Glee: Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)

Musicals have been around for ages.  Spawned from the days of stone amphitheaters, they have evolved into productions delivered on stage and ultimately on the big screen.  So how would such a production perform on television?  From Yankee Doodle Dandy to today’s Oz-spinoff Wicked, the genre has always garnered a significant audience and maintained its place in the hearts of millions.  However, the concept of taking this type of work and translating it to television is largely untested.  If it’s not a sitcom, drama, or reality show, what do you do with it?  Enter Glee mastermind Ryan Murphy. Some may have thought that the Nip/Tuck creator was out of his mind when he proposed the concept to the Fox Network as an ongoing series.  Originally structured as a movie, Murphy was determined to see this through as a better fit for the masses on network TV.


As is usually the case with television, I missed the boat on this show.  What can I say?  I’m a movie guy, not a TV show aficionado.  Nevertheless, I had at least a little interest in seeing this show since everyone had been raving about it.  With season 1 in the books, you can find all 22 episodes on Blu-ray in this 4-disc set.  Let’s break it down.  First, what is glee?  Aside from being an elated emotion, it’s also the term donned for clubs in high schools across the country…or at least it used to be.  “Show choir” seemed to be the phrase of choice in the more recent past, but that could soon change.  These glee clubs often take existing songs and set their own choreography and vocal arrangement to them.  Their performances often extend to the point of competition against other like groups.

In a nutshell, Glee covers that as well as the daily high school lives of its characters, but that is oh such a thin nutshell.  Glee is so much more than that as each episode pours forth volume after volume of emotion.  The core group focuses on Spanish teacher and glee club leader, Mark Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison).  Personally embattled in which direction he should head in life, the very capable instructor guides the group of song and dance misfits through their daily musical grind.  Vocal standout Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) brings limitless talent to the table along with a little arrogance and some very independent motivation that sometimes gives her teammates that little push they need.

Following up the roster is quarterback all-star Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith); a proficient drummer, decent singer, but a somewhat stiff dancer.  Hudson’s stay in the glee club is always riding on his popularity as a quarterback as the athlete is always catching heat from his football cohorts in regard to his duties as a performer.  Also in the popularity mix are cheerleaders extraordinaire Quinn Fabray (Diana Agron), Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), and Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris), along with football jock Noah Puckerman (Mark Salling), though each of their intentions of being part of the song and dance team are highly questionable.

Rounding out the list is the always well-dressed and often picked-on Kurt Hummel (Chris Kolfer), R&B-oriented Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), wheelchair-bound Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), and Goth chick Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz).  The ‘team’ brings together not only an array, but a collision of personalities to the table.  Somehow, Mr. Schuester manages to bring at least some bit of cohesiveness to the group and make it work in their ongoing pursuit of a first place finish while the students continue their upstream swim in the waters of high school popularity.

Last but not least, we can’t forget one of the most memorable characters from the show; cheerleading coach and almost drill sergeant, Sue Sylvester, played by the incomparable Jane Lynch.  Sylvester, always pushing her cheerleaders through one more megaphone-laden routine, serves as the anti-hero to Mr. Schuester and his good intentions.  If she’s not confronting the glee leader face to face, she’s scheming and planting ideas in the minds of her cheerleading underlings.  Part of Sue still hasn’t left the military and she’s out to strong-arm anyone in order to regain the top spot as extracurricular instructor numero uno.

With the summation of all that’s been said, this show is nothing short of pure brilliance.  Now I understand all the hype surrounding this production, one of the best shows on television today, of any network.  The daily tribulations that these kids face are something most of us could have related to, whether it involved trying to blend in or maintain a healthy relationship or just plain succeed.  The show’s true calling card, however, is its musicality.  The numbers, delving into a variety of generations’ pop culture libraries, have featured songs from artists such as Journey, Kiss, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Queen, with one of the most memorable being a playful then emotionally driven ballad rendition of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face between cast members Lea Michele and Idina Menzel.  The troupe’s own rendition of these pieces don’t just make for good TV either.  They have sold considerably well, surpassing expectations of recordings from a weekly network production.  No matter if prep or nerd, jock or joe, the characters of Glee blend for an enticing, palatable mix for the public’s entertainment needs.


While the lush colors of Glee jump out in dramatic fashion in this 1080p delivery, the specific detailing Blu-ray is capable of just isn’t maximized here in the AVC encode presentation.  The visual quality certainly isn’t grain or static-heavy, but the lack of meticulous clarity does hurt the score here a bit.  Thankfully, skin tones do remain consistent throughout each episode and the eye-catching punch of high definition captures the spectrum of stage lighting and character wardrobes.  The 1.78:1 aspect ratio does serve as a proficient one in bringing the picture and all its splendor to your home viewing.


If you have a musical, then high audio quality is a must and Glee adeptly hits just about all the right notes here.  As the dialogue, lyrics and ambient noise flow through your speakers, you are going to find that this 4-disc set makes good use of the rear and front channels as well as the subwoofer.  When the musical numbers grace the screen, especially in the pop-heavy bass pieces, you’ll get a good rhythmic thumping from the heaviest piece of equipment in your surround sound arsenal (okay, minus the receiver).

