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Three Reasons Why 'Glee' Is Poised For an Epic Fall

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 30th 2010 6:08PM
'Glee' cast
I worry about 'Glee.'

Seems like I shouldn't, right? The show, which is returning to Fox after a four-month break on April 13, seems to have everything going its way right now. The show's return is being slotted after 'American Idol.' The kids from the show have been singing and dancing on tour. The mid-season premiere is being screened in movie theaters for charity. The producers are combing the country to find a new cast member (starting today), and the search will become a show of its own.

"Gleeks" all over the country are clutching their soundtrack CDs and season one part one DVDs -- signed by the cast during one of their mall tours, no doubt -- and just waiting for the show to come back. Madonna has given the producers permission to create a Madge-themed episode. Heck, even Neil Patrick Harris is on board to guest.

Hear that? It's the hype machine going into overdrive. And that's what worries me. I've heard this machine before, and it never ends well. There are three signs that make me wonder if 'Glee' is more flash-in-the-pan than legitimate long-running hit:

1. They're already adding new cast members
. Yes, I know that the show has spots where new cast members can be inserted. We're going to see the mythical supergroup Vocal Adrenaline in the second half of the season, for instance. And, because the setting is in high school, it's inevitable that new students are going to be in the mix as time goes along; heck, some of the key players in the group are already high school seniors.

But this is a dangerous game; there's a chemistry that has been set up during the first thirteen episodes, and it seems risky to mess with it. As much as it seems like the show's been on for five years -- the hype machine has been that strong -- 'Glee' is still in its first season, and there's still a risk that the long break is going to cause audience erosion. Being sure that the dynamic the show established in its first half season remains will help keep the audience around. Why not at least finish the first season before messing with the formula?

2. The young stars are feeling their stardom - perhaps too much. I've been hearing rumblings from my fellow reporters and critics that the kids from the cast have been tough to deal with. Indeed, during the January press tour, the young stars of the show clustered together during the FOX all-star party and made it tough for reporters to get in to do quick interviews. Oh, sure, some of them were nice enough to talk to us, but let's just say some were nicer than others. The most accessible cast member? Jane Lynch, who's a pro's pro.

I've also had my difficulties trying to get some of the stars to do interviews. For instance, I was assigned to do a story for a local publication about one of the stars, who grew up in the area. After a lot of back and forth, that's person's publicists eventually told me that the actor was too busy to do a ten-minute phone interview with me for what was supposed to be a 300-word piece.

Not that I'm complaining; no actor should be obligated to talk to any reporter if he or she doesn't want to. And, between the tours and personal appearances, the cast is extremely busy. But, you'd think the show would still be in the mode of trying to get any kind of publicity it could get, and it seems like the cast is too young to be giving reporters the brush-off like that. At what point will that attitude spill over into how they deal with the show's legion of fans? Maybe it has already.

3. The show can only get more ridiculous from here. Many shows that have had this kind of early hype -- from 'Twin Peaks' to 'Ally McBeal' to 'Grey's Anatomy' to 'Lost' to 'Heroes' -- inevitably try to make every episode an event by writing increasingly broad stories. The problem is, the show's tethers to reality start to break away after awhile. Think of the LVAD-cutting plot on 'Grey's' or some of the silliness of 'Lost's' middle seasons, or pretty much all of 'Heroes'' run since its first season ended.

'Glee' is already a pretty broadly-written show as it is. In thirteen episodes, we've seen a fake pregnancy, a near-sham marriage, slushie fights, a football team dance the 'Single Ladies' dance during a game, the show choir bouncing on stacks of mattresses for a commercial, and more more love triangles than you can shake a baton at. How silly is the show going to be in season two? How 'bout season five? Exactly. There's going to be a point where even loyal Gleeks are going to roll their eyes one too many times and turn on something else.


