Back in 2009, a friend suggested that Glee would be something I might enjoy. I scoffed, noting that it “wouldn’t be my thing.” It soon became apparent that I was an idiot for thinking such a thing.
At some point, I decided to give it a go. By the time the original six members of the New Directions were belting out their signature rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the end of the pilot episode, I was hooked. (And also hotfooting it to iTunes, seeking to download their crazy-good version of Journey’s anthem. It was my ringtone for a significant period of time, not gonna lie.)
What followed was a swift and unapologetic descent into the depths of true TV love. I read everything there was to read about the show, I found a way to work Glee into practically every conversation I had, I mourned the fact I wasn’t a cast member and I spent an insane amount of money buying Glee albums. To this day, if you set my iPod to shuffle, at least every fifth song will be a Glee incarnation. Basically, I became unhinged, and it was totally worth it.
Glee‘s first season was a roaring success. It introduced core characters you cared about (let’s just pretend Terri Schuester didn’t exist for the purpose of making my point); characters you might ordinarily find annoying, like Rachel Berry and Sue Sylvester, were the show’s breakout stars. Not only that, the show managed to set up its most flawed characters in such a manner that you couldn’t help but root for them (Quinn and Puck, I’m looking at both of you).
The show was witty and tackled real issues in a way that didn’t make you feel like you were being preached to (introducing the world’s greatest — and hottest — dad, Burt Hummel). It asked you to suspend disbelief to truly allow it to flex its funny bone, and it set the parameters of just how much you were required to ignore reality, without pushing you to a point where the lack of realism ruined its charm.
Season 2 followed and brought with it the only two new characters I have ever cared about: Blaine and Sam. The show continued to pump out amazing arrangements of songs, tackle real-world issues in a positive manner, and it was still uproariously funny. But then the speed bumps came — Lauren Zizes and Quinn’s insanity and return to sanity, apparently brought on by a haircut.
By the time Season 3 rolled around, we were promised a return to form. We were told there would be fewer songs and a renewed focus on the characters we had grown to really care about. And all of this actually happened… for all of about three episodes.
Then the storm clouds started to well and truly form: The show started churning out so many songs it was hard to see the love applied to any of them. The incomparable Idina Menzel was saddled with a story line in which her character (Shelby) spent a bunch of time cavorting between the sheets with a high school student whose biological daughter she was raising. Sue decided to have a baby even though she was clearly beyond the age where that is actually possible.
Quinn Fabray, fresh from her return to goodness, returned to the dark side, complete with pink hair and a Ryan Seacrest tattoo. Then she tried to foil the glee club and ruin Shelby’s reputation to gain custody of her daughter. Then, somewhere along the line, she went back to being a half-decent person, got herself into a car accident, lost the ability to walk, regained the ability to walk and didn’t tell anybody, and finally forced herself out of the wheelchair in time to sing “Take My Breath Away” with Santana at prom.
Quinn then went off to college, had an affair with a Yale professor and then took a dip in the lady pond with Santana for one night only. Never has a character suffered from such butchering. I really hope Dianna Agron was provided with only the best medical treatment for the whiplash she surely suffered from having to play Quinn’s multiple personalities.
The end of Season 3 brought with it the end of Glee as we knew it. Ryan Murphy said that for the show to be realistic, it needed to have its most-loved characters graduate — an interesting disclosure given the charm of Glee was, in big part, its ability to toe the line between believable and unbelievable. Side note: Remember when Ryan Murphy said Blaine was older than Kurt? If we’re all of a sudden meant to be concerned about things being realistic, I’d like to point out that it’s not at all believable that Darren Criss is younger than Chris Colfer.
In Season 4, we were introduced to a whole new bunch of characters that I couldn’t even try to care about. And by “new,” I mean lesser versions of the original characters we were so invested in. Glee already had a significant number of characters it couldn’t service adequately; now it just had way too many.
Even original characters we liked started to grate: Mr. Schue became arguably the most annoying character on the show; Artie’s love interests changed so frequently we lost interest; Blaine told Kurt he needed to leave Lima, Ohio, and then cheated on him because he left him on his own; Brittany delivered one too many nonsensical monologues for her to be considered funny anymore; and Rachel Berry ceased to be Rachel Berry and instead became what appeared to be a version of Lea Michele herself.
The show’s ability to be meta, something that used to draw big laughs from viewers, now started to become borderline insulting to the audience. Glee has spent a considerable amount of time since Season 4 acknowledging its lack of realism and character development flaws by making fun of it through meta references, which begs the question of the writers: If you know what you’re writing isn’t great, then why are you continuing to write that way?
Unbelievably, in among all this disappointment, the show was renewed for not one, but two seasons. Of all the things that had become illogical on the show (and there were a lot), this decision still remains one of the more illogical.
Then, in a truly heartbreaking turn, Glee lost one of its bright lights. The death of Cory Monteith meant Glee lost an actor and a character that was at the very heart of the show. Finn Hudson was representative of all the show could be when it was good: charming, thriving with potential and full of heart. Glee had already well and truly lost its way, but without Monteith and Finn Hudson, it hasn’t been able to find its way back to what it once was.
Now about to enter its sixth and final season, Glee will return its focus to Lima after spending the last half of Season 5 focused on its New York-based characters — a move that was, unfortunately, too little, too late. Glee‘s much-loved original characters are now almost unrecognizable when compared to who they used to be. Sure, everyone changes after high school, but these characters have all undergone significant personality transplants, so our investment in them is far less than what it used to be. Not to mention, with the overarching theme of Glee being that you should follow your dreams and those with passion and talent will succeed, I can’t say I care much for the contradictory lack of success that will find all of its main characters back in Ohio (no offense, Ohio!).
I don’t think I’ll be able to bring myself to watch this final season. It hurts too much to see what Glee has become, particularly when I know what it was once capable of. We’ll always have Season 1 and half of Season 2, though. And a handful of episodes from Season 3. Let’s just cling to those memories — you know, when we had the time of our lives, and we’d never felt this way about a show before.