I’m going to get this right out there right now, in the first sentence, so there is no equivocation about my feelings later on- I really liked Glee for a while. Though it is slightly more socially acceptable to wear a Klan hood to a dinner party than admit to being a Gleek (a term which, to this day, makes the bile rise in my throat), it was quite good fun for a few seasons and even produced some more than serviceable covers once in a while.
It’s a fair way into the fourth series now. This is notable (if you like noting this kind of thing) because it was the first series to focus on characters who weren’t in the original series; the old bunch of students graduated and moved on to college, stage school or…oh, wait, the writers don’t even make the pretence of caring about any of the other characters. This left a hole back at William McKinley High School, a hole that surely had to be filled with another ragtag bunch of hopefuls with a dream and the ability to make a Ke$ha song worse than it already was.
Instead, the writers crammed this void with characters of almost every race, gender, sexuality and tenuous connection to characters that were actually popular as a desperate grab at their old audience. “Stereotype” isn’t a strong enough word for what Glee does to characters; they joyously took every single archetype known to mankind and amped them up by a factor of Showgirls. And it worked. It was so shamelessly fun and silly that the occasional slightly batty powerhouse ballad or unlikely mashup slid under the radar most of the time, even seemed quite novel by comparison. But the new series- with it’s bizarre collection of old supporting characters and brand-new knockoffs- has the endearing underdogs become the sort of people I wouldn’t tire of hitting with a spade if I wasn’t certain it would go straight through their complete lack of characterization. Even the spectacular Jane Lynch has been shoved aside to make way for yet another smaller-than-life caricature bleating along to a torturously asinine cover of Call Me Maybe. Even the stories following the original characters have been filtered of almost all their wit and charm, but thankfully this is made up for by a wonderful performance by Sarah Jessica-Parker as a benevolent fashion maven. Oh, hang on, she’s rubbish. Although the adult cast were never the best part of Glee, they were at least solid in earlier seasons, but here they are either ineffectual or grating. Kate Hudson has a reasonable turn as the dance teacher from hell. My opinion here might be informed by her first dance number which featured much writhing around and gyrating; I’m not sure, busy as I am retrieving my jaw from the centre of the earth.
It’s always disappointing to watch a once-enjoyable show plunging so dramatically from grace, but it also only feels right: Glee never did anything by halves, whether it be covering Jim Steinman or throwing in a life-changing proposal as an afterthought. Like an embittered child starlet throwing up in the gutter , Glee will not drop out of notoriety without a fight, though it will manage to do it without a shred of dignity.