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'Glee' needs more than Chewbacca

December 13, 2011|By Jason Steele | For RedEye

Let¹s take the TV time machine all the way back to May 19, 2009, when Fox debuted a weird musical show about randy high school outcasts coming together to form a glee club.

Those were the days. Even though "Glee" was a show about kids, it was not a show with kiddie themes. The stories addressed child molestation, a teacher planting drugs in a student's locker, homosexuality, disabilities, teen pregnancy, bullying--all set to a soundtrack of Journey songs. And that was just the pilot!

If you were like me, you downloaded the episode and watched it a dozen times over the summer in anticipation of its fall debut. During the first season, the show definitely lived up to the hype by delivering cutting-edge storylines, adult themes, great musical numbers and just a lot of fun.

Then something started to shift. "Glee" went from a unique water-cooler-talk show of "Did you see what Kurt was wearing?" "That cover of a Katy Perry song was awesome!" and "Jane Lynch's Sue is a total character!" to a less-than-stellar victim of its own success. "Ugh, did you see what Kurt was wearing?" "Egads! Another cover of a Katy Perry song?" and "Sue Sylvester has become a complete caricature."

I know it's trendy right now to bag on "Glee," but the numbers don't lie.
Viewership is down 23 percent this season from 2010, according to Nielsen.
And those of us who are complaining now do it because we want our old, sexy, funny, gay friend back.

Why did so many people stop watching? The show became too aware of its own success and started to favor style over substance. Now it suffers from "Will & Grace" syndrome, sacrificing good storytelling for big guest stars.

(Chewbacca on Tuesday night's Christmas episode? Really, "Glee"?) Not that "Glee" ever did anything subtly, but it used to do it with heart.

Regardless of how nonsensical a storyline might have been, "Glee" always did a great job with the song performances. But this season's songs have mostly been unmemorable (way too much Broadway--and this coming from a guy who loves showtunes). In fact, barely any Season 3 songs have been in the iTunes Top 10.

Now it seems almost every character is acting out of character: Rachel getting herself suspended. Kurt, Blaine and Trouty Mouth transferring in and out of schools only out of convenience for the scripts. Sue is stuck in a repetitive loop. Brittany S. Pierce has gone from lovable dimwit to complete idiot. And Quinn is just all over the map. Plus, the show struck gold with The Warblers, and they've all but disbanded.

Granted, there still are things that work, and for every ridiculous Quinn/Shelby/Puck triangle there is a heartbreaking Santana-coming-out storyline.

I could go on and on about how the show has fallen from grace, but the truth is it's still a lot more entertaining and edgy than most shows--it's just been downgraded from "watch it live" Tuesday to "watch it when I get around to it"--which usually is no later than Wednesday.


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