Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Glee: "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"

Aired December 13, 2011

In this episode the members of the New Direction glee club are celebrating the holidays just after Sectionals are over. The show opens with Mercedes (Amber Riley) singing "All I Want For Christmas Is You" with the other members of the club joining in.

Mercedes singing "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
After the opening number, we learn that Finn (Cory Monteith) is having trouble finding a Christmas present for Rachel (Lea Michelle). Rachel gives him an expensive and long list full of "bling" and tells Finn he can just get her five things off of it. Finn is hit with the realization that, “Holy crap, I'm dating Kim Kardashian.”

Finn and Rachel sharing a Christmas moment by the lockers

We cut to a scene where Coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is talking to Kurt (Chris Colfer), Artie (Kevin McHale) and Blaine (Darren Criss) in her office. Sue is being uncharacteristically magnanimous, saying she forgives the New Directions for past misunderstandings (mostly of her own creation) and wants them to sing at a homeless shelter. Sue has been looking for ways to keep busy since her sister died and says that her plans to shoot reindeer with Sarah Palin fell through.

Irish exchange student Rory (Damian McGinty) will be spending Christmas away from his family for the first time. He sings "Blue Christmas" as a tribute to them. Sam (Chord Overstreet), who is also away from his family, is sympathetic and offers to be Rory's Christmas sponsor and show him how Americans celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, glee club sponsor teacher, Will Schuster (Matthew Morrison) has an exciting proposition for the group - their very own television Christmas special with Artie as director. (The local tv affiliate has lost the rights to the "Christmas Yule Log" video and needs to fill time.) Artie agrees to direct as long as he can film in black and white and include a Star Wars tie-in - which was inspired by the Force (apparently) infiltrating Artie's dreams. We get a great cameo from Chewbacca when the scene shows us what was going on in Artie's head.

Chewbacca and the cast of Glee - what a Wookiee!

Unfortunately, the planned tv special is scheduled for the same time as the planned visit to the homeless shelter, but everyone is so excited about being on television that they don't think it through.

Artie auditions people's song ideas for the special including Rachel covering Joni Mitchell's "River." He deems it too depressing. Rachel counters that "Joni Mitchell isn't depressing, she's emotional!" but Artie is unmoved. His vision for the show sounds like a corny old school Christmas special with Kurt and Blaine receiving guests at their "ski chalet" and random friends dropping by to perform various musical numbers. We see lots of these in the show including Kurt and Blaine's rendition of "Let It Snow", Britney and the Cheerios doing a cover of the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" and Rachel and Mercedes duetting on "My Favorite Things."

As per usual, we get to see disagreements between members of the Glee club in this episode. Will Finn find the right present for Rachel? Will the Glee club help bring Christmas cheer to the homeless or will dreams of local tv stardom get in the way? "Yule" (haha) have to watch this episode of Glee and see for yourself!

Haul out the holly (and tinsel) ...

RigbyMel says:

This is the second Christmas episode for Glee and it is ... ok. Not great, but ok. I enjoyed the fun references to old-style Christmas variety specials of yore, right down to the deliberately goofy overacting and stilted segues into songs - it kind of reminded me of a less funny Colbert Christmas. The songs were mostly well-chosen (with one exception that I'll get to momentarily). I find it irritating that the producers of the show choose to use and abuse auto-tune on EVERY SONG especially on people like Amber Riley and Lea Michelle who have fine singing voices and DON'T need to be electronically tweaked onto the right pitch - this is a general complaint I have about the series.

I also don't like the fact that we have yet another instance of women being portrayed as crazy or greedy on the show in the subplot about Rachel wanting "bling" from Finn for the holidays. (SPOILER ALERT: Rachel eventually sees the error of her ways in this ep. However, I have doubts that the lesson learned will carry forward much in future episodes of the show.)

Which brings me to another lesson we're supposed to take away from the show - yes, being kind to people and thinking of others at the holidays is a GREAT message to be putting out there and it cannot be repeated often enough. BUT the use of the ultimate "white-guilt" song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is condescending at best, and perhaps a bit insulting at worst. I have never been a fan of this song whether in a Bob Geldof, Glee or any other context and I find the song's treatment of the subject - hunger/homelessness - to be smug and heavy-handed. ("Thank God it's them instead of you" - REALLY?)

Complaints aside though, if you are a fan of Glee and/or Christmas there are definitely things to enjoy in this episode - I cannot call it a "classic" though.

My rating:
Two and a half candy canes

J.A. Morris says:

We're in general agreement on "Extraordinary Merry Christmas," including our feelings about "Do They Know It's Christmas." A decent episode, but not one I see myself watching annually. I thought Amber Riley did a better job at hitting the high notes than Mariah Carey does on "All I Want For Christmas Is You." The episode features an original song called "Extraordinary Merry Christmas," which is okay, but won't make you forget "White Christmas" or "Rudolph."

I also appreciated the episode's references to A Charlie Brown Christmas (such as Rory's reading at the end) and The Star Wars Holiday Special .

In last year's Christmas episode (which we have yet to review), we learned that Britney (Heather Morris) still believed in Santa Claus. It would've been nice to know if she still believes, but the writers seem to have forgotten about that plot line (as they often do).

As a fan of the classic Holiday variety shows RigbyMel mentioned, I'll admit that the "chalet" scenes brought a smile to my face. Chris Colfer and Darren Criss did a nice job here with the singing and dancing.

My rating:
Two and a half candy canes

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