Hitting the high notes of 'Glee' on DVD and Blu-ray

By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 12:17 PM

With its second season set to begin Sept. 21, this is the time to look inward and ask: am I ready to fully accept "Glee" into my life?

For anyone still conflicted about how to answer that question, Fox has released "Glee: The Complete First Season" on DVD ($59.98) and Blu-ray ($69.99) in an effort to reinvigorate the hardcore fanbase (the so-called Gleeks) and, perhaps, pick up a few more converts before those spirited show choir rehearsals resume.

Now, let's be completely honest: if the idea of a bunch of misfit teens belting out spunky covers of Journey and Madonna songs makes you shudder with dread, "Glee" probably won't ever be your thing. But anyone who still believes that "Glee" is just a serial version of "High School Musical," with the added bonus of an occasional slushie-tossing, should know that the Fox dramedy is anything but rehashed Disney Channel treacle. True, it has its cheesy moments -- please see Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) doing his version of Young M.C.'s "Bust a Move" in the episode entitled "Mash-Up" for just one example -- but there are also notes of acidity in "Glee" (often provided by Jane Lynch's deliciously aggressive Sue Sylvester) as well as a glimmer of anti-establishment attitude that keeps the proceedings from tipping too far into the realm of Sugarcoated Showtune Land. "Glee" is that rare pop culture construct: a piece of decidedly mainstream entertainment that isn't afraid to let its subversive freak flag fly.

It's also a pretty complicated series to produce, as several features on the DVD's mixed bag of extras indicate. "Making of a Showstopper," a behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" number from the season finale, reminds viewers that all those smoothly executed musical numbers the audience takes for granted require massive amounts of work, from securing the musical rights to choreographing complicated dance sequences. A couple of other featurettes -- including "Unleashing the Power of Madonna," a glimpse at the Madonna tribute episode, and a guide to "Glee" style by the show's costume designers -- also provide a fun sense of the many pieces that must come together in the puzzle that is a weekly television series. Another favorite: "Staying in Step With Glee," in which choreographers Zach Woodlee and Brooke Lipton walk through some of the steps from the "Rehab" number featured in the pilot.

The rest of the extras, unfortunately, are skippable trifles, many of which first made appearances on "Glee: Season One, Vol. 1: Road to Sectionals," a DVD released during the mid-season break in an obvious attempt to capitalize on the show's buzz. The only commentary is a picture-in-picture track, available exclusively on the Blu-ray set, featuring numerous members of cast and crew talking their way through the first episode. The absence of commentaries stands as a missed opportunity, since fans undoubtedly would love to hear additional insights from the "Glee" company about specific episodes.

Of course, this collection does manage to cater to those who watch "Glee" primarily for the tuneage, delivering a "music jukebox" feature that allows viewers to go straight to the performances and a sing-along karaoke option that puts the lyrics right on the screen during selected numbers, making it easy for Gleeks to croon along with Rachel and Finn. And no matter how much you try to stifle your inner diva, croon you just might. Even the tone deaf and flat-voiced may find it hard to resist "Glee," a show that's determined, against all odds, to put a song in our hearts.

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