The Rise and Fall of Glee
As Glee returns to our television screens this January, It’s about time we look at the rise and fall of this once immensely popular show.
The Rocky Beginnings
Glee premiered in 2009 to so-so reviews and phenomenal ratings. During its first season, Glee was averaging a 77 on Metacritic and many people bashed it for its lack of originality. Alessandra Stanley from The New York Times even called the show “blissfully unoriginal in a witty, imaginative way”. The show had potential but the delivery was flawed. The fans of Glee did not care and continued to watch with ratings staying around 7 million. Everything changed during the fourteenth episode titled “Hell-O“, which pulled a whopping 13.66 million American viewers. This was due to many of the characters going through redevelopment and the guest star Idina Menzel as Shelby Corcoran, Rachel Berry’s biological mother.
At this point, Glee fans were enjoying the show with at most 12 million other American viewers watching with them. It had finally proved itself. Glee’s remake of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’“, their first official hit was the launching point of Glee‘s success.
At the end of Season 1, Glee was nominated for 19 Emmy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 6 Satellite awards and many others totaling 86 nominations. Glee walked away with 37 of them. Glee had finally proved itself as the underdog that could rise to the occasion.
Top of the Charts
Glee returned on September 21, 2010 to 12.45 million American viewers. Gleeks were ready for a new season and the critics were ready to critique. There were guest stars ranging from the “Princess of Pop” to “Hollywood’s Bitch” and even Carol Burnett. The ratings were looking good and the critics response to each episode was good. The real push for this season was the musical numbers.
Between the record-breaking 156 charted songs on Billboard Hot 100 to Darren Criss’s rendition of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” Glee had reached a new level. Criss’s rendition of “Teenage Dream” and Glee‘s original “Loser Like Me” exceeded over 200,000 downloads in their first week earning them gold status in the US. Along with that, Glee released five soundtracks for this season ranging from their original content to Top 40 charting songs. Megan Brown from The Atlantic put it best “It’s been a crazy ride this season. As frustrated as I get with Glee‘s minute-to-minute identity crisis, there have been some truly gorgeous moments of television in the past twenty-two episodes…” That statement is something that has been repeated several times in the Glee fandom. Gleeks loved to hate the show that they could not turn away from.
Glee continued to climb the ladder with the episode “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” with Original Rocky Horror Picture Show players Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf making appearances. This episode was brass, crazy and watered down which angered many fans and creator Richard O’Brien. All that aside, this episode pulled in 11.76 million American viewers. Glee went on to produce “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” the follow up to Super Bowl XLV.
The episode cost over 3 million dollars to make, which earned them the title of the most expensive post-Super Bowl episode ever produced. This episode featured over 500 extras, stunt artist and news anchor Katie Couric. The episode has been viewed by 26.8 million American viewers and became the highest rated scripted TV broadcast in over three years. This season of Glee brought them to the top of the charts with forty-five awards walking away with over thirty of them. Glee was even named at the American Film Institute as one of the Television Programs of the Year.
The Seasonal Error
Glee returned for its third season on September 20, 2011 to 9.21 million American viewers, well below the 12.45 million viewers for season two. Season three looked promising due to six new staff writers being hired and the idea of splitting the season to mimic a semester in a traditional. It sounded amazing and really got gleek’s excited for the show that always seems to deliver in one way or another.
With all these promises and changes, they failed to change one thing that is rather important in television: the delivery. Glee gave the same things week after week and did not change because it worked. The show started to stall out and it was becoming noticeable. The ratings for the show constantly moved between 7 and 9 million viewers. Episodes like “Micheal” and “The First Time” are regarded as the best of season due to breaking the typical Glee story line.
Glee was doing too much at this point in the series with the semester break, introduction of new characters and the constant push of tribute episodes. There were way too many hands in the pot.
Despite all this, graduation loomed around the corner for many of the main characters. At the end of season three, Rachel, Mike, Quinn, Finn, Kurt, Mercedes, Puck and Santana were graduating and moving on. This idea seemed to innovative and groundbreaking for television but in all reality it just pushed Gleeks further away. Glee was trying to freshen up a show that was doing pretty well. Glee made the list at 56 out of 195 shows in terms of viewership beating out shows like The Simpsons and Scandal. While they had lost their grip on some fans and critical success, Glee was still a phenomenon.
