Yesterday I read that Javier Bardem will potentially be guest-starring on GLEE next season. He’s one in a growing list of celeb fans of the show who’ve either lobbied to be cast, been suggested by fan groups to Glee it up (a la Betty White on SNL) or just talked about while we all stand around the platinum-encrusted water cooler of discussion known as Industry Gossip.
During the first part of this past season, I was a HUGE “Gleek,” as the show’s rabid fans have been called, watching every week, DVR’ing, and re-watching, loving the show’s spiky mix of over-the-top pop, heartstring-tugging, and bitchy, witty one-liners. Any show that—in its first episode—cites Guys and Dolls and Beyonce, has a character use the word “irony,” and has its band of misfit characters harmonize Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” (far and away Journey’s best single and one of my all-time favorite songs) was destined for quick cancellation—but I loved it.
The second half of the season didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped: theme episodes seemed a little too pre-determined; song choices (and performances—a Funky Bunch riff?) felt a little uninspired. There even seemed to be a dearth of really good and cutting Sue Sylvester material, almost as if the little show about high school outcasts felt somehow threatened by the mature mean girl on the set and sought to put her back in her (supporting actress) place for a little while. That said, when the show was good, it was really good: it even got me to appreciate Idina Menzel.
Which leads me to my next point: what really worked for me in the final few eps, more often than not, were the guest-stars. Jonathan Groff, Lea Michelle’s Spring Awakening co-star, played the wonderfully named Jesse St. James with just the right amount of teen drama queen aloofness; Kristin Chenoweth returned as boozy April Rhodes; and best of all, Neil Patrick Harris played the bitter Bryan Ryan, falsetto-battling with Schuester in one of the best performances of the season. Harris would probably make a perfect Mr. Schu if he wasn’t already on a hit show, and if GLEE didn’t seem to need the glee coach to break into silly play-that-funky-music-white-boy-isms every so often (which Matthew Morrison, bless his Broadway-by-way-of-suburban-Cali soul, does so, um, energetically.)
So, in honor of the impending arrival of Bardem and the cute coupla appearances by Pink Lady Sandy (oops, I meant Olivia Newton-John), I’m making my picks for eventual GLEE guest stars:
Mo’Nique: As Rhonda, Mercedes’s stage Mom from Hell (up in Harlem). She can rip a joke off its hinges in good GLEE style, and I’d love to see her go mano-a-mano with Sue Sylvester. In a sweatsuit. With nails done and hair did.
Or, if they can’t get Mo, then go in a different direction with Jennifer Holiday. Since “And I Am Telling You” seems to be the audition litmus test for every aspiring singing (plus-size?) black woman these days, why not bring on the original? Perhaps—inside joke of jokes—Mercedes’s mom played Effie Melody White in an Ohio dinner theater production of Dreamgirls, then had her career derailed by getting pregnant, getting thrown out of her girl group, and losing Mercedes’ dad, Curtis, to the skinny, cute one who took over as lead singer. Might work. Besides, Holiday has done decent work on Ally McBeal, the original hour-long Fox dramedy, and since GLEE, on it’s worst days feels like warmed-over fast-talking David Kelley-goes-to-high-school (we’ll just ignore any memories of Boston Public—other than the sublime Loretta Devine!) Holiday might fit right in.
Fresh off The Addams Family on Broadway, Nathan Lane and BeBe Neuwirth as Rachel’s parents. In my mind, Rachel’s only been telling people she had two gay dads. In the spirit of GLEE inclusiveness, perhaps one of Rachel’s daddies wasn’t actually “gay” but was just a male who always wanted to be a female Broadway diva. And we meet him post-surgery. Since it seems to be the Hollywood way—other than, perhaps Candis Cayne on Dirty Sexy Money?—to cast transgender characters with cis-gendered actors, Tony-winning dancer Neuwirth has the requisite agility of body and rigidity of attitude to pass as Hollywood’s interpretation of a trans woman. And think of the duets! The trios! The upstaging!
Or, if they go in a more trad direction, Nathan Lane and Brian Stokes Mitchell—who says Rachel can’t have an interracial couple as her folks? Both sing, both have impeccable Broadway pedigrees (which seems to be de rigeur for this show, thank God!). Isn’t it rich? Aren’t they a pair?
Jaden Smith, as the rapping, kung-fu kicking kid that Puck is forced to mentor in a Big Brother program. He can teach Puck about race relations, and Puck can teach him how to be a junior high school Lothario. With a special guest appearance by Will Smith (in heavy make-up and a prosthetic beer belly), as Jaden’s divorced dad (of course, a McKinley high graduate) who still has dreams of a rap career, even as he approaches 40. He and Mr. Schu can do an early 90s rap medley featuring songs by Heavy D. In this all-rap, all-beat-boxing episode we find out that Sue Sylvester’s favorite rappers were Salt-N-Pepa, with whom she does a remake video of “Push It” as a dream sequence.
James Franco: Well, just because I love him. And he seems to be doing a bit of TV acting these days. In fact, I think Hollywood should just let him guest-star on every show that I watch. I deserve that much.