We’re around two thirds of the way through our fourth year of Glee, and what a year it’s been so far. While I’ll always love this show with an ardent sense of loyalty, I have to say that I’ve found the show’s little experiment this year more miss than hit. A year ago, we were told that the show would be experimenting with a split narrative, going from Ohio to New York, and introducing us to a whole new set of New Direction-ers.
It deserves applause for trying something new with the format, sure, but now is the time to call it a success or a failure. For me, though others will disagree with me, it’s been a complete failure. But obviously, all is not lost, and the ingredients that made up the Glee we all fell in love with back in the day are still present and correct. It’s lost its way, but a few tweaks could see it revert back to something we all look forward to watching every week.
This one is particularly hard for me to write, since part of the reason I have always loved Glee so much was the cast of characters who have been around since day one. Mercedes, Quinn, Mike et al were there in that triumphant first competition episode – when all they needed to win was a carefully chosen Journey number and a Rachel solo – and a day in which we said goodbye to them would be a sad day indeed.
But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the writers and producers behind the show felt the same way, and it means that we’re left with half-hearted cameos from beloved regulars. Having a long-distance relationship with friends after high school is an upsetting and alienating experience, so why would they put us through that, vicariously or otherwise?
What would have been more of a shock, but better for the show in the long run, would have been to send them off to college properly, and then forget about them for good. It sounds harsh, but this is exactly what UK series Skins did, and in doing so it welcomed in a whole new generation of fans for four additional years. Glee should have made a decision either way, and then they should have stuck to it.
This one goes hand in hand with my previous point as, by saying goodbye to some of the old cast, we would automatically have more time to spend with the new glee club. You want Finn to step in as their new coach? That’s fine, but let the students have equal time in the sun. There are far too many characters who are simply window dressing, with only enough time to focus on Marley, Jake and Ryder.
We all remember how weird it was to watch the two random dancers at the back of the class during season one, until one was discarded and the other promoted into series regular. Now, almost half of the glee club is like this, and I can’t remember the last time Joe or Sugar were blessed with a line. Didn’t Samuel Larson win The Glee Project a couple of years ago? When did he receive his prize, because I missed it? And I’m not even touching on the problem with Tina’s character this year.
Marley, Jake and Ryder have all been a relative hit with viewers, but we can’t deny that they’re missing the charisma of Rachel, Finn and Puck. For example, would you watch an entire show based around them? I certainly wouldn’t, and I’m on the verge of fast forwarding through the non-NYC parts of the show. If we had more time to get to know, and love, these newbies, then this might not be as big of a problem.
We might have made some progress on this front, had it not been for Finn’s little trip to New York directly after deciding to pursue a teaching career. The fact that a high school student had to shout him into submission is also a little worrying, since Finn seems to be the only graduate still struggling to find his way in life. This wouldn’t be a problem, but isn’t it exactly the same storyline we saw last season?
As said, after Marley told him to stop feeling sorry for himself and get a teaching degree, Finn decided to go and ‘protect his future wife’s honor’ by violently attacking her current boyfriend. Add this to calling Sue’s down syndrome-suffering baby a ‘retard’ (for which there was little consequence) and kissing his best friend’s fiancé days before the wedding, and you have a very stupid character.
Does anyone actually find watching Finn appealing? I’m starting not to, and it makes believing in his and Rachel’s ‘endgame’ relationship harder and harder as time goes on. Of all the characters the writers chose to keep around full-time, I find it really difficult to understand why Finn remains with no character development to speak of. Get him a teaching qualification, and get him a girlfriend more his speed.
This has always been a problem, but lazy writing in season four has brought it to the forefront. A good episode of Glee always has its songs support what the writers want to do with the characters and their individual development, but a bad episode builds itself from the soundtrack up. This is arguably why competition episodes are often so enjoyable, because the musical moments are periphery to the story.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some glorious episodes this season – ‘The Break-Up’ and ‘I Do’ especially – but compare those to episodes like ‘Guilty Pleasures’ or ‘Glee, Actually’, where it’s abundantly clear that the music has come first. An episode of television should never be background music with contrived story beats to tie the songs together, but that’s what’s started to happen more and more.
Essentially, it’s become the show that critics always said it was, and it’s a little traumatizing for fans when we know how great Glee can be when it ties into the larger arc of each character. Filler episodes are fine from time to time, but they should be the minority.
With Glee renewed for season five and cast members dropping hints in the press, we don’t know what form the show will take next year. Hordes of fans will still tune in, whatever happens, but these are just a few things that would ensure that I am one of them. Let us know what you think, and leave your thoughts in the comments below.