Before I dive into the meat of this review (a fun episode that I enjoyed a lot more on my second viewing away from the distractions of my job where I saw it first), there is some slight housekeeping that I wanted to go over very quickly. I’ve made an executive decision to only review any of the hour-long shows that I end up watching on a weekly basis on an episode-by-episode basis for this blog, since I’m going to be watching potentially four sitcoms this fall TV season and I just don’t have time to review them all. So that means, there won’t be episodic reviews of Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, or a new show I’m enjoying based off the pilot, Zooey Deschanel’s The New Girl. So, at the moment, we’re getting weekly reviews of Breaking Bad (which ends in three weeks) and Glee for the foreseeable future. I might start watching Terra Nova when it premieres. We’ll see.

After the horrible fiasco that was Nationals and Glee‘s failed experiment in original songs, Glee went back to basics for its third season premiere and when it came to the humor and stories (not necessarily all of the performances but more on that later), it hit all of the right notes. After a summer off, Will and Emma are living together and sleeping in the same bed but not having sex. Finn and Rachel are still an item but Finn is frightened about his lack of plans for after high school. Sam has moved out of town but Mercedes has found a new man in the very large football player Marcus. Zizes has also quit the New Directions and dumped Puck because the glee club was killing her rep. Sue is running for Congress although she is in practically dead last in the race. Kurt and Blaine are still together as well and Kurt is trying to convince Blaine to transfer to McKinley so that they don’t have to be competitors. Also, Quinn has dyed her hair pink, started smoking, got a nose ring and a tattoo and is part of a new clique called the Skanks and is no longer in the New Directions. That’s the basic universe building that occurs in the first ten minutes of the episode.

There are several different main storylines for the episode itself outside of setting the basic relationships and new realities of the season. Kurt and Finn have a renewed desire to go to a performing arts school in New York after performing on Wicked‘s stage last season. They attend a meet-and-greet for a prestigious performing arts school where they are blown away and humbled by the performances and pedigrees that they are exposed to and realize they aren’t as talented as they think they are. Kurt and Blaine continue to be the most absolutely adorable couple on television as Blaine decides to transfer to McKinley where he steals the entire episode with a performance on the school’s quad where the gang performed “New York State of Mind” last year. Sue declares war on the arts as part of her campaign for Congress, and Will plans a counteroffensive that only adds fuel to her campaign. Mr. Schue gives the Glee kids a project to always perform a song in the school when they see one of three purple pianos to gain exposure to the club and encourage kids to try out, but by the end of the episode, two of the three pianos have been destroyed by Sue and her Cheerios. Eventually, Will is forced to kick Santana out of the Glee club because of her allegiances to Sue and the Cheerios.

No review of Glee could possibly be complete without a breakdown of each individual performance so here goes. I’m not a big fan of the original Go-Go’s version of “We’ve Got the Beat” but the New Directions did a really good job with the song vocally, especially Brittany who surprised me with how much her vocals have improved over the course of the show. However, I thought the lunch-room choreography was pretty weak but let’s face it, outside of Brittany and Mike, this group doesn’t have great dancers. The Barbara Streisand cover of The Wizard of Oz‘s “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead!” gave Rachel and Kurt another chance to sing a duet together and let’s face it those always work well for me, but I’m not a huge fan of the arrangement of that version of the song and once again, the choreography was cheesy again. Of course, we leave it to Blaine to save the day with his stellar version of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”. He just brings so much polish and enthusiasm to every single performance that he’s easily the most talented male star on the show. The theatre geeks mashing up “Anything Goes”/”Anything You Can Do” was inspired and nearly as good as “It’s Not Unusual”. I want to see more of the girl who sang lead since she got second place on The Glee Project. “You Can’t Stop the Beat” was fun but not necessarily the best song choice. Glee‘s song selection is never going to be able to be as consistently good as it was in the first season which is sad.

First off, for the first time in ages, Glee reached the level of satirical humor that I thought it had abandoned for a more conventional dramedy. There were so many moments that had me laughing hysterically, and as usual, they almost all involved Sue, Brittany, or Kurt. When Sue talked about Mr. Schue’s “man-marbles” I nearly lost it but not nearly as bad as when Brittany confused her nipples with pepperoni. Kurt’s enthusiasm about “purple pianos” reminds me that they aren’t afraid to use his more feminine tendencies for humor after all of the drama from last season was refreshing. Kurt became one of the show’s favorite characters and they protected him a little too much at times. Hopefully, this season will give him opportunities to be developed as a character in challenging ways. Also, when Emma said that “this must be what it’s like to be turned on”, I loved it. Seriously, when are Will and Emma finally going to have sex?

Umm, I don’t know a way to express this without coming off as a fangirl or retain any shred of masculinity but I am so very, very excited to have Darren Criss in the New Directions and as a series regular. He is the most talented person in the cast behind Lea Michele, and now she has a male lead that can match her level of talent. Hopefully, we no longer have to put up with the musical train wreck that is Corey Monteith as Finn. Don’t get me wrong. I like Finn. He’s funny and a nice guy (most of the time). But Corey Monteith is the second worst singer in the group (only ahead of Mike) and his dancing is simply atrocious. Darren Criss is the total package when it comes to talent. If the show continues to give Finn solos and leads at competitions, I might have to stop watching simply because there’s no way to believe that if Mr. Schue wants to win that he wouldn’t utilize his most talented performer. It would be insulting to the audience’s intelligence.

Since last season’s finale was so terrible, it was going to be pretty hard for Glee to disappoint me with its season premiere, but I was pleasantly surprised anyway by the show winding its way back to the things that work best and cutting back on things that don’t. I’m really excited to see how the show explores the themes of the hopes and dreams of high school against the soul-crushing reality of the real world as its something I’ve had to deal with myself. Kurt and Rachel are such great characters and if the rest of the season gives them as much time to shine as it did tonight, then I will be pleased. There was also very little in the way of relationship angst which often took up too much of last season’s screen time. All in all, I’m very excited for the possibilities of this new season and I will be there to keep my loyal readers (of which there are none) up to date on how I think the season is faring.

Episode Score: B+