Tag Archives: Glee

Tips For Adulthood: Why You Should Abandon Glee For Downton Abbey

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Well, after yesterday’s rather somber post, I thought I’d lighten the mood around here today with some pop culture fun.

I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I find a series that does strike a chord, I tend to become obsessed and arrange my entire week around it.

For a while, that show was Glee. As I wrote not long ago, even when I began to find the story lines a bit tired, I was still inspired by the singing and dancing.

My TV obsession du jour right now is Downton Abbey. I almost gave up on it after the first few episodes, but now I’m thoroughly addicted.

Here are five reasons I’d recommend that you privilege Downton over Glee:

1. Plot. We’ve just finished Season Two of Downton over here – so I won’t include any spoilers. But suffice to say that while Glee felt really fresh during its first season – forcing us all to go back to that awkward, uncomfortable space called High School – it hasn’t really evolved very much, plot-wise. The basic arc every season seems to be one of the Glee Club being threatened with destruction – whether from inside or outside – and having to somehow manage to overcome that implosion. And after a while, that just gets boring. Downton, on the other hand, started off in an almost ridiculous fashion. (I don’t know about you, but when that guy died having sex, I nearly clicked the “off” button. When, since Private Benjamin, has anyone had to rely on that kind of plot device?) Since then, however, they have figured out ways to make the plot grow outward, rather than inward. Sure, it’s a soap opera. But at least there are multiple and constantly moving threads, rather than one central narrative.

2. Character Development. Similarly, and I’ve harped on this before, the characters in Glee feel like they are becoming more and more one-dimensional, while the characters in Downton are getting more nuanced. It’s true that Glee has done a great job in Seasons Two and Three of featuring some of the minor characters like Brittany and Mike and Tina. But I’ve been particularly disappointed by Sue Sylvester (played by the marvelous Jane Lynch) who – other than a very moving episode where her Downs Syndrome sister dies – has become a sort of sinister, freak show maniac over time. As Downton moved into Season Two, in contrast, I felt that all of the main characters – and particularly the nastier ones – began to show their humanity, which really went a long way towards making the show feel more realistic.

3. Leading Man. This is, of course, purely a matter of personal preference. But I’ve always been pretty creeped out by Matthew Morrison (Mr. Shue) and it’s not the hair gel. Downton’s Hugh Bonneville (The Earl of Grantham) isn’t exactly about to win People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive award. But there’s something wonderfully noble and endearing about him that makes you want to sit down for an extended fireside chat. (Or is that just me?)

4. Leading Lady. This is a really tough call because it’s comparing apples and oranges. I adore Jane Lynch, (along with just about everyone else on the planet, as far as I can tell.) If she hasn’t yet won you over, watch her perform one of former Representative Anthony Weiner’s Facebook messages with Bill Maher (NSFW). But Downton has Dame Maggie Smith in the role of the Dowager Countess of Grantham. And as we all know, there is nothing like a dame. (You can see how terribly hard it is for me to renounce the show tune aspect of Glee…)

5. Setting. Sorry, Ohio. I know that you’re a pivotal swing state and all. And I’ve always adored this song about you, which was apparently performed by Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett last season on Glee. But suburban, mid-western America can never hope to hold a candle to the breathtakingly beautiful English countryside. I don’t even think that the town of Rippen – featured in Downton Abbey – actually exists. But, oh, how I long to go there all the same. Don’t you?


Image: Downton by lauredhel via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.







Why Grown Ups Should Watch Glee

So there I was on a girl’s night out yesterday when I suddenly glanced down at my watch.

The time? 9:52 p.m.

“Um…I need to go home,” I said abruptly, grabbing my coat. “It’s late.” I tossed in a yawn for good measure as I stole out the door.

It not that I wasn’t having a good time. Or that 10 p.m. wasn’t a perfectly reasonable time for we middle-aged folks to call it quits anyway. (I personally thought we deserved a gold star for hauling ourselves out to a Tapas Bar on a Monday night to begin with…)

No, the real reason that I fled the scene was that  here in the U.K. where I live, the hit show Glee airs at 10 p.m. on Monday nights. And come hell or come high water, I’m there to watch it. Every week.

One of my friends was surprised to discover this about me. (Clearly, she hasn’t read my post on five inspirational show tunes. Pity.)

Lord knows there are lots of reasons *not* to watch Glee. Or at least not to watch it now that it’s entered its second season.

When Glee first started, the whole concept was really fresh. For those of you *not* in the know, the show is about the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high school misfits who belong to the school’s A Capella group and struggle for recognition. Along the way, you get to re-visit your own high school run-ins with bullies, friends, parents, teachers, first loves, crushes, athletes and everything in between.

