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It's too soon, of course, only three episodes into the return of "Glee," to make any sweeping conclusions about whether the show has lived up to the hype that filled the four-month gap without a new installment.
We’re glad, though, to make some early observations: the groundwork for more scheming and deception is being laid with the infiltration of mole from rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline, and Sue Sylvester’s blackmail plot. And there’s been plenty of music, most notably in the recent tribute to Madonna, featuring Sue’s delightfully bizarre take on “Vogue.”
But unlike the first 13 shows, the most interesting element of the new batch of episodes so far has little to do with devious dysfunctional adults and school kids, romantic entanglements built on trickery and unlikely elaborate musical numbers that seemingly sprout out of nowhere.
The best part of the often-cynical show in the season’s second half is an uncharacteristically sweet love story playing out between Kurt’s widowed father and Finn’s widowed mother. The two, decidedly unglamorous, parents also are virtually the only adults on the show who are loving and selfless – and not cartoonish narcissists.
We saw separate signs in the initial episodes that these were two characters to watch: Mike O’Malley’s turn as Kurt’s mechanic father, Burt Hummel, gave the “Glee” its first dose of emotional heft with his unconditional, if awkward, acceptance of his son's homosexuality.
When blond cheerleader Quinn’s wealthy, self-absorbed parents throw her out after they learn she’s pregnant – by Finn, she falsely claimed – Finn’s modest mom, Carole Hudson, takes her in without hesitation or judging her.
It seems inevitable now that the widow and widower would get together. Of course, with anything “Glee”-related, there’s backstory involving some pretense: Kurt nudged the couple together so he could get closer to Finn, his secret crush. Now that the couple is in love and his blue-collar father is taking to the athletic Finn, a jealous Kurt is trying to break everybody up.
Finn, still literally clinging to urn of the war-hero father he doesn’t remember, wasn’t crazy about the pairing. But the show’s confused man-child came to see in last week’s touching episode that his mother deserves some happiness. And he's apparently come to realize he could use some father-figure guidance – the kind he wasn’t getting from glee club leader Will Schuester, who still is mired at times in his own boyhood.
Relationships on “Glee,” as we’ve seen, aren’t long-term propositions. But this pairing brings the show, which often plays in a heightened reality, down to earth, providing a semblance of grounding that bodes well for the program’s growth beyond a one-season phenomenon.
If that’s not something to sing and dance about, it’s certainly something to cheer.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.