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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

'Glee' introduces the 'Big Brother'

FOX's Glee begins its spring run with "Big Brother." Quinn (Dianna Agron) survives the car accident from the winter finale, but is now in a wheelchair. Artie (Kevin McHale) tries to get her to accept her fate, but Quinn vows to soon be walking again. Meanwhile, Blaine (Darren Criss) feels overshadowed when his commercial-famous, considerably older, big brother, Cooper Anderson (Matt Bomer, White Collar, Chuck), blows into town.

First, a complaint about local realism. Senior Skip Day, which has been outlawed in many, many high schools, though that is not mentioned here, happens, and the kids go to Six Flags. There is no Six Flags in Ohio or any of the surrounding states. Admittedly, there used to be, but only for a few years at the beginning of the millennium. Cedar Point is the premiere, world-famous theme park in Ohio, though it's perhaps understandable that people who are outside of the region or are not theme park-enthusiasts do not know that. So why not use King's Island, which has been mentioned before on Glee, and is just a little further away from the school than Cedar Point? Because the writers and producers just don't care about being authentic to Ohio, that's why. Or they do not understand how to use Google.

Rachel (Lea Michele) is all over the place in "Big Brother." She tries to make everything about Quinn's injury whenever the group gathers. She shuts down Finn (Cory Monteith) when he tries to talk to her about moving to Los Angeles instead of New York. She comes across as completely self absorbed and fake. Rachel is sometimes the former, but rarely the latter. Not to mention, skimming over the fact that she didn't get married since the previous episode feels like a cheat.

Before one jumps on Rachel too hard for going after Finn, though, it must be said that Finn also acts pretty selfishly. He already has post-graduation plans with Rachel, and altering them because of a half-baked idea Puck (Mark Salling) has is wrong. There are ways that Finn could broach the subject with Rachel in a reasonable manner, if he is really concerned about his future. But his bumbling attempt in "Big Brother" is just dumb. Then again, he is a high school boy...

Who cannot sympathize with a younger brother feeling outdone by his "Big Brother?" Especially when a large age difference is involved, as is the case between Blaine and Cooper. So it's not without some degree of feeling that fans watch Blaine shift uncomfortably on the sidelines. However, given that Cooper's "fame" extends merely to a credit check web site commercial, and that Blaine holds his own in their two duets, why is Blaine making the long face? Sure, his friends fawn all over Coop, but that doesn't mean that they love Blaine less, and soon the elder Anderson will be gone again.

The relationship between Blaine and Cooper is portrayed in "Big Brother" as not only stereotypical, but also shallow and cheesy. Cooper's boasting ways can only be purposeful, unless he is a terribly arrogant SOB. Which doesn't seem to be the case in the heartfelt moments he has with Blaine. Instead of getting a complex look at sibling relations, though, Glee takes the easy way out with "Big Brother" and delivers a story that is complete fluff.

And yes, we get it. Cooper Anderson is Anderson Cooper reversed. Just couldn't resist, could you, Glee?

That being said, the Cooper brothers storyline gives fans several wonderful songs. Blaine soulfully croons "Fighter" solo, and then joins his brother for a "Hungry Like the Wolf" / "Rio" mashup and "Somebody That I Used to Know." All three tunes are emotional and, aside from brief snippets of the maship, pitch perfect in their performances. This is in stark contrast to the lazy story, thus proving that Bomer and Criss are up to the challenge of doing this right, should Glee care to make a second attempt. Plus, they do look like brothers.

Quinn may or may not be in denial about her injuries in "Big Brother." This isn't clear. But either way, her attitude is justifiable. She is a senior in high school, and is facing some very tough adjustments. Her positive energy in the face of adversity is laudable.

Artie can be forgiven for trying to get Quinn to give up, too. After all, for the entire series he has been the lone wheelchair kid. It must feel really good to have a friend in the same boat at long last. Quinn's determination to leave the chair could also feel like a betrayal or insult to him.

As well as the characters of Artie and Quinn are handled in "Big Brother," their songs are lackluster. It's a total reverse of the Blaine / Cooper dynamic. "I'm Still Standing" is cheesy in all of the wrong ways, as Quinn proclaims the words while sitting down. "Up Up Up" is little better, though at least it feels slightly more authentic.

What "Big Brother" does get right is the Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) character, which is undergoing a renaissance in the latter part of season two of Glee. Pregnant with a child she soon learns may have special needs, Lynch finds the pathos within Sue, making her someone the viewers can really get behind and care about. Seeing her talking to Becky (Lauren Potter), and remembering how Sue was with her sister, there is no doubt that Sue Sylvester will turn out be an outstanding mother to her disabled child.

The friendship growing between Sue and Emma (Jayma Mays) and Will (Matthew Morrison) is also very nice. There have been hints of it prior to "Big Brother," but this week it moves to the forefront, and there is genuine emotion there. That Sue has learned to care about a couple of her fellow teachers, for better or for worse, and they way they stand by her, no matter how she has treated them in the past, is inspiring. Having her admit to the kids she likes the optimism the glee club projects is also touching.

Was it necessary for Sue to need ulterior motives to help the New Directions win Nationals? The scene where Sue is threatened with taking on an assistant cheerleading coach isn't exactly out of place, but it wasn't necessarily the best way to go about it, either. True, considering how Sue has schemed in the past, this extra twist will keep her from betraying the kids this time, thus removing all doubt that she is there to help them. But wouldn't it have been that much nicer if Sue wasn't forced to help them? If her transformation is completely real? Ah, well. It still works, overall.


Watch Glee Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of the Glee reviews I've ever written. To purchase Glee DVDs, streaming episodes, music, and more, please click here. Article first published as TV Review: Glee - "Big Brother" on Blogcritics.

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