The premiere episode of Glee, airing in February of 2009, was one of the great pilots. Which might leave you to ponder, upon the conclusion of the dramedy’s third season… WTF?
Glee wouldn’t be the first show to start off strong and then squander audience goodwill in a sea of contrivances and guest stars (Chuck, anyone?) And actually, it is still hugely popular and considered a success by many measures. The cast has sold more records than The Beatles. Maybe I’m the only one who hates it. Well, I can’t be the only one, as evidenced by this blog, Glee Sucks. Yes, you really have to compare the Glee of the pilot to — let’s call it post-Gwyneth Glee — to appreciate the magnitude of its decline.
The pilot was no less than groundbreaking. It aired after the Superbowl, months before the show would officially premiere. It was so wacky and in-your-face and, dare I say, life-affirming. I still have the New Directions rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” on my iPod.
Here are the top 5 (but by no means only) ways that Glee has let us down since its pilot:
1. Geekery. We don’t want cool geeks. We want geeky geeks. And geeky gleeks. The decision to put football players and cheerleaders in the glee club was good, because it set up tension between the two groups. But then they just became one homogenized, pretty blob complaining about how they’re such outcasts. Tina even lost her stutter. Because she was faking it. She was faking something that would make her an outcast. Then when she wanted it gone, voila! How are we supposed to sympathize with that?
2. Sue. She’s evil, she’s good, no wait she’s evil again, oh but her sister died, blah, blah, blah. They should have left her evil. Jane Lynch had some of the funniest lines in the pilot and shouted with a megaphone that this show was going to be different.
3. Hold on to 16… This is a problem inherent to any show about high school kids, that they grow up, but as a show’s creator you have to see this coming. At least That 70s Show had the foresight to stretch out each calendar year over a couple of seasons. The fact that the actors playing these kids were already in their 20s doesn’t help. But it’s not just how they look that strains belief. In the last episode I caught, Finn and Rachel were engaged. Please. We know these kids are drama queens but isn’t planning a wedding between homeroom and social studies a little over the top, even in Ohio? (I’m from Ohio, I can say that.) In the beginning the adults were there to entertain us with adult problems — marriage, divorce, infertility, career choices — that was all in there. We could leave it to the kids to focus on glee club, football, and cheerleading, making the show’s teen pregnancy a major deal.
4. Crazy Wife. I never remember her name, so I just think of her as Crazy Wife. The character of Will’s not-really-pregnant wife was freaking hilarious. She reminded us that neurosis is not the sovereign domain of teenagers. And the love triangle set up among Will, his wife, and Emma, was adorably compelling. No one wants to see a marriage fall apart, but we also wanted to see Will and Emma get together. They did… too fast. We could have savored the tension a lot longer.
5. Journey. Or rather, the lack thereof. Glee teased us with the promise of nostalgia-producing classic rock for the listening pleasure for those of us in the age range of McKinley’ High School’s teachers. Then it actually made fun of itself for doing Journey songs, like, “oh, ha ha, what were we thinking,” and made it seem like it was all Will’s fault for being a stodgy old guy that the kids weren’t winning competitions. But, ya know what? The KIDS picked “Don’t Stop Believing.” All on their own. Finn got the inspiration from the memory of his mom’s old boyfriend, a mullet-sporting metalhead from the 80s. Yeah, remember that? It was a great f-ing scene in the pilot. There was also a healthy dose of show tunes — seemingly important for a show that claims to support arts education. Over the ensuing weeks and months we were subjected to a set list ever more clogged with the likes of Beyonce, Celo Green, and Katy Perry. It’s like a jukebox for music that is already over-played and unoriginal. They’re even plugging Lady Gaga’s foundation.
And that’s what’s wrong with these kids today.
P.S. As much fun as it is to trash, I still have to hand it to Glee for trying to do some good in the world, speaking out about bullying, gay teenagers, and other issues that are normally glossed over, if they’re mentioned at all, on network TV. It has no doubt been a beacon of hope to a few outcasts out there…