In 10 Words or Less
The (abbreviated, oddly curated) songs of Glee
Loves: Good music
Dislikes: Zero extras
Hates: Wasteful Blu-Ray releases
When I first saw Glee, I instantly became infatuated. I'm a long-time fan of musicals, and the combination of musicals with Ryan Murphy's dark sense of humor, delivered with a stylish, energized presentation was irresistible. Then, as the series rolled on, started to repeat itself and lost interest in things like story and realistic character motivation, it became less of a pleasure and though I'd watch, it felt like an obligation, with the hope that something good would come of it. And though there are glimmers of the promise the show once held, I find myself rarely looking forward to the show for anything but the songs.
So when I heard about Glee Encore, which strips away unimportant stuff like characters and plot and all, leaving behind just the music, I was actually pretty interested. Being able to revisit the songs I enjoyed and some of the really well-done "videos" built around those songs is actually a decent idea. The song that most anyone identifies with the series, Journey's Don't Stop Believin'" from the pilot episode, was presented is such a perfect way, that it basically set the stage for the entire season with just a pair of well-timed cut-aways. Though more than a bit cloying, pairing deaf students and the Glee group on Imagine was rather memorable, as was the emotional take on Rose's Turn by Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and the remake of Madonna's black and white Vogue video, starring Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). When the show gets it right, it is tremendously entertaining.
However, if you've been downloading the songs on iTunes or buying the soundtrack CDs, this disc isn't likely the presentation you're looking for. That's because it delivers the songs as they were heard on the show. Thus, the vast majority of the songs aren't the full-length album versions. For example, the quality duet on Alone by Matt Morrison and Kristen Chenoweth runs under 90 seconds long, while Cory Monteith's version of Jessie's Girl is only around 10 seconds longer. Sure, the visuals are nice, but if you really enjoy the song, you want to enjoy the song, not a digest version of it. It would have been nice if they could have fleshed out the show performances by letting an editor cut together some clips to the songs, but overall, this just seems like a lazy cash grab. That's the only way to explain why the opening titles were left on the clip for Fire, a completely out-of-place element for this best-of release.
Looking over the songs that made it onto this disc, one wonders why it features just 34 of the 128 tracks performed in Season One, but one might guess that licensing fees were a major determinant, considering that some of the show's biggest songs, performances and guest appearances, including Single Ladies, Loser and Dream On, were all left out. Thus, you get no Neil Patrick Harris, you get no Idina Menzel on Poker Face and you miss out on the classic Olivia Newton-John duet with Jane Lynch on Physical, not to mention losing the visual spectacle of Bust Your Windows, the mash-up fun of Halo/Walking on Sunshine or the iconic half-season finale My Life Would Suck Without You. There's not even an attempt to balance out the presentation, as five episodes have zero representation at all, and you couldn't say they didn't have worthy tunes, since the excellent "Dream On" featured several excellent songs.
A selection of 34 performance clips (many include just a verse or two) are included on this single-layer Blu-Ray disc, which is packed in a standard Blu-Ray eco-friendly keepcase, with a dual-sided cover, that includes a track listing on the inside front cover. Unfortunately, with a blue, die-cut keepcase, it's very difficult to read unless you remove it from the packaging. The main menu offers a choice to shuffle the songs, select songs (from an awkward menu that asks you choose an episode, then a song), and adjust the set-up. There are no audio options but subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
The 1080p AVC-encoded video looks a bit sharper and more detailed than the over-the-air HD presentation (Chenoweth, for example, fares less well on Blu-Ray than she does on TV) but there are some issues with the color, as the red on the Cheerios' uniforms can burn overly brightly in some scenes (like during Say a Little Prayer for You.) That said, the fleshtones look very natural, and the black levels are deep and help deliver the stage performances well. You'll notice a bit of grain here and there, but nothing at a distracting level, and there are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts.
Presented with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, these mixes aren't worthy of a feature film, but they are more than fine for a TV series, presenting the audio clearly, with nice strength in the music. The level of dynamic mixing isn't going to turn many heads, with the majority of the sound coming front and center, with some minor atmospheric effects and musical enhancement handed off to the rear speakers. What's annoying though, especially when you're using the shuffle feature, is the inconsistent levels on the songs. You'll frequently find yourself picking up the remote to raise and lower the volume to keep it at a comfortable level.
Isn't it great how Blu-Ray offers the opportunity for new levels of interactivity? Especially when most studios put less effort into their releases than even LaserDisc had. Such is the case here, where you get nothing.
The Bottom Line
All around, this is a questionable release, from the choice of songs, to the lack of effort, to the absence of content to the general concept overall (only the quality of the presentation can't be questioned.) Only the hardest of the hardcore Gleeks would even want this, and ironically, they'll probably be the ones most disappointed by it. Oddly though, after watching a few songs, my wife commented, "I could watch this all night." So maybe for some, a good thing in moderated doses isn't a bad thing. For me however, I didn't see the point.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.