Hello all and welcome back to Common Culture! I hope I find you well and healthy and happy. Speaking of happiness, my topic today is about that very thing. Well, not happiness exactly, but close to it – glee!
That’s right. To all of you who hate Glee and don’t want to hear about it, now is your cue to leave. Or stay – this blog may interest you because it is not going to be a Glee-Praise-a-Thon. As a Glee watcher since its premiere in 2009, I do always try to look on the positive side of its decisions, but on the other hand, as a student studying dramatic writing and hoping one day to write for TV and movies, I can’t ignore its bad choices. So I will stand in the middle and hopefully try to uncover exactly what went wrong.
Season 1 is Glee’s shining moment. The show burst onto the scene with a weird concept that no one expected to succeed: a musical comedy about a bunch of underdog high schoolers in a glee club. Musical TV shows had been tried before, and they hadn’t done well. Yet, for some reason, Glee did. Maybe it was its cast of talented unknowns, or its snarky dark humor, or its earnest and heartwarming story that we could all relate to – one about a bunch of kids just trying to find their way in the world. Despite the fact that it was often cheesy or that people randomly breaking into song and dance is just hard to get on board with, Glee’s moral that even the underdogs can be winners helped the show become a winner. The previously unknown stars of the show became household names, music and merchandise from the show was selling like crazy, and Glee was just about the coolest show on TV.
Then came Season 2 – the season where we started to see traces of what Glee would become deep inside the guise of a mostly decent season. The usual plot lines filled this season: Sue tried to end the glee club, the students tried to navigate the complicated high school hierarchy, and all of the characters dealt with bullying, sex, religion, drinking and other relevant social issues. Important characters Sam and Blaine were introduced in this season and somehow they managed to avoid the axe the writers tend to bring down on many other new characters they write in. I’m not sure why they continue to introduce characters and then pull them out for no reason but more on that later. The important part is these are still the days when the writers were conscious of what they were doing. And for the most part, it did pretty well.
However, we do start to see weird things happening. My theory is that the writers got drunk off their unexpected success and got overconfident. They expected nothing from this show, got everything and decided that the world was their oyster. The show that was once filled with mash-ups and innovative covers of songs began to rely heavily on top forty’s. The famous guest stars began to pour in and the icky over-relevant-to-pop-culture plot lines came much more often. I mean, I cannot count the number of times Sam is referred to as “Justin Bieber” in this show just because his hair is sort of shaggy. It seems that the writers sort of lost track of what they were trying to achieve – a heartwarming, honest, quirky story – and got sort of stuck on “make money, be funny, and write a lot about Justin Bieber”.
And from here on, Glee totally loses its mind. I cannot even remember all of the things the writers have done that have confused or disappointed me in this show since it went haywire, but things I can remember are: having characters act completely out of character, forgetting facts and plot lines and just ignoring them like they never existed, writing something and then writing something else a week later because apparently they didn’t like what the wrote, consistently making their characters unlikable, writing most of the leads as caricatures of real people, making their characters behave poorly without ever feeling the consequences of those actions – need I go on. From a writing standpoint, Glee is a… how do I put it? A hot mess.
I don’t know what happened. It always makes me sad because Glee had such potential and such a fanbase. The only speculation I can really give is that the show was helmed by writers who did not know how to handle such pressure and expectations, and unfortunately, didn’t have enough knowledge of screenwriting to fall back on. I am still impressed that this show is being run by the same people, to be honest, because it literally just doesn’t make sense at times. It’s sort of tragic.
And now you’re thinking: “Wow. A blog about how Glee was great and now it sucks. That was pretty mean.” And I respond with, 1.) It wasn’t mean, it was critical. And 2.) I have more to say.
The truth is, though I think Glee’s writing is pretty crappy and I have hated watching characters I thought I knew turn into strangers at the hands of poor writers, I will always love Glee. Because one thing that the writers haven’t failed to do is retain the moral of the story, even if at times it seems to be fading. No matter what, in every episode of Glee, we are reminded that even the unpopular kids in school can live their dreams; that you can have the strength to do anything with good friends and family behind you; and that music can truly create bonds between the most diverse group of people. I grew up with these kids – I watched them go from nervous freshman to successful seniors to young adults out in the real world, recording albums and starring on Broadway and falling in love. Is it all realistic? No. But it’s TV. Maybe all the writers ever wanted was to allow kids like me, the theatre nerds who always felt a little weird in school, some sort of alternate world where it was the kids like us who succeeded and achieved their dreams. So even if I know it’s not real, even though I know no eighteen-year-old flies straight from Ohio into Broadway, I see myself in those kids. I see the drive and passion and the potential that I see in my own reflection. And that is why I continue to watch and support this show. I can acknowledge it for its mistakes and bad choices, but I can also keep my promise to see it through because of all it has done to inspire me to become one of those unrealistic impossible stories of success.