Whoopi Goldberg began a multi-episode guest stint on Glee last night, playing an imperious admissions representative from the drama school of Kurt and Rachel's dreams, so that was kind of fun. It was even more fun that Rachel totally biffed her audition, because watching her fail and be upset is oddly gratifying. (Admit it, it is.) Also we got Sam in the locker room and NeNe Leakes saying jokes about how old Sue is. So, all in all, a fine episode that was good at what Glee does well. So why then was there also this business with Coach Beiste?
Domestic violence is of course a serious issue that should be openly addressed and all that. Of course. But why did Glee feel the need to tackle the issue in an otherwise completely unrelated episode at a completely random moment within the season? It seems that not all is well at the Beiste/Guy She Married household, and he went and drunkenly hit her during a fight. An awful thing for her obviously, and a fine opportunity for Dot-Marie Jones to show us her acting chops, but so incongruous with the rest of the tone of the episode that it felt awkwardly shoehorned in, as if there's a certain PSA "very special episode" quota the show needs to hit every season and they just realized they weren't going to meet it.
So this thing was thrown together and the girls were taught a lesson about making fun of domestic violence and Beiste learned to be honest about what happened while NeNe and Sue stood in the background and frowned. It's not that the show handled this issue especially badly or anything, it's just that it felt like such a deliberate and lurching grab at our heartstrings that it was almost offensive. Oh, you think we just won't notice that at this point? This clumsy attempt to tack a Serious Episode bumper onto an otherwise very normal Glee-y episode? It felt pretty emblematic of the show at its weakest, like a cynical way of staking a claim to yet another big Issue. I kept thinking about a promo from a while back that advertised an episode doing something "as only Glee can do it.". I fear the show might fancy itself an entire microcosm, and that nothing is too big or unrelated to tackle and capitalize on, as only they can do it, whatever that means.
It's hard to understand why Glee is sometimes about what it's about. Again, there's no problem with talking about domestic violence, but on a show that was otherwise about musical theater auditions and the local screwup flunking a geography test (complete with dude chorus of "The Rain in Spain," seriously) it didn't quite gel. I know that Glee has made a name for itself partly by doing big important episodes about big, important, serious things, but we still need a little nuance or artistry with our medicine, don't we? Take a guy to dinner first, Glee. Serious issues aren't and shouldn't be off-bounds, but at least respect them enough to, y'know, genuinely treat them seriously.