Maybe Ryan Murphy can keep the show from spinning out of control and losing whatever grounding it currently has. But he couldn't keep 'Nip/Tuck,' which had a much smaller audience, from becoming a parody of itself, so I'm not confident he'll be able to keep this from happening with 'Glee.'

So, what do you folks think? Is 'Glee' going to have the staying power for a long run or is it going to flame out quickly?

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Just for the record, I met almost the entire cast of Glee at Dulles airport this weekend and each and every one of them was as nice as could be, took the time to talk to us and took photos with us. Maybe they will become brats down the road, but I wasn't getting that feeling yet.

April 07 2010 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm not a fan of 'Glee', (because I find it complete corn) so perhaps I'm a little biased, but it seems to me that any show that really hits it out of the ballpark the first year and is doted on (especially at the awards), dies the following year and is forgotten. Any 'classic' shows that we refer to, actually took one to two years to build a strong audience-even 'Friends' and 'Seinfeld' for example.

April 05 2010 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the changes to a cast is good. As Ryan Murphy pointed out, with upcoming seasons, you need to get new voices in there with this kind of show otherwise the music will just get stale. Sure people are attached to these characters, which is why it will be nice for some of them to let them go, to be replaced with new characters they can love. An ensemble show doesn't NEED to keep the same cast through its entire run. I mean, look at Heroes, it was originally going to have a different cast each season, but then they decided to keep the season one cast and look what happened, everyone started HATING the characters. Hell, some people now wish the characters would get killed off. Rotation in cast can be a good thing, and I don't think, Glee being the type of show that it is, that a change in it would be deal breaking, so long as they go about doing it the right way.

April 02 2010 at 12:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I completely agree with you. I LOVE glee, I love it so much. However, as I've told other people, every show that's ever really had longevity, that's actually BEEN something started out awkward and sometimes as the underdog. They went on to be unbelievable TV changing successes, but they started at the bottom and worked their way up. Seinfeld, Buffy, The Simpsons, CSI (and more) were television changing shows that stuck around for years but had their "they'll never make it" moments in the beginning.
That's why Glee worries me. There was hype before it even premiered and the machine just kept building. With Glee they've already set themselves up for a fall, and the biggest issue is one you mentioned already-the cast! They're a great cast, but people grow up, they age. These kids can't stay in high school forever. So they will either be replaced, or we're going to get one of those cheesy twists where everyone goes off to college and somehow the favorite teachers come too. Either way I don't see Glee keeping everyone captivated for more than two season. It's sad!

March 31 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Molly Shannon is a show killer. And way too long between episodes. Hopefully it will still be as good, but I worry.

March 31 2010 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm with you Joel, the show does feel like its been on for 5 years, when its first episode only aired a year ago. A few months ago I clicked on every Glee story, but know there is just so much about the show and everybody is talking about it all the time and it's definitely overkill.

Plus I worry that all the hype and attention will lead to a backlash in the second season. Shows that have started big in the first season invariably have poorer second seasons. A few are mentioned in the article, Lost, Heroes and I'll add Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and I'm sure there's more. I think the reason behind that is that the show starts to believe in its own hype and loses what it originally had to bring the viewers in.

I'd disagree on reason 2 though, perhaps the young cast are just overwhelmed by all the attention.

March 31 2010 at 5:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

GLEE will outlast TV SQUAD.

March 31 2010 at 2:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Silly Lost middle seasons? I'd take one of those so called silly episodes over some of the other crap that aired on networks at the same time.

March 31 2010 at 1:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We bailed by about episode 4. first episode was gold. after that it was all downhill.

March 31 2010 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I remember right I saw the cast talking to many different reporters before the FOX party.

They can't all talk to everyone and at some point they do need to set up boundaries or go crazy. It doesn't mean they have egos of anything just trying to adjust.

Anyway sounds like the show is a hit and now it is time for people to just start knocking it down. Because well that is what people do , they build things up, and then take some kind of pleasure in knocking it down, and it is sad.

March 31 2010 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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