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Glee Watch: When Is There Just Too Much "Funk"?

I'd never accuse FOX's Glee of being subtle but this episode left me in a serious funk.

Recent weeks have found the musical-comedy approaching its thematic storytelling with all of the subtlety of dropping an anvil on the heads of its viewers, hammering home the same points over and over again. It's not helped by the fact that the series' writers seem hell-bent on pushing each of the characters to share similarly themed storylines each week, regardless of whether or not their characters fit into these pre-conceived narrative pigeonholes.

We get it! They're all in search of a home! They can't give up on their dreams! They're in a rut!

I decided this week to count the uses of the installment title over the course of the episode as it's driven me mad week after week how many times the writers attempt to insert the title into the dialogue. I'm glad I did count because it was staggering.

Last night's episode of Glee ("Funk") was perhaps the most egregious offender, as the episode itself contained no less than 60 uses of the word "funk" over the course of the installment, including having Mr. Shuester write it on the dry-erase board for those of you who didn't get it the other 60-plus times or notice the episode's title. (With 66 uses of "funk," it averaged out to more than 1.5 occurrences of "funk" per minute of roughly 41 minutes of scripted fare.)

It's not the first time that the characters have been forced to parrot the title--and theme--of the episode. When the writers have Mr. Schuester utter embarrassing statements like, "Why are you all wearing your theatricality costumes?" as in last week's episode (which was, not surprisingly, entitled "Theatricality"), you know that there's a serious problem. Either the writers are not confident enough in their own writing and need to use the constant reinforcement of the title to get their point across (which I doubt), or they underestimate the audience's intelligence.

Yes, we can figure out just what theme you're hammering home this week, Ian Brennan. We don't need to be told dozens of times that this week's weighty issue is about being in a "funk."

(Aside: I was also disturbed by the fact that this episode was so blatantly swapped out of order with last week's Gaga-fueled "Theatricality," so that FOX could air it during sweeps. It at least explains why Jesse St. James wasn't in last week's episode and why this week's installment also featured Idina Menzel's Shelby Corcoran, post-"Poker Face" duet/mother-daughter "breakup" with Rachel.)

Was anyone else as disturbed by the titular trend, which seemed to hit its nadir in "Funk"? Can Glee's writers figure out how to tell convincing stories that are character-based without sticking in yet another song or hitting us over the head with the episode title? Discuss.

Next week on the season finale of Glee ("Journey"), the team's chances at Regionals are threatened when Sue pulls a fast one and becomes one of the judges; Quinn's life is forever changed.


Remy Lane said…
Thank you. Seriously, THANK YOU. I keep reading such kind reviews about this episode and "Home", and both felt like such an insult to my intelligence. I hate this trend that they've been going on of DO YOU KNOW THE THEME YET? episodes. I'm amazed that this episode didn't feature more songs with the FUNK in the title (ala "Home").

I love this show, I really do. I'll sing it's praises any day. But these beat-you-over-the-head themed episodes have got to go. And last night's episode? I'm just going to forget it ever happened, except for a few choice moments (and those choice moments only add up to maybe 5 minutes worth of material).

Bring on the finale - I'm excited for it.
Jennifer said…
Amen. I wanted to scream last night.
renton said…
I was going to suggest a drinking game every time the title of a Glee episode is used in the show, but that could be fatal by the second act break.
This is one of the few times I've seen this show. The musical numbers and creativity are wonderful. But there's such a mean streak that runs through this show. I just can't stand that.
jmixont said…
I think it's a little much to have a bunch of squeaky clean "losers" doing "funk" to show up another bunch of squeaky clean losers. Neither one of those plain vanilla groups can get anywhere near actual funk. And Will's come-on to Sue was just hard to watch.
susie que said…
Yes, Will hitting on Sue was cringe-inducing (and not in a good way) as was the moment when he said/sang that the glee club needed to take it to "funkytown" and did a weird move that reminded me of a little kid needing to go to the bathroom. All I could think of was Whitest Guy Ever.
Ben Weldon said…
Hey, it's just too funky for him (gotta get inside)
Rae said…
What the funk are you talking about, Jace?! Do you mean to tell me you don't use the word funk 20 bajillion times a day? Because I sure the funk do.

