Monday, August 8, 2011

Graduating Glee: The Perils of Life after High School

When you have a show as massively successful as Glee, there's no doubt that any backstage quibbles will be blown out of proportion thanks to the relentless glare of the spotlight. And recently, the drama behind the scenes have been grabbing headlines. Co-creator Ryan Murphy recently announced that Cory Monteith (Finn), Lea Michele (Rachel) and Chris Colfer (Kurt) would be leaving the show at the end of the upcoming season, as their characters would be graduating and therefore no longer members of the New Directions. This alone was enough to send fans into a tizzy, but then came the news that none of the cast members in question were aware of their departure and the denial of any changes from co-creators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, who later said that the three of them would be receiving their own spinoff, which is also now potentially a no-go.

The actors in question (clockwise from top): Monteith, Michele, Colfer

I certainly don't agree with the method of Murphy's announcement - surely, as showrunner, you have the responsibility to discuss the actors' futures with the actors. But I'm actually hoping that his statement is true. If you've read my recaps from this past season (which, by the way, is not worthy of a Comedy Series Emmy, Entertainment Weekly; that belongs to Parks & Recreation or Modern Family*), you'll know that I'm a big fan of Colfer's performance, and it would be sad to see him leave the show. I'm not as thrilled with Monteith, who was never all that good at acting or singing, and have mixed feelings about Michele, who's a fantastic singer but suffers from the series' major problem with consistent female characters. However, you can't keep these characters in high school forever, and though the show has never mentioned what grades any of them are in, it makes sense that at this point - season three - it's time for some of them to graduate. You see, that's what happens in high school: after a few years, you leave, either through graduation or age limitations. And though you could hardly call the world of Glee "reality," there are still certain expectations for authenticity, and I think, if handled correctly, it could prove to be a creative opportunity for the show.

The model for this sort of transition is Friday Night Lights. Eventually, Matt Saracen, Smash Williams, and Tim Riggins were going to have to graduate. But the show smartly gave each of them a fair and rewarding farewell, sending them off to destinations that made sense for the characters, such as Chicago for Matt while Tim remained in Dillon. In return, the show produced new characters in Luke Cafferty and Vince Howard, both of whom reinvigorated the show and kept the incredible quality of the show aloft. Now, Glee is by no means FNL, but it can certainly learn from the latter. As hinted at in the season two finale, it would make sense to send Rachel and Kurt to New York so they can pursue their Broadway dreams. Finn, though, could probably stay around Lima, Ohio; it's been mentioned countless times that this is the world he knows, and the show's always flirted thematically with the harsh reality that dreams don't always come true, even if you don't stop believin'.

This would actually be the kind of compromise that would make everyone happy. Creatively, it can benefit the writers so that they can create new characters and new storylines for someone like Finn, who this way wouldn't actually be leaving the show. Plus, Michele and Colfer can grab some recurring guest roles back on the show (similar to Zach Gilford on FNL), as we check in on Rachel and Kurt; perhaps if they fail, they can return to Lima as well? From a financial standpoint, you can keep the stars around, and fans don't have to fear change (because, let's face it, if you listened only to fans you'd make the same thing over and over again ad infinitum). Everybody (potentially) wins.

Besides, remember what's happened to other shows in the past that either kept their high school kids around too long/followed them full-time post-graduation? Yeah, it wasn't pretty. These are just my thoughts on how this situation can be remedied. What do you think?

*Actually, the Emmy should be going to Louie, but it wasn't nominated.

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