Friday, May 10, 2013

No GLEE in Lima Over Season 4 Finale

FOX TV has a problem and its name is GLEE.

The show concluded its fourth season on Thursday night, May 9 and it was a mess.

They promised conclusions to storylines and delivered swerves. They "cheated" their own surreality by ending the season at midyear in order to prevent having to graduate out any more characters. Worst of all, in the fictional bubble called "Lima, Ohio," where tolerance is an amazing thing (except when they want to Slushee someone), they started to plant the seeds to "turn" a straight male character gay.

Television writers tend to fall in love with their own creations and want to re-invent them, even when there's nothing wrong with the characters. Britney (Heather Morris) was originally a slutty, dumb blonde cheerleader. This allowed the writers to let her say outrageous one-liners. Then they decided she was gay. This season, they decided she was back to guys and also could be a genius (!) who is being accepted to MIT. Interesting...except that there was nothing wrong with the original character. And given the bloated size of the cast, a few droplets of Britney every now and then hadn't stopped working. In their defense, Heather Morris is now visibly well along in her pregnancy and they had to "move her out" of the main plotlines at the school for next season.

Which brings me to the next big point. GLEE is set in a high school. The majority of students graduate from high school in four years. So what have Ryan Murphy and his merry band decreed for season 5? It takes place in the second-half of season 4's school year. So "senior" Blaine (Darren Criss) will be 27 years old when his character graduates in May 2014. Shades of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate! It play as creepy against the casting of American Idol 17-year-old Jessica Sanchez.

Once again, it's the writers terrified of having to lose some of their beloved characters. And they want to avoid the fate of HEAD OF THE CLASS, which hit a similar speed bump when they entered their fifth season. Even Howard Hesseman saw where that Hindenburg was heading and bailed when most of the cast became fifth-year seniors, despite their status as "brainiacs." Looking back, the show was the original BIG BANG THEORY although it has aged terribly.

GLEE has had a straight woman "go gay" with the Britney/Santana storyline. As a side note, Naya Rivera took a phone call early in the episode while changing out of her outfit. It felt like an excuse to show off her body in a sports bra, to which I say, more power to you, Naya. The show has also featured a straight woman in love with a gay man (twice, if you count the season one episode where Mercedes develops feelings for the not-yet-out Kurt). And Blaine had an unrequited crush on Sam (Chad Overstreet) this year.  Now they have planted the seeds for the final piece of their sexual awakening puzzle: Will GLEE turn a straight man gay?

One of the storylines this season followed Ryder (GLEE Project winner Blake Jenner) being catfished by someone posing as an attractive female student. In the claustrophobic world of GLEE, it could only be another member of the Glee Club). He tracked down the girl in the photo, who revealed another person was using her picture. But she gushed, "Call me, Ryder!" and he promptly blew her off. (The third girl he's blew off this season, after fighting over Marley and then ditching Kitty for the catfishing phony.)

In the finale, it turns out that season one Glee Project LOSER Unique (Alex Newell) was the perpetrator. "It started as a joke, but then he told me all these things..." he sobbed to Marley (Melissa Benoist). Newell has developed past a one-note sight gag, but does that mean the writers think his first romantic interest should be a teen who just confessed a history of molestation? What kind of message does that send? "Well, it works, because he's sexually confused and can experiment with Unique..." I can just hear one of the writers pitching, while Ryan Murphy nods and says, "Hmmm....."

After New Directions won Regionals (big duh) at the end of the episode, Ryder and Unique shared an "accidental, awkward" hug. Oh please, talk about foreshadowing. Which one is going to be the power bottom, Ryan? I may not live in a red state, but you're putting me in an uneasy position. This is why we won't let our son watch GLEE. "You mean it's okay for me to fall in love with the cross-dressing guy who posed as a woman online, so I would reveal my deepest secrets to him?"

At the end of the third season, the producers did not want to lose some of their "core" performers – Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Corey Monteith. When the proposed spinoff fell through, it left the production company in a tizzy and led to many disjointed episodes that jumped back and forth from Ohio to New York. Ryan Murphy has already hinted that he's going to slow down that process next year, which is a relief.

However I have a proposal – instead of slowing it down, why not re-brand that aspect of the show? FOX gets a lot of downtime with GLEE, which goes on 3-to-5 week hiatuses during the season due to its production schedule. Why not take advantage of those gaps?

I propose a "GLEE GRADS" fill-in show, which would run nine episodes, three at a time, during pre-planned GLEE hiatuses. The shows would be staffed completely with the characters who have graduated off the flagship show. Most of the episodes could center around the "New York" universe already created. But others not in that circle would get their due. Dianna Agron could have a standalone episode as Quinn. How about more of Finn and Puck's college adventures?

Removing those actors from the cast would bring down the budget for GLEE. And in the end, those hours would wrap neatly into the syndication package. A modest proposal, no?

Sad to say, season 4 wound down my involvement as a "Gleek," although my wife is still wrapped up in the world of Lima, Ohio. But like many of those fifth-season seniors, the five o'clock shadow is getting a little thick. And it's time to grow up and move on. Sorry if that hit anyone too hard, like a Slushee in the face.
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