When ‘Glee’ first premiered back in 2009 FOX knew it had something special. While three seasons later the show is still special, it has noticeably lost a little of its luster. With the ratings down and audiences getting a little resistant to some of the show’s “issue” based storylines, FOX and series creator Ryan Murphy knew something had to be done starting with tonight’s season premiere.
“Glee” producers realized from the beginning that while fans will overlook the fact that people don’t spontaneously burst into song in real life, they wouldn’t overlook the fact that this is a show about high school kids and high school kids (at some point) graduate. However the problem is that fans also became attached to the show’s core characters and to take away half of them in one foul swoop wouldn’t go over well. So Murphy decided to try something different where this season he’ll add in new characters while letting viewers tag along on the adventures of some of the originals.
Of course this is television and you can’t please everyone as many believed it was time to write out such series stars as Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer. Yet instead Murphy is actually making them a major component of the “revamp.” For example Lea Michele’s diva wannabe Rachel Berry will still be getting a ton of screen time especially given the addition of Kate Hudson as her new college instructor.
However while the originals try their luck in New York (and a few other various places), Matthew Morrison’s Mr. Shuster will have to rebuild his glee club back in Lima, Ohio. Granted he’ll still have a number of returning players who will be entering (or for some repeating) their senior year to help fill the void. Among those coming back include fan favorites Darren Criss, Kevin McHale and Heather Morris who will also join a handful of new rising stars including (eventually) the most recent winner of “The Glee Project.”
Yet fans know a fresh coat of casting paint won’t fix all of what ails the series. After three seasons, fans have gotten a little tired of being force fed lessons about everything from bullying to tolerance. While in the beginning the storylines worked, many feel lately they’ve gotten borderline preachy.
In his review yesterday about Murphy’s latest series, “The New Normal,” The Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert perfectly touched on where he and many others believe the series may have lost its way.
“On ‘Glee,’ he set up a lovely high school scenario with appealing characters and then used them shamelessly to make Big Points. He chucked out character continuity in order to deliver an issues show.”
Again sometimes it works, namely in the case of Dot Marie Jones who plays Coach Sharon Beiste. Jones joined the cast back in its second season and immediately won over audiences. She’s not your typical actress (in fact she used to be a prison guard at one point) but she’s charming and relatable. As a result her recent end of season storyline dealing with the impact of being in a physically abusive relationship strongly resonated and she was the only cast member to be nominated for an Emmy this year.
If Murphy can keep the focus on people like Jones and some of the other stars who had been forced into the background over the years, he could easily win back a number of viewers. While you can’t blame FOX for wanting to focus on the show’s breakout talent, there comes a time where you can’t rely on them that heavily either and that’s the case here.
Tonight’s episode, entitled “The New Rachel,” on paper looks like the perfect first step in cultivating new members of the ensemble to featured status (including Jenna Ushkowitz’s character Tina who seems poised to break through). Then again, looks are deceiving as the other half of the episode essentially spotlights the same people you are eventually going to need to replace.
Still the show’s hardcore “Gleeks” are loyal and when FOX released new video of the cast performing Carly Ray Jepsen’s ultra-popular song of the summer “Call Me Maybe,” the social media-sphere unsurprisingly exploded with buzz.
That’s the “Glee” effect and it remains a force to be reckoned with…for now.
“Glee” returns tonight (on its new night) at 9 p.m. EST on FOX.
Don’t forget to subscribe to this column for all of the latest news coming out ahead of the new TV season. In the meantime you can go to FOX.com for more information on the series.
What’s your take New York? Are you a “Gleek?” Should the show have axed all of its graduating characters or does the new format seem like a good idea? Hit the comments and let us know!
For more previews of the 2012 Fall TV season you can click on the below:
“The New Normal”
“Sons Of Anarchy”
“The X Factor”