Stars: Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Harry Shum Jr., Jenna Ushkowitz
Writer:  Marti Noxon
Director:  Matthew Morrison
Network: Fox, airs Tuesday nights
Original Telecast: December 13, 2011

Yes, it’s official – being meta with a Christmas special has officially jumped the shark. TV shows must stop the madness now. How many times can you pay homage to HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS?, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and countless others.

Is it that hard to come up with an original Christmas story for a TV show?

Last year, GLEE had a very strange Christmas episode where Brittany (Heather Morris) admitted she still believed in Santa Claus. This year, the show isn’t as dark and purposely goes for something cheery and bright. It works for the most part.

The set-up is simple – the local TV station wants Glee club to put on a Christmas special and have Artie (Kevin McHale) direct. Artie wants it to be cheery. Meanwhile, the Glee club agrees to help Sue (Jane Lynch) at the local homeless shelter by singing on the same night.

Well, they choose the Christmas special, but, let’s just say they find the true meaning of Christmas by episode’s end.

One of the strangest aspects of this episode is the homage to black and white 1950s/1960s variety specials of yore. So for two very long segments in the show, we’re treated to Artie’s vision of a Christmas special complete with Finn (Cory Monteith) and Puck (Mark Salling) as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo respectively.

It’s strange – really strange, but also unique in many ways too. Props to Lea Michele as Rachel, who gives her best old time celebrity acting in the special.

The music throughout is expected Christmas chestnuts. There’s the Elvis Presley version of “Blue Christmas,” the Bruce Springsteen version of “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” and even Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

What really works though is the original song “Extraordinary Merry Christmas,” Rachel singing Joni Mitchell’s “River” and the episode’s closing charity song from Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.

Former BUFFY alum Marti Noxon pens this episode, and she definitely gives the episode some nice pep. There’s also some great self-referential gags in the episode giving a shout out to last year’s horribly bizarre Christmas episode. They even mention how last Christmas was a bummer (with Sue stealing all the presents, etc) and also because Artie got metal legs … that broke the next day.
Finally someone mentions that –a hilarious in-joke for fans who were wondering what happened to those mechanical legs.

“Extraordinary Merry Christmas” does have many false notes too. I’m still not sure about Sue’s complete turnaround. One minute she hates Glee club, the next minute she needs their help. Decide please.

Rachel’s need for many Christmas gifts that she wants Finn to get her rings a bit false and out of character. And the weird pairing of Trouty Mouth Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Rory (Damian McGinty) comes out of left field and seems more like a subplot of convenience rather than something organic.

After a very heavy fall of major story arcs, it’s nice to have a back to basics episode with very little mythology and a lot of positive affirmations. It’s not perfect, but it is fun – not only with some clever dialogue but also from Matthew Morrison’s inspired direction.

It may not end up being a perennial Christmas classic watched year after year, but it has enough going on in it that at least they tried (even if points are knocked off for all of the meta A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS references).

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Article: TV Review – GLEE – Season 3 – “Extraordinary Merry Christmas”

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