The fantastic Ms. Phoebe Raven is out enjoying her holidays and has left me in charge of her television column this week, so let’s wax nostalgic on that great divider of television: Glee!
I’ve been Glee’s biggest defender for awhile as witnessed by my article about Glee’s positive message for teenagers today (Loser Like Me). And even when I’ve cited Glee for favoritism and bias in their recent reality show The Glee Project (Competition Cops Out on the Glee Project), I’ve still never let it affect my viewing of the series. Recently though I’ve come to doubt my love of Glee, and the last two episodes have made me question whether I can even continue watching the show! I know people who already hate the series will say, “It’s sucked from the beginning,” but the problem is the shows alienation of fans that have been there since the beginning.
This slump can be seen in a multitude of creator Ryan Murphy’s series. Let’s run down the list shall we? His highly underrated teen dramedy Popular had a quirky and fun first season only to lose the quirk and charm in its second, and ultimately last season. His run with Nip/Tuck had two strong seasons and limped into home with even wackier, soap opera drama that become too insane for die-hard fans. His latest series, American Horror Story, has just wrapped up its first season and while I loved the start the finale left me saying, “He’s confined himself to a hole and know the plots going to become stupid!” Murphy and crew become so focused on the ratings that they need to top themselves, and with Glee, that pressure to “wow” is starting to show.
The series has always been strong with its message of tolerance and accepting of issues, but this season especially that came at the risk of every other member of the cast. The focus went from Blaine and Kurt (Darren Criss and Chris Colfer) and has settled firmly on Latin diva Santana (Naya Rivera). The Kurt storyline was thought-provoking, not exploitative and resulted in Colfer getting an Emmy. The introduction of Blaine explained in an adult manner a natural homosexual relationship in a teen drama but with the recent episode devoted to losing one’s virginity “The First Time,” the sex angle was light, fluffy, and hasn’t been mentioned since. For a series that has prided itself on presenting realistic teen relationships, having two couples lose their virginity (Kurt/Blaine and Rachel/Finn), and the sex wasn’t discussed in detail and everyone just moved on. That seems to be the series running theme this season, every plotline can be solved in an episode or less.
Case in point, Quinn (Dianna Agron) and her attempts to get back the baby she put up for adoption. Back in season one Quinn came to an adult decision to give up a child she couldn’t support for adoption. As a means to get ratings the adoptive mother, fellow show choir director Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) returned with Quinn’s baby Beth. Quinn ended season two a little loopy but apparently all she needed was a haircut. Cut to season three and that haircut led to her becoming the school slut and hanging out with a group of outcasts that were hilarious, and were quickly discarded. Quinn sees her baby and decides to plant hazardous materials throughout the house and call Child Protective Services to have Shelby deemed unfit. Where in the world did this girl get the idea this would work? She wants to take a baby away from the only mother it’s known and raise it in her mother’s house? That wouldn’t bother me so much but once Quinn realizes she won’t get Beth back she goes to bad boy Puck (Mark Salling) and tells him “We made one perfect baby, we can have another!” This girl is obviously suffering from a mental break and yet no one devotes any time to this story! Everything is all wrapped up in Santana’s sexuality that there’s no room to stop and look at a girl that’s probably suffering from genuine mental illness. I mean after failing at seducing Puck she goes up to Sam (Chord Overstreet), a fellow Glee club member and says that he should be with her so that when she gets her baby, they’ll all look like a family! Sam just says no and moves on…this girl needs a strait jacket!
By the end of the last episode, “Hold on to Sixteen,” Quinn gets a talking to from Shelby about needing to grow up and….it works! Quinn gives up being crazy because she’s over it! This is how storylines get solved in Glee apparently, we watch a girl suffer from a real problem only to be told by an adult to grow up. As much as I love how Santana’s storyline is being handled, I doubt an adult would tell her to grow up in regards to her sexual problems. On top of that there was another conflict between Finn and Blaine about dominance in the Glee club, which also gets solved in “Hold on to Sixteen” by Finn saying he’s sorry. It’s as if the writers can only devote their brains to one story and everything else gets half-assed ideas.
The show has lost its quirk, its humor, the charm that made a group of kids singing Journey likeable. Instead, I can’t tell you one cast member I truly like anymore. Sure there’s still Brittany (Heather Morris) who I believe should get her own show before she loses her talent, but even then she’s been relegated to the stupid girl which she was never supposed to be. With this loss of charm come the writers just throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick. The return of Sam to the fold is a great example. Overstreet left the show because he thought he’d be a star but that didn’t happen. His return involved the reveal of him as an underage male stripper! In the Regional’s episode Sam tells the group they need more sex and starts gyrating like a stripper on a pole…which everyone thinks are genius! I understand this show lives in a world where people like Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) can spew quasi-hate messages while running for Congress, but there’s no humor to be derived from a group of kids who think thrusting and grinding on the ground will win them a competition. They don’t even abandon the idea at the end; they sing a song and actually start doing pelvic thrusts! In the first season the group got lambasted for doing a dirty dance to Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” but that’s apparently all forgotten in favor of having a Justin Beiber wannabe thrust his junk in an audience’s face!
What happened to the show that delighted in having the underdog’s win the day? Hell, what happened to Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) who’s become more and more absent as the season’s progressed? The majority of the characters are set to leave next semester so we’ll be losing Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Corey Monteith) and Kurt, but is that any reason to have them fade to the background in their final season? We’ve devoted so much time to side characters and Glee Project winner Lindsay Pearce. I mention Pearce specifically because she’s gotten two big songs in just two episodes and she didn’t even win the Glee Project. Winner Damien McGinty has had two songs in seven episodes and the last four episodes have had him sitting in the back reacting to things. It’s so obvious Pearce was set to star in the new season to begin with and the reality show was utilized to cover up favoritism but seriously guys, you don’t have to lie to me.
I don’t know what it will take to get Glee back on track. This season was supposed to be a return to basics according to the writers but if anything we’ve strayed even further from what the show’s about. The songs are no longer unique, aside from the excellent Trouble Tones mashups. Speaking of the Trouble Tones, why devote almost half a season to a rival Glee club when you know the guest star coaching them will leave at a certain point? Once Shelby Corcoran left the only option was to merge Glee clubs…so why the hell make this such a big deal?! The two clubs have been at each other’s throats for seven episodes only to say “We lost our coach, we’ll be coming back now.” This just shows the shoddy writing and direction of this series. If Murphy and company don’t have the time anymore, then hire writers who care. Don’t pull the show along simply for the ratings, it’s not working as we’ve seen every week in reports that the ratings are decreasing. You want to know why? Because the show has no direction. Regional’s this season wasn’t a big deal anymore because there’s no momentum to the show. The writers already know how far the club will go so apparently there’s no need to make measly Regional’s special. All seems lost with this show and me, Glee’s biggest fan, seriously doubts her loyalty.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.