Welcome back! It's hard to believe that nearly a full year has gone by and we're still only in your first season, or whatever passes for a season on television these days. But enough small talk. I'm making like a patient on Grey's Anatomy right now, and hitting you with the cold, hard truth. You are in trouble. Real trouble. Oh sure, the ratings for Tuesday night's episode were solid, you've got a promising Madonna-themed episode next week, and golden boy Neal Patrick Harris is set to guest sometime soon. On the surface, things look peachy keen. But ever since your stellar pilot, I've seen a gradual decline in quality and Tuesday's episode shows that you haven't learned anything useful since you left. So, I'm going to do you a favor. As someone who really really wants to like you and believe you're worth all the hype, I'm going to make some suggestions. Take 'em, leave 'em, do what you will - but when the inevitable backlash hits next year, don't say I didn't warn you. So here we go (in no particular order):
1. Beware of Heroes. Hmm...does this sound familiar? Heavily hyped pilot breaks out from the pack of new shows, inspiring a legion of devoted fans, while gracing multiple magazine covers and setting off a wave of multi-media tie-ins in the process. Right now, Glee is on the same trajectory as Heroes, another show that people fell head over heels for, while managing to ignore all of its flaws. The first season of Heroes was seriously flawed - mostly because of the writing, and partially because of Mohinder. The writing is equally bad on Glee, yet nobody seems to notice. People are too brainwashed by the newness and the hype at the moment. But unless the writing quickly gets better, what may seem now like a classic in the making can quickly turn into a flash-in-the-pan, burnt out disappointment of a show that can barely even limp to cancellation.
2. Have a game plan. For some, it might be endearing that Glee just sort of wings it from week to week, with no real end game in sight. But I find it incredibly annoying. The show is not going to last long unless the writers lay the groundwork for some series-long plots. What seems like the ideal long-term story: the will they-won't they between Rachel and Finn has been botched by putting the two together and then breaking them up with alarming frequency and without any rhyme or reason. Also, you cannot hang a season on the whole build-up to the Regionals or Sectionals or Tossed Salads, or whatever. We're not even done with the first season yet, and it's already repetitive.
3. Make characters' actions more believable. I understand that Glee is a brain-off, good-time show, but a little believability wouldn't hurt. Just this week, Rachel was with Finn, totally over the moon for him, and then he wants to take a break. She gets mad, and then almost immediately falls for this Jesse St. James kid from a rival glee club, and is totally smitten with him. She completely forgets about Finn. This all happens within 10 minutes. Say what? I thought 24 stretched things to the breaking point, but Jack Bauer's got nothing on the kids from Glee. Also what's the deal with Finn being tempted by the two cheerleader bitches that he's known for years and sees everyday? A new hot girl in school who's in touch with both her athletic and artistic sides? Sure - I can buy that. But again, the writers are rushing through things way too fast just because they might have a song that fits the week's musical theme.
4. Fire Jessalyn Gilsig. I think we can all agree that Terri Schuester's (Gilsig) fake pregnancy storyline at the start of the fall season was the worst thing about the show. I mean that's like "jump the shark" territory the writers would normally mine in the fifth or sixth season. Not the first! Thankfully, they've resolved that story, so bye bye Terri Schuester! But no. They're keeping her around. I understand that co-creator Ryan Murphy likes Gilsig, and worked with her on Nip/Tuck. Fine. Use her in something else. She does not need to appear anymore - fire her. Her character adds nothing to the show.
5. Give Jane Lynch more room to improvise. Lynch is the funniest actor on the show, but too often, she has to stick to the lines given to her. As shown in the Christopher Guest mockumentaries and in comedies like Role Models and 40 Year-Old Virgin, she can be great if you just let her do her thing. Stop trying to write witty, edgy material for her. It worked in the pilot, but now I feel like the writers are trying too hard. Construct scenes around her character, Sue Sylvester, and then just let Lynch loose and get out of the way.
6. Never Ever let Mr. Schu sing Hip Hop songs. Please. Dear God. Please. Oh, and if you can keep him from saying things like "That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!", that'd be good too.
7. More Idina Menzel please! Broadway vet Menzel appeared in Tuesday's episode and in her 5 minutes with Matthew Morrison (Mr. Schu), there was more heat and chemistry than in a whole season's worth of muted courtship between Schu and guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays). The writers have already pulled Schu and Emma apart after last fall's kiss, and slowed things way down. You can sense they want to take their time with that one. No thanks - you've already blown it - let's move on. Menzel is perfect - make her a semi-regular guest star. And I'm not sure if they're heading in this direction, but it's almost uncanny how similar Menzel and Lea Michele (Rachel) look. If they're not playing mother and daughter on Glee, they should in some other project.
8. Get Serious. Some of my favorite moments on Glee are when the show gets kind of serious and tackles a subject like Kurt coming out to his father, or Artie singing Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself" in his wheelchair. Not everything has to be played for laughs or the cute factor. Serious moments usually interject some semblance of honesty and relatability to the show, and humanize its often over-the-top characters.
9. Give Lea Michele acting lessons. Girl can sing. She can't act. Maybe that's the writing. Her character is a mess, unintentionally so. Both she and the writers need to go back to the drawing board. Watch Election. Study it. A good actress would make Rachel's Type A personality likeable in spite of herself, and wouldn't need the crutch of watering down the character's controlling tendencies and making her all lovey dovey in order to garner some sympathy from the audience.
I know you're probably going to ignore these suggestions. That's fine. I'll keep watching until I can't take it anymore and find myself complaining more than I'm actually enjoying the show (it's about 50/50 at this point) And then I'll look for you on the bargain bin DVD shelf - right next to Seasons 2-4 of Heroes.
Very truly yours,