Courtesy of Fox
I am often (and accurately) accused of being pretentious and hyper-critical of pop culture in general. I am not hesitant to cut down terrible television, superficial music and droll movies with a razor sharp eye with the hope that only the strongest, most fit albums, TV shows and movies will survive.
That said, I have harbored a largely undeserved soft spot for “Glee.” I find myself fervently defending the song choices for the show, insisting that they were used to enhance the poignant emotions that were woven through deeply intense plotlines that addressed the disabled, minority issues and the gay community.
Then, in the second season, the writers dropped “Blame It on the Alcohol” on viewers, an indefensible ode to a Jamie Foxx song of the same name that weakly masked an obvious ploy to attract viewers with a Top 40 hit as a public service announcement for responsible alcohol use. This seemed to open the floodgates, prompting a cascade of episodes full of blatant pandering to pop music-obsessed tweens to rush into the series, drowning its credibility.
Even if I had to admit that some of the song choices were hokey efforts to incorporate popular songs to up viewership, I always vehemently argued that the show was breaking ground in its treatment of issues that are affecting young adults in a real way. Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) struggled with his homosexuality in a major story arc that covered his family, school bullies and finding love in Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss).
Beyond that, viewers watched the fascist cheerleading coach and New Directions enemy No. 1 Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) tirelessly defend and learn from her sister and assistant, both of whom deal with Down Syndrome throughout the show. Plots like these prompted introspection from viewers that could become truly teachable moments that could help pave the way for the next generation to be more compassionate and accepting. It was television with a purpose.
Then the writers thrust upon us the woefully melodramatic and confusingly short-lived Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) identity crisis, where Agron’s character falls into a crowd of miscreant women who call themselves The Skanks. Fabray ditched the all-American wholesome look for a gritty, grungy punk, picked up smoking and seethed bad attitude.
While the “attack of the emo” storyline was unfortunate, it qualified as recklessly lazy, when just a few episodes later, a short pep talk from choir director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) sets her magically back on track.
These sorts of inconsistencies and immediate reversals have become numerous, dissolving any illusion of continuity in character traits for many of the cast. The show will become nigh impossible to watch once viewers lose track of the increasingly complex web of pregnancies, love affairs and scandals. The show is one case of amnesia and an evil twin away from soap opera status already.
Riding on two strikes, I can only hope that the minds behind “Glee” take the current hiatus to adjust the trajectory of the show. They need to throw out the overwrought plot lines for the simple and emotional, which is when they are at their best.
And rather than using the song choices as a platform for the overplayed radio hits of the moment, writers would do well to focus on capturing and conveying the emotion of a moment in the way that only music can: channeling the genius behind Hummel’s rendition of The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at the side of his father’s sickbed instead of the out-of-place attempts to force Ke$ha into the mix somewhere.
Come November, when the show returns to air, I can only hope that it has returned to what makes it great, because I cannot defend this prodigal son for much longer.