worth hearing, please, instead of just recycling the same old trope! And “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” comes off as extremely condescending when sang to homeless people’s faces. Why are the less fortunate enjoying this? They should be angry. They live in America! Of course they know it’s Christmas!
Big misstep Glee. Hopefully, the series will get back on track when it returns in January on FOX.