In 2012, Fox renewed its musical dramedy, Glee, with a rare two season pick-up. At that time, the ratings for the show had been declining steadily but the two-season renewal showed that studio wasn’t ready to give up on its once cultural and ratings phenomenon.
However, ratings continued to take a dive during the shows fifth season. The situation wasn’t helped after Cory Monteith, one of the show’s original and biggest stars, passed away in July of 2013, weeks before production on the new season began. Fox trimmed the last two episodes of season five and earlier this summer announced that while Glee would return for its already confirmed sixth season, it would be doing so mid-season and with a thirteen episode order, instead of its usual twenty-two.
Glee has always been a divisive show — not a surprising revelation with acclaimed creator, Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story) at the helm. Murphy’s shows always have a very distinct vibe and Glee is no exception. From the beginning, Glee could best be described as “campy” with an extremely heightened reality.
Since its premiere in May 2009, that campy style is what made the show unique — coupled with the fact that it featured multiple musical numbers in every episode. Until Glee hit with an audience, musicals hadn’t found much success on television. Not to mention, the show featured a plethora of LGBTQ themes aimed towards a younger audience, something that was noticeably missing from the television landscape.
Glee will have a lasting legacy no matter how the series wraps up next spring, but in recent seasons, it’s clear that the show has lost some focus and the quality of show has suffered as a result. The question is, how can Glee overcome this and go out with the bang that it deserves? Well, there’s a few things they could do:
1) Focus on core characters.
Glee has always had a very large ensemble cast and therefore they’ve always had a lot of characters and storylines to service. At the start of season four, the show began featuring split locations. We followed glee club graduates Rachel and Kurt in New York City while a new set of high school students was introduced to the audience back in Lima, Ohio. The new characters never really caught on and the two locations made it difficult for the show to focus on the characters that we’ve known from the beginning. By the last third of season five, the show had scrapped the dual locations and moved all of the storylines to NYC. In season six, it’s important that the show regains that focus by getting rid of characters that serve no real purpose and writing for the characters that we’ve come to love over the years — the Rachels, Kurts, Quinns, Pucks, and Mercedes of the world. Those characters made the show what it is and those are the characters we want to follow as the show prepares to make its final curtain call.
2) Pick songs that fit the story — not the other way around.
Over the course of it’s five seasons, Glee has covered hundreds of songs ranging from show tunes, classics, and modern hits of all genres. Way too often it feels as though the majority of songs chosen for an episode are solely there because the writers simply wanted one of the actors to sing that song and therefore they had to find a way to fit it into the script and have it make sense. That does the creative health of the show a major disservice because the story development shouldn’t be motivated by the song choices — it should be motivated by the characters. Use the songs as a way to move the plot of the show along as opposed to re-working the material to fit a particular song into the episode.
3) Find the comedic edge.
There’s no denying that Glee does a great job at pulling at your heartstrings with its countless dramatic moments but when the the show first premiered, those dramatic moments were mixed with biting comedy and some of the best one-liners that have ever aired on network television. Instances of that comedic brilliance still shine though on the show but it’s not nearly as consistent as it once was. Glee needs to find a way to get its comedic edge back in action! Now that they have a finite number of episodes left, there’s no reason to hold back. Glee has always been about pushing the boundaries and figuring out how to do that again should be one of their main goals in season six.
4) Relocate the original glee.
Co-creator and executive producer, Ryan Murphy, has always said that Glee is a show about optimism. Glee needs to find that exuberance and youthful enthusiasm that it had when it first started. There was something thrilling about watching this club of misfits and underdogs work to find their way in the world. Are these characters still underdogs? If so, why? What do these characters have left to conquer and how can we get them there? With only thirteen episodes left, the show needs to create new challenges for these characters to face and overcome all while getting them to a fitting resolution that will satisfy the fan base that has stuck with the show all of these years.
5) Identify the final message.
In its 108 episodes, Glee has covered just about every social issue that there is to cover. It would be hard for someone to not find a character on Glee that they can relate to — and that’s a great thing. But in its final season, Glee needs to figure out what it’s really been trying to say all of these years. What is the legacy that they want to leave behind? When people talk about the show ten years from now, what do they want people to be saying about it? I imagine if you were to take everything that’s happened on the show for the last five years, it would all come down to the importance of arts education in schools. People are going to remember how the show ends and therefore Glee needs to make its final message a priority. If they fail to do so, all of those extravagant musical numbers, laughs, tears, and fears will have been for nothing and ultimately, this show was far too groundbreaking to let that be how it’s remembered.
Glee will return with it’s sixth and final season in early 2015 on FOX.