When Fox announced that “Glee” was going to air after the Super Bowl last spring, Jimmy Kimmel delivered this memorable one-liner at ABC’s upfront presentation: “Apparently they’re trying to set a new Guinness World Record for most drunk 43-year-old guys saying, ‘What the fuck is this?'”
At first blush, “Glee” was certainly an unorthodox choice — a musical-comedy, primarily catering to young women and fans of Broadway — to follow an event that packs in hordes of men. At least “Alias” a few years ago put Jennifer Garner in red and black lingerie for the occasion.
Still, the producers had plenty of time to prepare for this showcase, and obviously, money wasn’t much of an object. Moreover, there was a prominent tie-in with Chevy — complete with a Busby Berkeley-style commercial, featuring much of the “Glee” cast — that probably paid for the whole exercise. Hey, if you’re going to whore yourself out, you might as well go all out with it.
For all that, it’s fair to say the post-Super Bowl “Glee” won’t win any new converts, even with an opening number featuring fire-wielding cheerleaders. Instead, the show did its usual routine, just on a bigger scale: Elaborate production numbers — the centerpiece being a “Thriller” mash-up — surrounded by a mind-numbing plot about the football team and Glee club trying to work together. That included a football game that managed to make the gridiron action on “Friday Night Lights” look realistic and credible by comparison, which truly takes some doing. Throw in a gratuitous Katie Couric cameo, you know, just because.
In a way, I think “Glee” has reached an understanding — almost a truce — with its audience: You put up with our silly plots, and we’ll reward you with buoyant musical performances that you really can’t find anywhere else, anchored by Lea Michele’s golden pipes.
It’s not a great show, perhaps, but weighing all those stats, that’s not a bad trade-off.
* * *
Another big part of the game for Fox, obviously, was the opportunity to use all that borrowed tune-in to promote its new series. I thought the spots for “The Chicago Code” were OK — making the show look more action-packed than it is — but the real standouts were a little more unorthodox than that.
For starters, there was a riotous spoof of the famous Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial for “House,” with the curmudgeonly doc throwing his cane to a kid. Fox also went way out in front of “The X Factor,” plugging Simon Cowell’s upcoming competition show almost eight months early.
Most impressive, however, was Fox’s tease for the upcoming sci-fi series “Terra Nova.” The spot was big, cinematic, and looked every bit like a blockbuster movie trailer. In television, such front-loaded imagery and special effects generally provoke skepticism — as in, Did they completely shoot their wad on the pilot? In addition, there have been past efforts at similar subject matter (“Earth 2” comes to mind) that didn’t stay in orbit for long.
Still, if the program can deliver anything close to the ambition exhibited in that promo on an episodic basis, the show — which will be previewed this spring in advance of an episodic order for next season, as Fox did with “Glee” — has got a real fighting chance. And if nothing else, you have to admire the network’s willingness to continue taking the occasional really big bet.