For the past couple of years, Glee has pretty much been my favorite show on TV. Ever since those kids belted out “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the pilot episode back in May of 2009, my heart has belonged to Glee, and I never did stop believin’.
We’re about halfway into season four, and my issues with the show have been piling up quicker than the snow outside my window. I guess I should have known this would happen – shows that are on for longer than two years have to stay fresh somehow, and the only way to do that is to change things. Some shows do it successfully – Gilmore Girls, The Office, Supernatural, etc – and others not so much.
Glee is one of those shows.
The previous three seasons have focused on the characters in high school. They’ve added a few new characters here and there, but we’ve always had the same core group to cheer for. And yes, I realize that you can’t keep the characters in high school forever. Yes, they have to graduate and move on. Which is what characters like Rachel Berry, Finn Hudson, Kurt Hummel, Santana Lopez, Quinn Fabray, and Noah Puckerman have done. Whatever, that’s fine.
But where the problem lies is the fact that the show is trying to tell the story of SO MANY PEOPLE. We have the people who have graduated and moved to different parts of the country. We have the people who are still in Glee club at McKinley High. We have brand-new characters that we’re suddenly supposed to care about when all we’re trying to figure out where the hell Quinn is. Honestly, it’s just hard to care about any of the characters anymore.
There was a time in Glee Land when these characters meant the world to me. These characters brought out The Feelings. I would watch the show with a smile plastered to my face because I just saw Darren Criss perform his ass off singing “Raise Your Glass” with the Warblers. I would spend an hour crying because Kurt’s dad had a heart attack and the only way Kurt could express his feelings was by singing a heart-wrenching version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. Or I wouldn’t be able to stop laughing because Brittany would say things like “I think my cat has been reading my diary.”
Things like that made me love the show. It was about these characters – over the top in some ways, a little stereotypical, but still completely realistic. These characters made us feel like we weren’t alone. They brought something magical to television that hadn’t been there before.
But something began breaking down towards the end of season three. I don’t know if it was because the writers suddenly knew that certain characters had to graduate but they didn’t want to write them off because they didn’t want to lose viewers, so they created all these crazy story lines that would somehow tie into a completely revamped season four, but things got messy. And now we’re trying hard to follow – and care – about the story lines and the people of season four, and we’re just not.
Rachel is now in New York attending NYADA and trying to deal with her bitch-of-an-instructor played by Kate Hudson. I’ve never been a Kate Hudson fan, but I admit I was semi-impressed with her singing ability as she performed a mash-up of Lady Gaga’s “Americano” and Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again”. I thought I was going to like the whole “Oh-this-is-just-like-Fame-and-Step-It-Up” Rachel storyline, but I for the life of me cannot get past Lea Michele’s fake tan and eye makeup.
I understand that we’re witnessing Rachel’s whole “coming out” story. She was shy and awkward and crazy and dramatic and a total dork in high school, but now that she’s a “grown-up” in New York she suddenly has to wear slutty clothes and wear tons of makeup and have hot guys attracted to her? I’m all for character development, but seriously…I don’t believe this one. This is Rachel Berry we’re talking about. She thinks Barbra Streisand is God. She knows every word to every Broadway musical in the history of the world. She wears sweaters with animals on them. And yeah, so she doesn’t have to wear the geeky clothes anymore. But this new Rachel Berry doesn’t even remotely resemble the Rachel Berry that we used to know and love.
At least Kurt’s development seems to be more realistic and consistent with his character. Since the beginning of the show, Kurt has probably shown the most character growth, but it’s been taking place over the course of three years, not overnight like Rachel. Of course I think I’ll always care about Kurt – and of course Blaine (even though they broke up, which they were totally not supposed to do), but having him away from his friends with only Rachel and Sarah Jessica Parker (his new boss at Vogue.com who, by the way, has the SCARIEST BICEPS EVER) to keep him company makes me miss his old life.
There are about four new major characters at McKinley, and after three months I still only know one of their character names. Marley Rose, the pretty girl who comes from a poor family whose mom is obese and works in the cafeteria. She’s got a fantastic voice, something I quickly realized after she sang “New York State of Mind” in her first episode, but I’m having issues with her character…probably because I have no idea what kind of character they’re trying to make her be. Oh, and of course now she has an eating disorder because the new Quinn wannabe is actually making people adjust the waistbands on Marley’s clothes to make her think that she’s getting overweight like her mom.
I don’t know how I feel about the two new boy characters, Whosit and Whatsit. They haven’t made much of an impression on me, at least not the way Blaine Anderson and Sam Evans did when they first appeared on the show. They have good singing voices, but they don’t have that spark that the original cast had at the beginning. And Rachel’s new love interest, Brody? Well, he’s no Finn.
And speaking of Sam Evans, why don’t the writers know how to write his character? His character has been all over the place since the end of season TWO, like they just can’t seem find a box that he fits into. And suddenly he’s with Brittany? What happened to Mercedes? And does he still live with Finn and Kurt’s family? Is his family still poor? When did he become so stupid? Remember when he was the cute guy who proposed to Quinn? The guy who played his guitar and sang songs like “Lucky” and “Billionaire”? Sam Evans, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?
And remember when there used to be actual adults on the show? Remember when Will Schuester used to be an actual character and not just someone who says one line per show? And he was supposed to get married to Emma Pillsbury? And Sue Sylvester was the villain? What happened to all these people? Do the writers think that young kids who watch the show have no interest in characters who are not 17 years old?
I’m actually okay with Finn sort of taking Mr. Schuester’s place as the person in charge of Glee. In a way it actually makes sense, kind of like a full-circle type of thing. But you know what? I can still see Will’s face in that very first episode of Glee when he was about to leave the school to take a job as an accountant until he sees his tiny little Glee club sing “Don’t Stop Believing” – that look of pure joy and love – and I realize how much I loved Mr. Schu and what he did for those kids. I’m sorry, but it’s not Glee Club without him.
Oh, and the Glee kids who haven’t graduated yet – namely Artie and Tina – have such a teeny part of the show now they may as well have graduated, too. Artie has a reputation for singing some of my favorite Glee songs, but he has yet to sing a song this season. What??????
Which brings me to the music. The music on Glee has always been its redeeming quality, and some of the show’s best moments have happened during those music performances. And while there have been a few stand-outs this season – Blaine’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, the cast’s “Some Nights”, Rachel and Marley’s “New York State of Mind” – I’ve been slightly underwhelmed by the songs. This is coming from a girl who used to buy the Glee songs the second they became available on iTunes. Now I’m so far behind on buying them that I don’t even care. I’ll probably buy the ones I’ve mentioned, but unless I come into a lot of iTunes gift cards for Christmas, it’s not really worth the money to get them all.
I realized that my feelings for Glee officially changed during the Thanksgiving episode a couple of weeks ago when the “old characters” came back to their hometown for the holiday. I suddenly realized how much I missed having these old characters together, and when they’re not together and these new people are trying to taking their place, it just feels so OFF.
And therein lies Glee’s weakness this season: their inability to create a cohesive show with a cohesive and meaningful storyline with cohesive characters. It’s just all over the place, and I’m afraid that if they don’t pull it together, the whole thing will go bust. And maybe it should. Other shows in the past have quit while they were ahead, and it was always for the better (usually). That’s the thing about on-going TV shows: Sometimes there’s just no more story to tell.
So time will tell on the future of Glee. Who knows – maybe the second half of the season will blow me away. Or maybe it’ll be such a rollercoaster that I’ll simply stop watching the show. At least I know have three other seasons that make me happy.