Glee is hugely popular, award winning and star making. It features musical numbers, comedy and drama. There are quirky characters aplenty and zany exchanges all over the place. It’s terrible and it’s David E Kelly’s fault.
David E Kelly has produced some of the most popular shows in recent television history and not a one of them, not a one, has been remotely watchable. This may seem counterintuitive given their popularity, but it’s not. Trust me. It’s a symptom of modernity. Modern malaise. Shitty jobs.
Kelly is the man behind shows like Picket Fences, The Practice and the abominable Ally McBeal. Do you know what those shows all have in common? Quirky characters aplenty and zany exchanges, all against the serious backdrop of a “real world.” They were all just preposterous. Were you ever forced by Black Ops to sit through an episode of Ally McBeal as a method of breaking your will? Every character, every plot line, every moment was contrived and ridiculous, nothing was even remotely realistic and yet it was all presented in a situation that seemed like it was meant, on some level to be real. It took place in a law firm. Law firms are where murderers go to find people to keep them out of jail. It’s where abused women try to find someone to protect them from a tyrannical spouse during a divorce proceeding. It’s where OJ Simpson managed to turn a glove into a free ticket to killing people. It’s not really inherently funny. It was made desperately less funny with the addition of a dancing baby and a neurotic, anorexic leprechaun.
Aside from being a horrible director and writer, David E Kelly is responsible for the modern monstrosity that is Glee because of his silly ass story telling style. Real was never good enough for Kelly. Ally McBeal had to have along lost test tube baby. On Picket Fences the second episode featured a kid bringing a severed hand to school. The Practice featured more forced drama than the average show could jam into itself with a motorized enema kit and also featured a man bringing a severed head into the office of his lawyer. None of these things happen in the real world. But they have to happen in David E Kelly shows, or else his shows are just like everyone else’s shows and thus are forgettable.
The problem is not that Kelly’s shows weren’t realistic, Star Trek isn’t 100% believable either, and frankly I’m not convinced Two and a Half Men isn’t some manner of terrible horror show pulled from the depraved mind of an Estevez. It’s that the sincerity and earnest manner in which the shows were presented, with a knowing little wink that says ”Hey, I’m quirky!” every time something quirky happened, thus removing any aspect of what genuinely makes something quirky and off the wall quirky and off the wall. We all know weird people, I know a guy who once invited a homeless girl to come live with him and used to cut his lawn with scissors. That was genuinely weird because he was just weird. A group of people didn’t sit down in a room and create a false weird persona for him.
If Kelly’s shows sucked so much with their forced weirdness, why were they so popular? That has two answers. For starters, people like shitty TV. CSI: Miami is the only thing I’m saying here. The second answer is that Kelly, despite being the television equivalent of the band LFO, knows that your job sucks. If you work in an office, you don’t have a zany mailroom guy who comes to work in high heels. You don’t have a boss who screams at a hand puppets. You don’t have clients coming in with dogs insisting they need to get married, or guys in the next office stockpiling tin foil hats to avoid Pro Baseball satellite surveillance. And because your job sucks, Kelly shows you workplaces that are fun and quirky, to appeal to that part of you that wants to believe that every day of everyone’s life is not as dismal as yours.
Now we have Glee, a show not produced by Kelly but a show inspired by Kelly. There’s zaniness aplenty, from the big girl singing “I Know What Boys Like” to Jane Lynch’s stupid track suits. Yes it’s funny, yes it’s enjoyable (if you like musicals and Jane Lynch playing the same character she always plays) and yes there are a pantload of today’s hottest young stars on it. But goddamn. Goddamn! Why was there a plotline about knit sweaters with reindeer on them on this week’s episode? Why? David E Kelly, that’s why. Because he convinced a generation of TV producers that quirky is awesome. He did this wrongly. Have you ever seen a real high school glee club? It’s like being punched in the balls with loud smiles.
We’re not suggesting you need to stop watching Glee (or start, as the case may be). We’re not saying it’s a poor quality show. We’re saying it sucks, an extremely subjective claim based entirely on its clear and direct influences from David E Kelly shows because, objectively, all David E Kelly shows are terrible. All of them.