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An analysis of ‘Glee’s’ fall from grace

If you’ve ever had fond memories of the Fox television show Glee, those memories probably involve the witty, entertaining and promising show that it once was. Some will undoubtedly argue that the show is just as charming now as it was back in its first season, and that it has in fact taken a step forward by addressing the issues of homosexuality and bullying that were covered quite extensively in its second season.

This is not my opinion. Being a seasoned television viewer with a vested interest in musicals and singing, Glee’s first season was introduced to me as the show of my dreams. And indeed it was. Yes, it was full of stereotypes – the bossy Broadway diva (Rachel Berry), the snarky fashion loving gay guy (Kurt Hummel), the sassy black girl who sings Aretha Franklin (Mercedes Jones) – but it was all in good fun. You didn’t have to love any of its characters to appreciate the show’s humour and storylines. In fact, it wasn’t until my third viewing of the first season that I realized I loved Rachel Berry.

Yet even without a vested adoration for any of the show’s particulars, I enjoyed it immensely and thought it a ‘quality’ show. This was due greatly to the humorous aspects it introduced, from satirical elements such as the Christian cheerleader being impregnated to the hilarity induced by the ultra competitive cheerleading coach who hates everyone and everything (portrayed impressively by the fantastic Jane Lynch). Since the end of its first season, the dynamics of the show have been radically altered, and instead of occasionally adding in some dialogue that is heartfelt, the show is mostly comprised of charading some kind of bizarre ‘help the children’ campaign.

I ask myself: why does a television show feel the need to reach out a ‘helping hand’ to young people, to try and become some kind of therapeutic voice to them? I am a young adult, and I am perfectly fine with being spoken to as an adult – through a funny and satirical look at the ups and downs of high school life. There are plenty of teen dramas that address the kinds of issues that Glee tries to, and I must say, they all succeed at doing so in a much more sympathetic, human and believable way. Why? Because they were created with that purpose. Glee, on the other hand, was created with the purpose of mindless entertainment and yet due to popular demand and pressure from Glee fans, the writers decided to turn it into something it was never meant to be. Do I blame the fans? Of course not. These are television writers and for them to lose sight of the show they originally wrote shows very poor form.

To top it all off, the songs were always excellent renditions of Broadway classics, classic rock songs, or pop/rnb songs that were released at least a few years back. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find a Glee episode that doesn’t cover a Top 40s hit. Personally, I am not prejudiced against any form of music the show chooses to perform. Yes, I get most excited by Lea Michele or Chris Colfer’s renditions of musical theatre classics, but I can still enjoy just about any sort of music that has been featured on the show. However, when I hear songs like Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream,’ Justin Beiber’s ‘Baby’ and the horrendous Rebecca Black song ‘Friday,’ I am forced to think: So what? These songs are too recent and too fresh in our minds to produce the excitement and joy that they should. Sure, you can appreciate a new version, but it truly takes the joy out of the performances that the show relies so heavily on. When the songs are older classics it is far easier to appreciate hearing them again, and fondly being reminded of an old song that you used to love. Maybe it will even cause you to pop in an old CD and reminisce.

The same can be said for the show’s newfound habit of writing original songs. Not only are these songs simply not very good music by any standards, but the presence of them within the episodes them takes the fun out of watching a Glee performance. Quite simply, you cannot sing or dance along to a song you haven’t heard before. It is a different experience, and in my humble opinion, not a very fulfilling or enjoyable one.

I assure you, I am not the only one with these opinions. Fan sites, forums, Livejournals, Twitters, Tumblrs – they all contribute to the immense hype that is Glee, and yet, if you ever investigate any of them, you will find that they are greatly comprised of disappointed fans who come together to express continued disappointment over each new episode that fails to meet their expectations. Issues of continuity and lack of character development are especially prevalent, while storylines that fall apart before they’re resolved have been embraced as being part of the norm. These are the fans concerns, and they are perfectly right to raise them.

But are the fans a little to blame? After all, co-creator and writer Brad Falchuk recently stated that it was hard to ignore Twitter responses to the episodes, and thought of them as ‘notes’ for each episode. So there you have it, the writers have been influenced by the fans. They’ve tried to please as many fans as possible and perhaps that is why every member of the Glee Club has basically dated every other. Ultimately, it is my opinion that the writers intended to write a harmless comedy encompassing the simple theme of being yourself. Unfortunately, the show’s success became its downfall when it had to be written to please an entirely different type of audience who wanted more drama and more themes, which would be fine, but only if the writers had the talent to pull it off.

And yet the sad truth remains that I, like many others who have been disappointed by the show’s demise will continue to watch, to buy, and to generally keep up the hype over a show whose success would be much better attributed to a television program that actually deserves the awards and fame that Glee has in its grasp. Despite our logic and better judgment, we are helplessly compelled to watch the show that succeeds only in disappointing us. At the end of the day, it is terribly hard to extinguish that little glimmer of hope that keeps whispering ‘don’t stop believing.’

 

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