On a conference call late last week, Joss Whedon spilled the behind-the-scenes secrets of what it was like to direct someone else's show, glee. And candidly he admitted a regret from the episode, "Dream On," which airs tonight is that he didn't get to do as much with "the kids" as he would have liked. It is a grievance I aired when screening an advanced copy of the episode. And Whedon has a feeling many young fans will agree.
The episode is heavily centered on Will Schuester and his high school rival turned school board member Bryan Ryan (guest star Neil Patrick Harris). This is a reunion for Whedon and Harris, who previously co-conspired for the web darling Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. However, glee is a whole other animal, in that it's forty-five minutes of script and song and dance every week.
"Doing Buffy and Dr. Horrible were both great prep for something like this," Whedon acknowledged how he got his feet wet with musicals. "Knowing the difference between a musical number and a regular scene is very useful. It's something I'd like to spend a lot more time doing."
Whedon has guest-directed before, on NBC's hit workplace sitcom, The Office. However, he was eager to jump into glee, which has quickly become a phenomenon among fans, ratings, and critics, even if the episode hadn't featured a good friend of his. In fact, he joked that he was actually sick of working with Harris. But for Whedon, this musical story-telling world was like coming home, in a way, because he understands them and he truly likes them.
“It was just a comfortable place for me," Whedon was nonchalant about a task that almost seems larger-than-life. "It didn’t really occur to me until later in the process that it is actually a little groundbreaking, just in terms of how it makes people who would not normally embrace this kind of show, embrace people singing and dancing spontaneously to songs from every possibly era. This very serious issue of inclusiveness in school that it’s dealing with is something that sneaks up on you while you’re having a great time. It does a lot of good and has a legacy that’s more than the fact that it’s super entertaining. But as I mentioned, it’s super entertaining.”
This particular episode is a good mix of all three story elements the show has made famous, with five key tracks, two key tap-dance sequences, and lots of heart-to-heart moments between Will and Bryan Ryan, as well as Artie (Kevin McHale) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). Whedon admitted he enjoyed that mix. "Some numbers are just about movement, he said. "I got to be involved in creating that movement. In prepping the musical numbers, it’s this incredibly difficult show. I’m trying to find the through-line. I’m trying to find how to make the schedule work.”
In addition to the taxing musical numbers, another uncommon element Whedon had to work with was the double-duty his actors were pulling. Harris came over to Paramount, where the show shoots, after working on How I Met Your Mother in order to work the episode into his busy schedule, but the glee kids themselves were in the middle of working on multiple episodes, and multiple recordings, at once in order to finish the whirlwind season experience on time.
“I did have one of the actors [ask me] ‘How do I feel about this guy? No really, I don’t remember. We’re shooting four episodes at once,'" Whedon candidly explained. "It’s hard to wrap your head around, the band rehearsals and recording. The show [shoots] as quickly as it moves so you have to be on your feet at all times. It’s got a different aesthetic, kind of an old fashioned aesthetic in the writing. The camerawork is classical. It’s not edgy in that sense. The edge comes from taking a comfortable milieu and adding something shocking, either so snarky, dirty or funny.”
Whedon did admit that working on a show he is such a fan of has a slight downside, too. "It's like a giant slough of spoilers!" He said. Of course, though, if he is asked back, he said he would have no second thoughts. Totally! If I had the window, and they would take me, then yes, in a heartbeat!" the fanboy exclaimed.
"Dream On" airs tonight only on FOX, and if you'd like to read my recap of the episode, head on over to the brand new TV fandom website, SqueeTV. I will be recapping glee weekly over there. I can't guarantee you'll always like what I have to say, but I can guarantee there will always be much to say!
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