Reinventing the Wheel
Glee once again returned to our screens for season four to 7.41 million American viewers. The new Glee club members had moved in and the old ones out to places like New York and Chicago. In the season première episode “The New Rachel“, we saw that we would be moving between NY to Ohio for season four. A few episodes in, people were dubbing this season “Glee 2.0”. Glee seemed to have reinvented the show and what they were trying to do. Even though their ratings still fell, averaging only 8.26 million viewers, they improved their critic response to a 71 on Metacritic.
Episodes like “Diva“, “Feud” and “Sweet Dreams” seemed to show Glee returning to its seasons two inspirations and musical numbers while episodes like “Shooting Star” showed that Glee still had a lot to tell and was not to going to slow down. Glee was trying to reinvent the wheel as we saw the original Glee members recreated in members like Ryder, Kitty and Jake. These characters were likable but they were not exciting like their original counterparts. Many viewers watched to get updates on Finn and Rachel and Blaine and Kurt, but did not care for the “New New Directions”.
At this point, this once power house was seeing the end of the tunnel. Fans were walking away and critics were starting to notice the repetitive story lines and copycat characters. Guest stars like Kate Hudson and Whoopi Goldberg proved that Glee was still there, attempting to deliver what Gleek fell in love with. Characters like Wade and Joe were the Glee-esque characters that Gleeks loved to hate, while still tuning in every week to see what was going to happen next.
Tragedy hit the Glee community and family on July 13, 2013 as Cory Monteith passed away shortly before production on season five was to begin. After his passing, Glee announced that production would take a two-week hiatus, while they reworked the show and figured out how to handle Monteith’s passing. According to many sources, season five was a very Finn heavy season with his interactions with Rachel and his own maturity. Show creator Ryan Murphy announced that Monteith’s character would pass away in the third episode titled “The Quarterback“.
The show returned on September 26, 2013 to 5.06 million American viewers with an episode titled “Love, Love, Love“, a tribute episode to The Beatles that had been in the works for over four years. This episode was great, but the show was doomed. Katy Kroll of The Rolling Stones put it best “Try as the show might, the July 13th death of Cory Monteith at age 31 of a drug overdose left a dark cloud hanging over the Season Five première – no matter what the show’s stars and producers were hoping we’d see…”.
“The Quarterback” premiered on October 10th to 7.39 million American viewers. An episode full of emotions and tears. We saw a family mourning their brother, not actors mourning another. Majority of the episode was shot in single takes due t the tough subject. For many of Gleeks, this was the end of Glee. Gleeks said goodbye to the goofball that they learned to love over the past four years. It was weird because many fans considered Cory a friend. At this point, Glee was over and it was pretty clear.
The season continued as the ratings continued to decline and critics were watching a show slowly die. Episodes like “Movin’ Out” and “The End of Twerk” saw a spike but the show lost the grip. With Cory gone and the odd disappearances of Heather Morris and Harry Shum Jr, the show was all over the place due to the glue of Glee gone. Glee ended season 5 on May 13, 2014 with a disappointing 1.87 million American viewers. Falling to #105 out of 181 with shows like Dads, Mixology and New Girl.
The Final Countdown
Glee is set to return on January 9th, 2015 with a special two-hour season première. Ryan Murphy announced during season five that season six would be the last season. This season would not be New York focused like season five and there would be a time skip between five and six. Season six will also include Glee’s 700th song. All that is known about season six is the first four episodes titles and track list. You can find that below. As I look upon season six, I see a season of reflection. It appears that season six may actually be an amazing season being that all the cast is returning. Ryan Murphy also has a more hands on approach to the show.
Over the years, Glee was nominated for 190 awards ranging from Dorian Awards to Grammys. Once averaging 10.11 million in viewership to now 4.57, Glee shows that anything can fall from grace. There is nobody to blame for Glee coming to end in March. Glee had a phenomenal run when you sit down and think about it. Ryan Murphy helped launched the career of many talented actors and actresses. He made his name a household name with the launch of his newest hit, American Horror Story. Ryan Murphy has produced three immensely popular shows that range from a musical comedy to a psychological thriller. At the end, we could all argue that Glee was a horrible show but it was not a failure. Glee, even in its weaker seasons, pulled in more than American Horror Story and Nip/Tuck. As many Gleeks are gearing up to say goodbye to the show that has angered, saddened and disappointed them, the world needs to take a lesson from Glee and remember that it is not over until you say it is over.
Glee’s last season will consist of 13 episodes, slashed down from 20. The show will also be moving from Tuesday at 9pm to Friday at 9pm.
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