As one critic wrote, the show’s main strength is its “near reckless portrayal of both people as stereotypes and vice versa.” Particularly impressive in this regard is Chris Colfer as the show’s openly gay, often campy teenaged character, Kurt, who won a Golden Globe for his affecting performance.

And then there are the songs…The All-American Rejects’ Gives You HellKisses’ BethBilly Joel’s Piano Man. (I go running to the sound track. No kidding.)

As it enters its second season, however, the whole thing has gotten rather stale, at least to my way of thinking. They’ve done a very nice job of featuring some of the minor characters from the first season. (I’m particularly fond of the super-bendy Mike.)

But the plot is becoming pretty tedious. (I mean, really. How many times can they compete for the Regionals?) Sue Sylvester has gone from being quirky and mean-spirited to completely off the deep end. As a friend of mine put it, “I think they’ve jumped the shark.”

And yet. And yet. Still I go on. (My friend still watches too.)

Why? You may ask.

I think the answer comes from last night’s episode, Comeback. (Note to American readers: We are 1/2 season behind you.)

One story thread had the ever-earnest Will Shuester (aka Mr. Schue) trying to help Coach Sylvester escape her suicidal feelings after her beloved cheerleading squad is defunded and she is publicly humiliated. As he encourages her to join the Glee Club for a bit of “music therapy,” Mr. Schue turns to her at one point and says something like: “The reason to join a singing group is because music is inspiring, Sue. It makes you feel better about the world.”

Cheesy. Trite. Self-serving.


But also true.

And if you don’t believe me – (remember, I *do* go running to the show’s sound track and am willing to admit that out loud) – have a listen to this fellow:

He’s a college student who went onto You Tube and performed a simple, unplugged cover of Eric Clapton’s Layla.


At any age.


Image: Glee! by i heart him via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.









Tips For Adulthood: Five Signs You're Not A Sports Mom

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Last year about this time I wrote a post for Politics Daily called A Reluctant Soccer Mom. The occasion for that post was attending my first professional football (soccer) game over here in the U.K., and the begrudging recognition that I actually knew way more about the sport – (courtesy of my son) – than I’d ever imagined was possible.

But now I’m wondering if it’s time to rethink the label “soccer mom” for myself (which I use in the strictly sporty sense, BTW, not as a reference to an American electoral demographic.) And that’s because on Saturday, I attended my son’s first competitive football match on a club team. As I stood there amid all the other parents cheering on their boys in “The Hub” at Regent’s Park, I realized that perhaps I didn’t fit in quite so well after all.

To wit, here are five signs that you’re not a Sports Mom (or Dad):

1. You come to games in the wrong outfit. I’m not quite sure what came over me when I got dressed on Saturday morning but somehow I decided that getting ready for a football game on a potentially muddy field meant that I needed to come dressed as a farmer attending the first County Fair of the season. I dug out some overalls (dungarees) from Lord knows what era of my life, a pair of Wellies and a windbreaker. Yes, I did don a baseball cap which should have upped my sporty cred. But coupled with the jumbo-sized overalls, I at best looked like a painter (as one sports Dad friend observed with a chuckle.) We all know that if your kid plays sports, you yourself need to look sporty as well, wearing some combination of sweat pants, running tights, hoodie and the du rigueur visor. So instead of looking like this, I looked more like this. What on earth was I thinking?

2. You’re not really interested in the game. OK, it probably wasn’t a great sign of my inherent enthusiasm in the game that I brought along two International Herald Tribunes and one New Yorker just in case things got slow. As the match went on, I also found that other parents were conducting a running commentary alongside the coaches – yelling things that you only hear in British football like “Good tackle!” when someone blocks another player or “Unlucky!” when your team fails to score a goal. I, meanwhile, was absolutely mesmerized by the extent to which Hungarian does or does not resemble any of the other European languages. (Another mum was Hungarian.) Needless to say, she had to keep averting her eyes from me so that she could actually watch her son play the game. (Clearly I should have also brought this along to read.)

3. You cheer for the other team. At one point during the match, the other team scored its first goal. (We were already up by two at that point.) I instinctively clapped for them and yelled “Well done!” only to be greeted by a glare from another Dad. “What? You mean I can’t clap for the other side?” I asked, chiding him. “Clapping’s fine,” he retorted. “But you don’t need to say ‘Well done!'”

4. You secretly wish that your child was doing drama. Hey, what can I say? I was a drama geek all throughout elementary, junior high and high school. I think that drama is good for kids in precisely the way that sports are good for kids – it teaches teamwork and cooperation and instills a sense of identity and belonging. And yes, it goes without saying that I also watch Glee.

5. Your own best sports are indoor. By which I mean pool (billiards) and bowling. Nuff’ said.

Image: Jogging by Julie70 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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