I was looking for slightly more use of those back speakers, especially in the heavily trafficked halls of the Ohio high school in between periods.  Is that enough to make someone put this title back on the shelf?  Only if they want to pass up greatness for something lesser.  Glee on Blu-ray misses perfection by a hair in this category, though it is something still worthy of referencing to your friends when showing off the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio of this show.

Special Features  

Here’s where my typing and your reading both get a workout.  The extras on the four discs are impressive, especially on discs 1 and 4 with an emphasis on 4.  All of them separate each of the musical numbers for your enjoyment, but the first and last discs add a little more to the mix.  Overall, I think you’re going to love what has been assembled here.  Unfortunately, not all of the extras are in high def, which I’ll denote below with an ‘SD’ for those that were not.  However, those are often short, behind the scenes discussions with the cast filmed on home movie cameras.  The impromptu atmosphere of this bits seems to go hand in hand with the standard def visuals.  Still, I would have liked a 1080 dose of everything.

Disc 1
• Glee Music Jukebox –
18 musical numbers from the show
• Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary with Cast & Crew – Watch the pilot along with some of the cast and Ryan Murphy in a split-screen format as the group offers their thoughts and memories of shooting the premiere episode (48:39).
Disc 2
• Glee Music Jukebox – 24 musical numbers from the show
Disc 3
• Glee Music Jukebox – 30 musical numbers from the show
Disc 4
• Glee Sing Along Karaoke –
Sing along to numbers from that show that include songs Alone (Heart), Somebody to Love (Queen), Keep Holding On (Avril Lavigne), Don’t Stop Believing (Journey).
• Glee Music Jukebox – 28 songs from the show
Staying in Step with Glee – Lead Choreographer Zach Woodlee and Assistant Choreographer Brooke Lipton walk viewers through some of the dance moves from the show (6:19).
• Bite Their Style: Dress Like Your Favorite Gleek – Costume Designer Lou Eyrich takes you through the process of what goes into dressing the various characters (8:52).
• Unleashing the Power of Madonna – Music Supervisor PJ Bloom discusses the influence of pop icon Madonna and the episode dedicated to her (10:36).
• Making a Showstopper – Creator and Executive Producer Ryan Murphy talks about using Bohemian Rhapsody in the season finale and the big undertaking in piecing together the performance (17:22).
• Welcome to McKinley! – An absolute riot. This mock walkthrough by Principal Figgins (actor Iqbal Theba) provides a personal tour of William McKinley High School (5:07). SD
• Glee Music Video – The television trailer for the series (2:44). SD
• Full Length Audition Pieces – Here you’ll find the raw footage of some of the cast’s auditions include Lea Michele and Chris Colfer (4:11). SD
• Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session – Those responsible for bringing us Glee talk about how and why they chose the actors they did (12:03). SD
• Deconstructing Glee with Ryan Murphy – A sit-down discussion with Glee creator Ryan Murphy about how the show came together (2:49). SD
• Dance Boot Camp – Lead Choreographer Zach Woodlee and the cast talk about what it’s like in trying to teach and learn the dance moves from the show (3:12). SD
• Jane Lynch: A to Glee – Actress Jane Lynch offers a memory from the makeup chair (:52). SD
• Meet Jane Lynch – Another Lynch featurette; this time she guides us from hotel room to studio (1:03). SD
• 5 Things You Don’t Know About Jayma – The titles of this extras as well as the next few are pretty self-explanatory. This one fills us in a bit on actress Jayma Mays (:39). SD
• 7 Things You Don’t Know About Cory – regarding actor Cory Monteith (1:00). SD
• 6 Things You Don’t Know About Amber – regarding actress Amber Riley (:58). SD
• 7 Things You Don’t Know About Chris – regarding actor Chris Colfer (:41). SD
• Video Diaries – Check out the personal home video diaries of 8 different cast members (17:10). SD

Final Thoughts  

No matter what any of these actors do with their futures after this show, Glee will undoubtedly be a high point in their careers.  Gold is to Fort Knox what entertainment is to Glee.  It’s a stronghold of feeling and performance.  The show may have won an Emmy for its comedic aspects, but I was surprised to see that it actually runs deeper than that.  There is a lot of seriousness to this series, in addition to its laughs and music, making it a triple threat as far as the show’s attributes are concerned.  If I have any complaint from this Blu-ray collection, it’s that navigating through the Episodes, Set Up, Search, and Extras options on each disc’s menus isn’t the most clear.  It’s only four options but sometimes it’s difficult to tell which option is highlighted.  It goes from white to a little more bolder white.  Other than that, and that’s not even a major flaw, this series is one to buy and buy now.  Season 2 is underway on Fox as we speak so if you need to catch up or just own the magnificence of one of television’s most creative productions, do yourself a favor and add Glee: Season 1 to your Blu-ray collection.


4 Responses to “Glee: Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I couldn’t get around to watching this show over the summer. So now, with TV starting up again, I’m not sure if I ever really will, but I still have interest.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    This show was a lot better than I thought it would be. I’ve just started catching up with the first season and so far I’ve been enjoying it, especially Jane Lynch’s performance.

  3. Loot

    Another fantastic review! How do you keep cranking them out like this? Must be in the genes. 🙂

  4. Brian White

    This is my wife’s favorite TV show.