Stars: Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz
Writer: Ian Brennan
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Reson
Network: Fox, airs Tuesday nights @ 8:00 pm
Original Telecast: December 7, 2010

If you’ve seen any Christmas episode of any TV show during the last forty years, chances are, there are some familiar Christmas moments that most episodes are going to hit.

You’ll probably have the curmudgeon discovering they have a heart, someone who doesn’t have the Christmas spirit eventually finding  it and, in the post-modern 2000s, chances are classic cartoons are going to be revisited and referenced in cheeky ways.

Not surprising, GLEE’s “A Very Glee Christmas” looks and feels like every other Christmas special out there (hitting all the major beats above), but also manages to put its own twists on the formula as well. We get a major break-up between Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel (Lea Michele) – with no happy resolution by episode’s end. And the very important line by Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) at the end of the episode to Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) is the very un-Christmas-like “I hate you.”

Thankfully, writer Ian Brennan doesn’t go for a big, super-sized Christmas extravaganza. Instead, it’s a very quaint and simply stated episode that features Sue as a modern-day Grinch. She rigs Secret Santa so she gets all the gifts, and when everyone finds out, they decide to donate the gifts for the holidays.

Naturally, Sue decides to take them back and ruin Christmas for the Glee club – but not without literally painting her face green and becoming the physical manifestation of the Grinch (she even has a dog dear).

The other story features Brittany (Heather Morris) who, not surprising, still believes in Santa. Her wheelchair boyfriend Artie (Kevin McHale) tries to get everyone to go along with it, but things go sour when she asks Santa to let Artie walk for Christmas.

This plot is one of the most touching and original bits in the entire episode. It’s so simple that it works, and the pay-off with Coach Beiste (Dot Marie-Jones) is a highlight.

Songwise, the episode keeps it simple too and for once, the GLEE CHRISTMAS album that’s out there, features more songs than are actually featured on the show.

The episode kicks off with “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” from the animated RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER which talks about being from the land of misfit toys. Perfect for the Glee club.

As they’re on the verge of a break-up, Finn and Rachel sing a strong duet of the WHAM song “Last Christmas” while Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) sing a pretty clever twist on the usual male/female duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

This moment between Kurt and Blaine continues to develop their relationship at a reasonably believable pace. Again, I hope they don’t push bringing Kurt back to McKinley High too quick.

The episode also squeezes in “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (with a line twist for Sue) and “Welcome Christmas” from the GRINCH special as well.

Michele also gets a chance to belt out “Merry Christmas Darling” in what’s becoming her requisite “I’m singing on the stage and I’m oh, so sad” moments her character seems to get like clockwork every week.

Overall, “A Very Glee Christmas” is neutral enough, storytelling-wise, that this will probably be trotted out every year as the holiday episode without messing with whatever current mythology that’s there.

It’s really good and by hitting enough familiar beats, and creating a few clever ones of their own (Brittany still believing in Santa), it concludes an uneven first half of Season Two on a very high note and with no trace of bah-humbug in between.

CLICK HERE for more of ASSIGNMENT X’s GLEE reviews and interviews

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