Currently in its third season, “Glee” has evolved considerably from the cheery celebration-of-the-underdog show it embodied when it first aired in 2009. A satire on the world of small-town high schools, the show follows the lives of the members of a high school glee club and all of the traumas they suffer at the bottom of the social ladder.
During the hiatus between seasons two and three, the makers of “Glee” put together a reality television series called “The Glee Project,” the winners of which (there were three) were each awarded a number of episodes on “Glee” in which they would guest star. Besides these winners, “Glee” has seen other new additions to the cast such as the new lead singer of the a capella group The Warblers, Sebastian Smythe (played by Grant Gustin). These copious additions to an already-crowded cast have proven a detriment to the show thus far, because they precipitate different simultaneous plotlines that can often be difficult to follow or are simply lost in translation. As a result, “Glee” has become notorious for its erratic and arbitrary plotlines; the show is simply too congested to flow smoothly.
There have also been several new additions to the cast of the show as well in preparation for the “graduation” of a substantial sect of the main cast at the end of the season. Casual mentionings of the ages of the characters have been sprinkled in throughout the last few episodes to inform viewers which of the characters will remain on the show next season.
The loss of characters Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) next season has viewers and avid fans alike wondering whether or not season four will hold up to the usual standards. Up until now, the show seemed to revolve around these characters; Colfer has a Golden Globe as well as an Emmy nomination to attest to that.
Ratings have already dropped this season, possibly as a result of the increased chaos due to the large number of characters, and whether or not they will be pulled back up to their normal standing or sink even farther in the coming episodes and seasons remains to be seen. Rumors of spin-offs that would follow the lives of these graduated characters as they go off to college have been abundant, but none have been confirmed. Any spin-off would require ratings much higher than they have been, anyway.
The show’s vibrant musical numbers, at least three of which are featured each episode, offer relief from its congested plot. As of February 2011, “Glee” has surpassed Elvis as the artist with the most songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Musical numbers such as Darren Criss’s rendition of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry and the cast’s mash-up of Adele’s “Rumor Has It” and “Someone Like You” have become instant number-one hits on iTunes. “Glee’s” musical success accounts for much of its success as a show, as it constantly attracts viewers who otherwise would not have watched it.
Although recent episodes have certainly been more chaotic than most, they have also been more daring and dynamic with regards to content and thematic material, as they tackle issues such as body image, sexuality, teenage pregnancy and even the world of politics. A recent development on the show involving characters Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley) and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), running against each other for Congress paints a deeply satirical image of the world of politics today, as Sylvester makes wildly outlandish statements about Hummel’s personal life while he struggles to maintain his ethical and moral dignity in the face of it. A recent episode, entitled “The First Time” broached not only the first sexual experience of a straight teenaged couple on the show, but also that of a homosexual teenaged couple, something that is still virgin territory for primetime television. It is such new territory, in fact, that this episode was preceded by a warning for explicit content, something that a “Glee” episode has never warranted before. The warning proved comical, however, as the gay “sex scene” turned out to consist only of the two boys lying in bed next to each other, fully clothed, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes. Another controversial plotline unfolded when student Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) fell victim to the underhanded political tactics of Sylvester and was forced to come out of the closet before she was ready.
The show addresses such themes with great ease, humor and earnestness and has become a household name — albeit a controversial one — as a result. For all of the precautions taken with regards to such issues, the show has still been criticized as inappropriate for teenagers. “Glee’s” wildly positive response thus far with regards to viewership as well as awards and nominations, however, shows its effectiveness as a show to provide both skillful musical performances and entertaining and meaningful plotlines for its viewers. The show’s perseverance with regards to pursuing such controversial themes has earned it loyalty from its viewership, and although “Glee” may have too many characters for its own good, those viewers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.