Gwyneth Paltrow is a hit in Glee’s The Substitute

Forget what you know about Gwyneth Paltrow – after watching the actress/Coldplay wife/Madonna hanger-on in her guest spot on Glee, we’re glad to announce that she’s won us over with a stellar performance.

To the uninitiated like us, Paltrow has always come across as a slightly dull already-famous type who’s been around for ages but hasn’t ever done anything exciting. Her appearance in Glee’s The Substitute episode showed the actress in an entirely new light, and probably drew some attention on to that fledgling singing career she’s intent on following. Check out this rave review:

That’s kind of like Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s an awful, awful automaton of a woman, what with the blissfully unselfaware self-help newsletter, the faux British accent and the patronizing Americana Oscar-bait. Blech. Even her name is snobbish, “Gwyneth.” But we did this! We made her famous. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

And yet? This hour of television could not make me like her more if I tried. She was great. 

On to the episode: With one sneezing student Sue Sylvester manages to take out Principal Figgins and Will Shuester, making herself temporary principal in the process. So Schuester takes to his bed, tended to by his ex-wife and doing some dis.turb.ing baby playacting. And Kurt invites the substitute Spanish teacher (at this point we remember that Schue teaches Spanish, something we never see him do) to take on Glee club.

And so the oddly-named Holly Holiday throws open a short-lived new era of decadence in Glee, where the students get to pick the songs and control freak Rachel Berry is sidelined (again). I loved the riffing on Schuester’s Journey obsession, which in truth is Glee’s obsession with reinventing old hits. Still, with Matthew Morrison out of the way, Paltrow was able to run riot. And she did. I’ve never seen the woman so animated. But she still had that slightly uncomfortable white-person swagger when Santana shot “But you’re 40” at her and she replied “Top 40, sweetcheeks”. That’s not a criticism, it was fun to see her mirroring that uncoolness that Schuester has too.

There were some fun moments with Sue, as she realised that her new powers had limits – like when she tried to disband the football team. Coach Bieste casually pointed out that without a football team, Sue’s Cheerios would have nobody to cheer for. So she went to war on tater tots instead, enraging Mercedes who was using them as comfort food to get over Kurt’s constant raving about his new ‘boy friend’.

I don’t know how many times its been done this season, but the on again, off again rivalry between Sue and Schue is confusing for me. One moment she’s firing him, the next she’s happily rehiring him. All within the same episode. I know it can be funny when Sue constantly keeps us guessing whether she’s going to be bitchy or reasonable, but the constant to-ing and fro-ing isn’t the solution. 

Overall though, none of the smaller plot points mattered this week, because Gwyneth Paltrow was the star of The Substitute. Much more successful than the overblown musical tribute episodes, and Paltrow slotted nicely into the cast. We can only hope that the cringesome Mr Schuester makes good on his promise to recommend Holly Holiday the next time he’s sick. And then he can slip into a season-long coma.

What about you Gleeks – would you like to see Holly Holiday return to Glee?

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