Gwyneth Paltrow made her highly anticipated—especially by The Atlantic's Culture Channel—guest appearance on Glee last night as a Cee-lo Green-singing, tap-dancing-in-the-rain substitute teacher.
To help make sense of the episode, we have a panel of musical theater and pop culture buffs—Meghan Brown, Patrick Burns, and Kevin Fallon—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.
Here's what they had to say:
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Meghan Brown (co-founder of the Giraffe Hunt Theater in Los Angeles): First off: how awesome was Gywneth Paltrow? Her performance as Hollie Holliday was vibrant, exciting, and, above all else, fun. Paltrow seemed to be having the time of her life, and brought a massive spark to what could have been a one-note role.
This felt like a Season One episode in the best possible way. The jokes were funny and packed some of the snark that's been missing this season. The songs (particularly the hilariously censored, G-rated blast that was "Forget You") were fun and high-energy. The story made sense, the less realistic story elements were used sparingly (and well), and the world of the show felt simultaneously fresh and contained. Even the voiceovers were back! Great episode, Glee. Thanks for reminding me why I loved you in the first place.
Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): Gwyneth Paltrow was a refreshing, fun, and endearing guest star on this week's Glee. She's funny, looks great, and sounds awesome. She was the perfect breath of fresh air to give to the glee club while Schuster was sweating out his fever all over his ex-wife. I want to go get margaritas with Holly Holliday. We'll sing songs from Schoolhouse Rock and she'll tell me where she got that incredible Mrs. Lincoln costume!
I can't get enough of Cee-Lo's "Forget You" and was so glad that Ms. Paltrow and the cast did such a great job covering it. The only disappointment was "Nowadays" from Chicago. Maybe I'm a purist, but if I'm going to watch a number from a Fosse show, I want to see good dancing.
However, at the end of the episode, all was forgiven since there was so much fantastic dancing, singing, and water in the mash-up of "Singing In the Rain" and "Umbrella" (-ella).
Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Culture channel): Gwyneth Paltrow as a substitute on last night's Glee: "The cure for the common class." The common cold. The common Glee. Life.
Really though, the Oscar-winning actress energized every scene she was in, skidding across the buttered floor to save an episode that might have been in shambles without her presence. A messy plot found Sue as school principal and Paltrow's character as head of glee club after Principal Figgins and Schu get sick. The end result was an episode heavily focused on the show's adults—possibly a good thing considering the week's kind of offensive student subplot that turned the show's only overweight, only black character into a fried potato-addicted junkie.
Luckily Gwyneth and her character's "everyone should do want they want" mantra provided a much needed jolt of fun. "Forget You" was nearly as infectious as Cee-lo's original single. The "Singing in the Rain/Umbrella" mash-up was, visually at least, astounding. "Conjunction Junction"—why not? Even "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Nowadays," though step-by-shuffle-step recreations of the numbers from the Singing in the Rain and Chicago films, were fun. Though Glee should be wary about overusing these careful recreations-as-homages, having already done it in the Madonna, Britney Spears, and Rocky Horror episodes. The series became a sensation for reimagining a played-to-death Journey song in a surprising way, a creative spin that became a through-line of the series. So maybe Schu's question is valid: Is there a Journey song they haven't done yet?
Past Glee panels: