The TV Column: As the clock sprang forward, viewers skipped past 'Glee'

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, March 18, 2011; 11:33 AM

Daylight saving time: It's bigger than Sarah Palin vs. Kathy Griffin.

This week's much-harrumphed-about "Glee" episode, featuring comic Griffin playing a Palinesque character - and also featuring The Kiss - attracted just more than 1 million viewers on Tuesday, according to Nielsen stats.

Although that's a stupendous number for Griffin and a boffo crowd for the former Alaska governor/reality-TV star/possible presidential candidate Palin - though Palin was in the episode only spiritually, not physically - it's one of "Glee's" smaller audiences this season.

Although the episode ranked sixth out of the show's 16 original episodes, it also scored "Glee's" second-smallest rating this season among 18- to-49-year-old viewers, who are broadcast TV's bread-and-butter.

Heck, it's a full 700,000 fewer people than watched the Fox series just one week earlier, when America's Sweetheart Gwyneth Paltrow donned a hot black-leather outfit and gave the kids at McKinley High a much-needed musical sex-ed class to the strains of "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)."

And yet, all signs had been pointing toward a big number for the episode. Because, in addition to The Kiss (Kurt and Blaine), the episode enjoyed the kind of pre-broadcast publicity that makes network marketing execs clap their little hands in glee and dance the Happy Dance.

Cable Cousin Fox News Channel pitched in, trotting out regular contributor Palin to appear in a bit in which the words "Kathy Griffin Rumored to Play Gov. Palin on TV Show" played merrily across the bottom of the screen, while Palin berated Griffin as a "50-year-old adult bully" for cracks that Griffin had made about Palin's daughter, Willow, as well as about Palin's daughter, Bristol, when Bristol was a competitor on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

It appears that Griffin vs. Palin - and The Kiss - just weren't big enough for daylight saving time.

Daylight saving time is the sworn enemy of prime-time TV. Every year, when daylight saving time rears its ugly head, millions of viewers simultaneously begin to frolic outside in the golden rays of Helios when they should be watching TV. Eventually it wears off, and they return to their programs. But it's a real nuisance for a couple of weeks - particularly for series that air in the first hour of prime time - such as "Glee."

That said, in fairness to daylight saving time, we feel compelled to acknowledge that the whole Griffin-takes-on-Palin leitmotif was a bit of a letdown.

With only a couple of minutes of screen time, Griffin showed up, playing one of the judges in the Regionals competition in which the New Directions gang from McKinley High was competing.

She's introduced to attendees as a former tea party candidate; she's wearing a red suit and glasses and hairstyle that appeared intended to bring to mind the former governor. But the first words out of her mouth were "I'm not a witch," so apparently she was also part Christine O'Donnell.

For good measure, the writers threw in a few lines about checking the New Directions kids' birth certificates to make sure they were born in the United States. That came out of nowhere - something we've come to expect and love about "Glee." Well, okay, "expect" anyway.

Throw in some disapproval on Griffin's character's part about the Kurt/Blaine duet from the Warblers glee club - for suggesting that gay is okay - and you have what passes for character development on "Glee."

Anyway, Griffin's scene was stolen out from under her by Loretta Devine, playing one of the other judges - an exotic dancer who became a nun because, she explained, she thought the convent would keep her off the pole, and who did not like being pandered to with the "Jesus Is My Friend" performance of the glee club coached by evil Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).

On the other hand, there was The Kiss, which you'd think would have been a ratings magnet, except it did not get hyped in advance as had been the Griffin/Palin smackdown.

In the episode, Kurt, the former New Directions star turned Warblers also-ran, mourning the sudden death of his bird, Pavarotti, naturally feels the need to sing the Beatles tune "Blackbird." The touching tribute to his feathered friend causes Warblers' Really Big Deal - a.k.a. Blaine - to realize he has feelings for Kurt, resulting in The Much-Awaited Kiss. And by "much-awaited," we mean that immediately after the episode, the phrase "THEY KISSED" was a trending topic on Twitter, and Darren Criss (Blaine) was Google trending.

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