Deconstructing the Destruction of GLEE

By: Kelly Thompson

With the news that GLEE is only getting 13 episodes for its last season, I started thinking about what the hell happened to this show? GLEE exploded onto the scene when it premiered in 2009. Many people wrote it off and thought a show where the characters burst into song just wouldn’t work on network television but GLEE defied the odds and had a pretty great first season and then an ok second and third season and then a not so good fourth season and finally a dreadful fifth season. So I know you’ve asked yourself, how did that fall happen? Well, you can sleep well again TVAddicts because I’m about to deconstruct the destruction of GLEE.

This deconstruction begins and ends with season 4 because that is the season the show really started to fail at pretty much everything (season 5 is so horrible that it gets no attention nor deserves any attention here). Many shows have failed at the point where its characters transitioned from high school to college and GLEE was obviously no different. Although, the beginning of season 4 started with a glimmer of hope because the premiere episode switched seamless between the two settings of McKinley and New York but that glimmer only continued for this one episode. Ultimately, the addition of too many new characters and the retention of almost all the old characters were too much for the writers to handle.

With a cast of about 200 (rough estimate), no story was given the love or attention that it needed. Why/How was I suppose to care about the new members of the GLEE Club if they weren’t given the screen time for me to connect with them? It felt like every other episode an old cast member took off a week from college and returned to the high school with the sole purpose of stealing screen time. Honestly, GLEE should have pulled a Friday Night Lights and given the graduated members their story arcs then wrote them off allowing the show to concentrate solely on the McKinley kids. This needed to happen because there was absolutely no structure to the New York side. I think the writers thought that if they add “impressive” guest stars (ie: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson, etc) that no one would notice that the story made no sense!

Season 4 also saw the biggest blunder of GLEE. In the episode titled “Lights Out,” Riley brought up the fact that he was sexually assaulted by a babysitter when he was younger and GLEE couldn’t have handled it any worse. It was just awful; I could go and go about why it was horrible but I won’t here. I will just say that in a matter of about 1 minute, GLEE accomplished slapping every sexual assault victim/advocate/etc directly in the face. This mishandle brought to life every other misstep when it came to serious issues, including Marlee’s bulimia early that season. I mean, Marlee passed out because she hadn’t eaten anything in forever and the rest of the club was mad at her instead of giving her any type of support. GLEE could no longer even complete what it could seasons before: dealing with complicated young adult issues. With the new cast and old cast fighting for screen time, important issues fell to the wayside and it hurt the heart of the show in the process.

Season 4 also emphasized that GLEE recycled plots. How many times could I watch the GLEE Club get ready for sectionals, then win sectional, then regionals and nationals? The answer is 3 times because by the time sectionals got around in season 4, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Except it didn’t, McKinley loss in sectionals and I was shocked and elated. But then the writers backed out of that story as well. McKinley proved the the Warblers were using drugs (seriously?!?!) but that shouldn’t have mattered anyway because McKinley was disqualified! But I guess the writers assumed that since none of the characters cared about Marlee passing out, why would the viewers.

Everything stated above would have equaled GLEE falling flat on it’s face alone but the biggest issue that GLEE had was song choices! It’s not that the songs they chose sounded bad, it’s that they didn’t fit properly into the story anymore. It seems like song choices were done by what the writers or actors wanted to sing instead what naturally worked with the story. The prime example of this is the song “Creep” from season 4 episode 17. Yes, the song is a break-up song but it didn’t make any sense as a metaphor for Rachel/Brody’s relationship; they weren’t in love and I honestly had to look up who Rachel sang this song with because Brody hasn’t been mentioned since the breakup. The main reason I picked this song though, is because in an interview either Lea Michele or Ryan Murphy mentioned they have wanted to use this song forever. I get it that the cast and crew have songs that they love and want to use them in episodes but if it doesn’t fit then it doesn’t fit. You can’t force it into an episode because you like the song.

If you’ve watched every episode of GLEE (like I have) then you witnessed one of the saddest declines ever of this pretty groundbreaking show. I want nothing more than for the show and the writers than to end the series gracefully and with even the smallest amount of actual sense but I think this article proves that may be asking too much. Feel free to sound off below and let me know if you think I got this completely wrong or if you agree.

Kelly Thompson has been addicted to television for as far back as she can remember and the addiction has only grown as she’s getting older and television is becoming more readily available.  Two of the most important things in her life are Netflix and her DVR.  When she isn’t watching television, she is normally ranting about it to anyone that will listen and now that includes TheTVAddict readers.  You can also read her rants on twitter @TVwithKelly.

For all the latest TV news and reviews