But, seriously, thinking about it more I'm bothered by the switching of the episodes because the one time they actually have a bit of a continuity building up, they ruin it! We were meant to first see that VA doesn't have the... heart? Soul? Heart & soul? (If we were on the show, we'd be in the middle of a musical number now.) Anyway, they don't have what it takes to do funk. Then the next week we'd see that they also have trouble with theatricality -- most definitely not an issue for the kids of New Directions. I'm not sure I buy either of those ideas but at least it's a good foundation for building up a little bit of hope that New Directions may actually have a shot at Regionals. Instead the weirdness of how the storylines played out doesn't leave me with that thought at all. Instead I'm just puzzled as to why VA would find them threatening at all and why they can't let go of the tired idea that Sue is threatened enough by Glee to keep interferring.
Debbie said…
Thanks for getting to the heart of the matter Jace! Glee, though I love the IDEA of it, is so heavy handed and clunky in the delivery of all of their life lessons that it something I now watch online or off of the VCR only so I can skip to the musical numbers. Some of the music performances are flawless (Dream On, Single Ladies, and Don't Stop Believing immediately come to mind) but a lot of it just tries to hard - kind of like a whole lot of Rachels beating us over the head!

Honestly, I can't imagine how they will manage to keep me entertained and viewing the show live for TWO MORE YEARS at this rate if they don't let the show breathe and actually go somewhere. Certainly the out of order airings don't help, but they are not at the core of the problem. This show is more like a mosaic to me, and the pieces don't fit.

I'd like to see them stop making the show and characters fit the music they have cleared and start letting the show be enhanced, informed, and underlined BY the music.

There is a lot of great musical territory left to cover. There are decades upon decades and many genres to explore. Not everything needs to be recent Top 40 even... (Ex. Say a Little Prayer by Quinn).

Give us some nice moments, allow the characters to develop, and let the stories write themselves... And please give your audience a little credit!
segue said…
I haven't been watching much since it started going up against Lost, but tuned in last week for the first time in a while. I was so bothered by the heavy handed preaching of the episode - not just the theme, but the whole way they tore into Finn for reacting badly to his circumstances with Kurt. I had thought the show was about embracing yourself and others, but all this episode said was that Finn was wrong to be upset by all the changes foisted upon him. Did he use a bad word? Sure. But that is nothing compared to what they all did to him. Tell me, seriously, would it be ok to move a teenage girl into a bedroom with a teenage boy who's been crushing on her? To not allow her any say in the decor of her room? To not only ignore how any of this might be affecting her, but to then tear her apart for expressing these frustrations inappropriately?

I'm sure it is hard growing up gay in a straight world, but it is also hard growing up straight! Sensitivity goes both ways.

It's understandable for Kurt's father to go off on Finn, but the show reinforced that it wasn't the character's perspective, it was the producers' perspective.

Why is it morally superior to force Finn to accept a flamboyant bedroom (and roommate) when it would be morally reprehensible to force Kurt into a more traditional role? Even Kurt's father is expected to stuff his enjoyment of the things he and Finn have a shared interest in, so as not to hurt Kurt's feelings. Would that be ok the other way around?

Chris L said…
I agree with pretty much everything, I guess. After I thought about it, I realized that Sue Sylvester is pretty much the only reason I watch Glee right now. She's ridiculously larger-than-life.
Sue said…
I have to admit I never noticed until the Funk episode & recall saying to myself "wow, they sure are using the word 'funk' alot". I guess I'm a bit slow, don't think about it, or just plain old don't listen that closely.

My only beef with this episode (other than the ridiculous seduction of Sue by Will)is the disconnect from the Gaga episode. I was confused since Rachel & Jesse were back together last week, and then Jesse was so nasty to Rachel this week. Didn't make any sense. Even I'M not THAT slow to understand that things were out of order!

I still love this show. Absolutely LOVED Sue Sylvester's house with all the trophies - genius!
Unknown said…
I agree that the titular dialog was over the top in this ep. It's not usually so bad. However, it doesn't distract me from how wonderful the show is.

I especially love how the censors seem to sleep through the screenings. "MILF"? Wow. Emma saying to Rachel (in one of the first eps) that a lack of gag reflex "will come in handy later in life." Yikes (and hilarious). Love it.

Quinn is consistently my favorite character (with respect to development). Her emotional maturation is both realistic (i.e., not perfect or consistent) and touching (e.g., her performance in "Keep Holdin' On").

Kurt's dad is a close second. I agree with @segue that his dad's rant on Finn was a bit over the top, but society does need to stop tolerating the use of words like "gay" and "retarded" and "faggy" when there are a myriad of synonyms.
Ally said…
Worst episode yet.
rockauteur said…
Definitely going to be done with this series after next week's finale. Figured I would see the season through and that's it!

Though I'm surprised FOX isn't doing a summer season where the kids go to the same Glee summer camp.

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