2011: The Year That Wasn’t – Glee

The End of Covering Glee

January 3rd, 2012

This was the year that the “3 Glees” theory died, in more ways than one.

More practically, the show hired a writing staff in addition to its three creators (Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk). While this hasn’t eradicated the problems with consistency that have plagued the show since its first season, it has made the simplicity of the “3 Glees” no longer adequate as a strategy for understanding the show’s creative formation.

However, simultaneously, a Tuesday night class meant that there was really no way I could continue to cover Glee in the way I had in previous seasons, outside of a few weeks where screeners were made available in advance. This meant that updating the “3 Glees” page even in order to reflect the writing staff’s contribution was simply not going to happen, which means it quietly went on an indefinite hiatus this fall.

Allow me to make the hiatus permanent as we begin 2012. Although I no longer have a night class on Tuesdays, and thus could continue to review Glee if I so desired, I think I’m taking this as a natural breaking point. While I intend to keep watching Glee, and I remain open to writing about the show when a particularly strong/weak episode emerges, this seems like as good a time as ever to say that I might be running out of ways to describe Glee’s failings.

I know – I didn’t think it was possible, either.

Glee hasn’t gotten dramatically worse this season, and on some level I’d actually suggest that this season has taken some positive steps in regards to basic narrative structure (with the use of West Side Story particularly strong in linking multiple story arcs together). However, the problem is that every step they’ve taken has been wobbly and inconsistent, and some steps which appeared to be in the right direction (like giving Quinn a more substantial storyline, or splitting up the two glee clubs) eventually swerved into a terrible one (like the nonchalant way Shelby’s affair with Puck and Quinn’s efforts to take Beth away from Shelby were swept under the rug, or how a single performance can reunite the two rival clubs as though very little has happened).

While I appreciate the effort to expand the show’s serial storytelling, it simply isn’t working, and it has made for a decidedly more frustrating experience than when the show was ignoring serial storytelling entirely. At least then you could say that the show was committing to a different storytelling mode – primarily focusing on single episode “themes” as opposed to long-form storytelling, outside of clearly delineated arcs like Kurt’s bullying storyline – that may not be maximizing the series’ potential, as opposed to butchering an attempt at developing stronger storylines. Compared to last season, it feels like what decent character development we find (like Mike’s storyline with his parents, or Santana’s coming out) is ultimately caught up within –and tainted by – the ongoing serialized elements that have been so poorly executed (like, for example, Santana’s coming out being forced by the inane congressional campaign that barely had any potential to begin with).

There is still plenty to say about Glee on a week-to-week basis, and my old pal Todd VanDerWerff continues to say them quite nicely at The A.V. Club (and it’s entirely plausible that, should he ever need someone to cover the show for him, I might well be the person stepping in as I have done in the past). For me, though, as someone who wrote about the show because I wanted to and not because it was a job, Glee has reached the point where I don’t think my experience watching it benefits from picking it apart. Perhaps it’s that I’ve resigned myself to its failings, comfortable in accepting them and just fast-forwarding through the boring parts or the songs I don’t like in search of the redeeming parts of the episode.

While I remain convinced there are redeeming points, and would comfortably isolate an episode like “Asian F” or “The First Time” as an example of compelling television that can emerge from the show’s formula, my investment in the sum of those parts has effectively melted away. “The 3 Glees” exists because of a desire to understand the larger whole of Glee, to try to connect the dots between the creative forces behind the series and the disparate elements which emerged within the series itself. However, at this point, I simply don’t care enough about the larger whole to spend any amount of time analyzing it, choosing instead to sit back and enjoy – or deride – the ride as may be necessary in that circumstance.

Tomorrow: Thoughts on a missed opportunity to piss off Kurt Sutter all over again.

1 Comment

Filed under The Year That Wasn't

One response to “2011: The Year That Wasn’t – Glee

  1. Melkee

    Darn! I suspected something like this would happen. Sigh! I’m gonna miss your voice of reason regarding Glee. Watching Glee has become a reminder of my last long term relationship: I went from cherishing and enjoying the quirkiness of my bf to becoming rather annoyed and irked by the guy I once adored. When this annoyance was more of a constant than the bliss and the fun, we, obviously, had to end things before it got to a point when it became hate. I guess, this is exactly what’s happening with Glee. I thought having a full time writing team would improve things, but it hasn’t. I am still watching and am trying to focus on the fun, interesting parts and ignore the bad ones. But it’s getting to the point where I am fastforwarding more often than I am actually just watching. Sigh!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hope to read some Glee review in the future!

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