Gwyneth On Glee
(Originally published here on 27th November 2010)
Previously on Glee – Everyone started hallucinating about Britney Spears, Finn thought he saw Jesus in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Santana and Brittany made out and everyone did the Time Warp(again).
Then last week, Glee’s upward spiral of general amazingness peaked with a heart wrenchingly raw gay bullying storyline that ended with the shock of Kurt being kissed by his closeted tormentor.
So, how exactly does one top what was arguably one of the single biggest TV water cooler moments of the year? You can see show creatorRyan Murphy sitting in his office pondering this very question before a cartoon light bulb goes off above his head and he jumps up and yells “I know – I’ll get Gwyneth Paltrow to guest star!”
Now, this should have been an awful idea. Awful. Anyone who watched Murphy’s previous network show Nip/Tuck would know all too well the pain of watching a brilliant series spend almost four seasons collapsing under the very weight of stunt casting and a cavalcade of guest stars who chewed up hours of screen time (and scenery) and added little.
But, on Monday Night, something magical happened. Gwyneth was good. Like, ‘give this woman the Best Guest Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy Emmy’ good. It’s so easy to forget under the snooty accent, rock star husband and insufferable GOOP website, there is one of the best actresses of our generation. This range, plus a free and easy lack of attitude, snappy comic timing and bucketloads of charisma was on full display, making Gwynnie’s Holly Holliday possibly the single most likable one-off character on Glee to date.
The best part was her substitute Spanish Teacher fit so easily within the existing storylines and brought out the best in the rest of the main cast, facilitating the plot and character development. When Will and a large portion of the school is knocked out with a particularly nasty bout of Monkey Flu (really), Holly is bought in to look after Will’s Spanish Class. One highly spirited Spanish language deconstruction of Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety and a hilarious English Class performance ofConjunction Junction later, Holly is leading the Glee Club as they finalise their set list for sectionals. Her graceful glide across the room as she sidesteps a pranked greased up floor is possibly the most winning Paltrow has been since 1998’s Sliding Doors.
Even better is watching Gwyneth’s serenade the club into submission with a rousing rendition of Cee-Lo’s Forget You. If Paltrow’s vocal chops are only a step or two up from ordinary, her performance skills suggest that she may indeed be the second coming of Beyonce. The sheer charisma and energy that is thrown into the number makes it a serious contender for top Glee number of all time.
In fact, Holly is SO likeable and endearing and just plain bonkers fun that it’s easy to forget that there was a whole episode worth of moments from the other characters. Terri came back for long enough to remind us exactly why she has zero reason to ever come back again. Poor Jessalyn Gilsig, who is so great at playing a downright bitch, is continually wasted in the show, although her sparring with Paltrow was worthy of an eighties soap opera. Sue took control of the school as acting Principal and managed to accomplish pretty much nothing but banning junk food and instating Becky as her secretary (in what was easily the nights best running gag).
Mercedes, unfortunately, was saddled with ridiculous and unrewarding subplot about leading the students in protest against the healthy eating tyranny of Sue Sylvester. All because she wanted Tater Tots. Now, Mercedes is one of the best characters on the show and Amber Rileyhas managed to turn what was essentially a complete caricature in the pilot into a flesh and blood person who is as sassy as she is tender and surprising. So it would be nice to see her given a plotline that revolved around something other than her weight. Much better was her growing disdain for Kurt and Blaine’s burgeoning friendship (?) – the scene at Breadstix (yay!) where she hallucinates the conversation devolving into the word ‘Gay’ being repeated 270 times was absurd comic genius as well as having a raw undercurrent of emotional truth. How many young gay men reading can say they haven’t given their best gal pals the exact same third wheel treatment when in the throes of young gay love? Bonus points for bringing back the (teenage) dreamy Darren Criss as Blaine – hopefully the rumours of him being promoted to series regular are true!
The show stopping mash-up of Singing in the Rain was a definite highlight and one of the best numbers to date as far as sheer production values go. Have to wonder how much longer suspension of disbelief will be required in order to accept that the school’s budget could put on a production of that standard once a year, let alone every other week. Also, we’re left wondering whether the use of the bright yellow umbrella means Gwyneth is actually the titular character fromHow I Met Your Mother.
Umbrella / Singing In The Rain:
In the end, a strong episode with a winning guest turn and some series-best musical numbers. Thankfully, the door is left open for Paltrow’s return and, for both her career and the show’s sake; hopefully we’ll see some more of the delightfully daffy Holly Holliday before the seasons end. Oh, also, Matt Morrison got shirtless again, so score!
Brittany – “Mr. Schu taught me the second half of the alphabet. I stopped after M and N. I thought they sounded too similar and got frustrated.”
Sue (to Will) – “You make the underflaps of my breasts burn like when I used to rub them with poison sumac.”
Terri (questioning Holly Holliday’s name) – “Are you a porn star or a drag queen?”
Holly (bonding with Sue) – “Hoarders and red wine? I’m buzzzzzzzed!!!”
Sue (on a piece of broccoli) – “When I showed this to Brittany, she whimpered and thought I cut down a small tree where a family of gummy people lived.”
Holly (in Spanish) – Please get into groups and discuss how many times Lindsay Lohan has been in rehab.
Mini Rachel – I for one think we should use our set list for Sectionals to start exploring the oeuvre of Bernadette Peters.
Mini Brittany – Someday, I’m gonna go to Paris and visit the oeuvre.