When Glee came on the scene in 2009, it ushered in a new TV business model, one predicated on mega iTunes, merchandise, and concert ticket sales. During the initial media blitz Fox said it hoped to keep the show’s original, quirky feel, and four seasons later it’s easy to see how that turned out. When the shiny parts recede into the background, when we snap out of Blaine Warbler’s entrancing rendition of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” it’s difficult to defend what the show’s become (empty, sloppy, and just way too big).
That said, Dexter’s recent late-in-the game surge reminded us it’s not impossible to turn things around, and in Glee’s defense it’s markedly improved from last season. Last week’s “Break Up” showed guts and delivered an emotionally satisfying conclusion to some pretty big story arcs. The show’s clearly made some positive changes, and if it can tighten up, remember some fundamentals from its incredible first season, and still move forward, we think it could get its mojo back. Below we’ve outlined some ideas to save the once beloved (and great) show, because as Mr. Schue taught us from day one, Glee Club is all about reinvention.
1. If you’re gonna phone in “Call Me Maybe,” just don’t do it all
We understand the marketing/sales angle, but does every hit song (especially those we heard a bajillion times this summer) need to be on the show? We can’t believe we’re saying this, but the Harvard baseball team had more heart. We’re definitely not opposed to covers of fun, zeitgeisty songs, but we request they serve a purpose, meaning they fit into the storyline and/or have some flair — like Season 2’s Singin’ in the Rain and Rihanna mashup. It was kind of weird, but pretty neat too for its homage to Gene Kelly’s original number.
2. Earn the songs (i.e. quality over quantity)
As it stands, Glee often feels like a high school variety show, or a bunch of random acts strung together with throwaway dialogue and hit-or-miss one liners (although the opening voiceovers actually continue to be pretty good, especially when Brittany breaks the fourth wall). The point being, most of the songs aren’t all that enjoyable at this point, not only because of poor performance quality (more to come on that), but because they have little narrative value.
Conversely, last week’s spine-tingling rendition of “The Scientist” (above) was a simple yet stunning number that acted as a perfect conclusion to a storyline that had spanned years. The point being, we don’t get bored with the songs when there’s meaning behind them. This comes from a well-developed storyline, something that is difficult to maintain in a universe this big, which is where the next suggestion comes in.
3. Wean off McKinley, sooner than later
As much as we’ve disliked Rachel in the past, New York is by far the most interesting part of the show at this point. We’ve done the McKinley thing before, and the Quinn-Rachel-Finn stand-ins, however cute they may be when making googly eyed mashups on the bleachers, feel tacked on, and the adult story lines (Will, Sue, and Emma) even more so. While we don’t oppose the cyclical nature of the high school cast system in theory, we’ve had enough of the two-faced Christian cheerleader for one show. So why not focus on building a new glee-verse in NYC? It’s certainly not implausible for a few of the fan favorites to end up there. Blaine is already on his way, and it’s never too late to accept that envelope of cash from Gloria Estefan (see next slide).
4. Bring Santana to NYC
C’mon, the girl’s not a cheerleader. And it would be fun to see her, Rachel, and Kurt thrown into a friendship. Plus, there’s way too much room in that apartment.
5. Create semi-believable new love-interests
Brody’s the new cast member who’s gotten the most attention, but so far his abs and borderline creepy crush on Rachel seem to be his only purpose. Jonathan Groff’s Jesse St. James was a brilliant riff of the self-obsessed musical theater stereotype who naturally would want to hook up with his female equivalent, but so far Brody is the stereotype, which is just annoying.
Every show has its disposable love interests, and frankly we hope Rachel and Kurt go through a few in NYC, but they don’t have to be this cheesy and boring. In other words, what’s your game Brody? We hope we find out soon.
6. More NYADA, Vogue.com, and NYC!
Anything that reveals more about Rachel and Kurt’s new world is welcome. For instance, Callbacks (even though it’s technically The Piano Bar in LA) feels like a believable NYADA hangout that, um, doesn’t card. And seeing the actual sites of NYC in “A Change Will Do You Good” (like The High Line) was cool, although we’re hoping the show can go a little less cheesy when filming on location in the future. So much potential!
And more simply, we like to learn! We actually like when Will teaches us about music and stuff. Sure, it’s not rocket science, but it’s way more interesting than the recent “Rachel gets her NYC makeover” plotline (which as far as we can tell just consisted of heavier eyeliner and bangs). As mentioned, we feel like we’ve outgrown McKinley Glee club (and clearly so does Will), but we think Rachel’s classes and Kurt’s work projects, as well as any other jobs they take in the future, offer fun new alternatives for weekly exposition.
7. You can’t move to NYC and be fabulous in a week — make these kids work for it!
We appreciate Finn’s post-high school malaise arc, but Kurt and Rachel, ostensibly the show’s stars, are getting it waaay to easy. We’ve already blindly accepted the fact Kurt got an internship at Vogue.com within two seconds of arriving. And we appreciate that SJP isn’t playing the usual evil-magazine-boss type. But her work breakdown, along with Kate Hudson’s the week prior, ultimately served to build up Kurt and Rachel, leading us to ask, so what exactly have the kids learned here? From our perspective, it seems like all they got was a nice confidence boost from some insecure adults. Yes, Glee is an uplifting show by definition, but one we’ve respected because it doesn’t give up its wins this easily. Remember how long Glee Club was slushied for?
That said, we almost always appreciate a good celebrity guest arc, and were happy to see SJP, an actual Broadway actress, sing. Which leads us to…
8. More actual singing
Last week Blaine’s rendition of “Teenage Dream” was so refreshing we couldn’t even remember the annoyingly perfect number Brachel sang immediately before him. It not only passed as (some really good) karaoke, but made us feel uncomfortable and horrified at the same time. It was awesome. We’re not saying the kids needs to be near tears during every song, but it would be nice if Glee cooled down the Auto-Tuning and let more emotion, and even flaws, come through from time to time.
9. Get the lip synching back on track
In another technical issue that has fueled backlash from fans, Glee seems to have gotten progressively worse, if not downright lazy, at its lip synching. Sometimes in the middle of a song the kids’ lips just stop moving, period, and we’re left in what suddenly feels like a bad music video (see above). The reality-bending nature of spontaneously breaking into song is difficult for some to accept, which is why it’s so important to do it right. In other words, if you’re going to break the rules, don’t do it halfway. Be a musical, or don’t be. And didn’t we just get a lesson on the repercussions of lip synching in Britney 2.0?
10. Better choreography
We kept this one for last because we realize this is first and foremost a show about singing. That said, when we got our first glimpses of Rachel’s “Dance 101” class at NYADA we expected to see some Chorus Line -esque dance numbers. Instead, all we got were some cheesy Britney/Gaga routines, and watched the aforementioned Brachel frolic through NYC, which included some awkward heel clicks and at one point a back flip for no apparent reason at all. We realize this falls more into wish-list territory, but it would be cool to see the show explore some different sorts of dancing since it has the perfect setup.
Glee has done some pretty neat numbers in the past (everything in the first Britney tribute, the football team’s “Single Ladies,” the “Singin’ in the Rain/Umbrella” mashup, etc.), but it’s just as powerful when it keeps things simple (like the pilot’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” or last week’s “The Scientist“). It’s the hokey in-between numbers, which feel more like the Disney channel than a Ryan Murphy production, that are grating (refer back to “Call Me Maybe”).