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No Longer Hits The Right Notes

Off key now
Off key now

As anybody paying attention to network TV knows, Glee will be running it's final season next year, skipping what is left of 2014, save for tonight's season finale. What is particularly sad about this is that the series, whatever timeslot it get, no one will care. The show's ratings have dropped precipitously ever since it was moved away from The X-Factor last fall, dropping to just under 2.5 million viewers. To put that in perspective, CW's Arrow or The Vampire Diaries could now beat it if they were running head to head. This is a sad fate for a series that even as recently as a year ago still ranked among the cultural zeitgeist.
I wish that I could work up more rancor or depression about this, but the fact of the matter is, over the past two seasons, I have basically given up on watching the series, recording it to view later--- and later still has yet to come. The biggest reason for this has been the usual--- on Thursdays, the series has been up against Parks and Recreation and Person of Interest, series that mattered more. But in Season 5, where the competition has been much lighter, I haven't watched, because it's been getting harder to.
This is a painful fact, because, as I mentioned in an earlier column, I essentially began by career as a TV critics doing episode guides for Glee. Indeed, in the first top ten list I ever published, I listed Glee as the best show of 2010, ahead of Mad Men and The Good Wife. (Pure hubris. I hadn't even watched Breaking Bad yet.) And I was such a big fan of the series, I tended to take any criticism of it, legitimate or not, as an offense to me. (BTW, memo the writers of MTV's Faking It: until your series has attained hit status, avoid having your character's say things like: 'If she were any more two-dimensional, she'd be a character on Glee'. Considering it came from the mouth of what was basically a Kurt Hummel rip-off, don't bite off more than you can chew this early.) And I still consider the series work from 2009 til 2012 among the best that TV has ever offered. So why have I basically reduced the series from 'Must watch' to 'Who Cares?"
Perhaps the most obvious reason is the simplest one: all the characters I cared about graduated at the end of Season 3. I know that showrunners Ryan Murphy and co. faced the unenviable challenge of having to replace it's core cast in Season 4, and that they did the best they could to make it work. Unfortunately, none of their new characters have really measured up to anything close to what even the second tier characters on the series were capable of at the creative peak. And while I know that part of the rules of high school are, the relationships you form don't last forever, the way that they broke up Kurt and Blaine, Santana and Brittany and Finn and Rachel seemed heartless and obligatory. And the way they ended Mike and Tina's relationship--- and then had her fall in love with another gay teen--- just seem unworthy of them, if not downright cruel.
It would be easy to blame the series demise on the tragic death of Cory Monteith last August. Since Murphy said that he planned to have Rachel and Finn eventually end up back together having realized their dreams, anything that followed would be exceptionally sad now. But the pill is, after he graduated Finn's character seemed rudderless, and putting him in the halls of McKinley as a teacher seemed particularly labored.
A far more telling loss was that of Diana Agron as Quinn. For the first three seasons of the series, she was the show's secret weapon behind Chris Colfer and Naya Rivera. Watching the head cheerleader be brought low, and somehow rise above all the bad things that happened to her made her a driving force of the series. When Agron decided to reduce her role to cameos, the series took a blow that it has yet to recover from.
Some of the other series choices have just been odd. Forcing the senior year to last into Season 5 seems to have been a bad choice. If the show was going to extend the years the class of '13 was going to be a part of, why not doing so with the class of '12, which frankly contained more characters we gave a damn about. And reducing the roles of Harry Salling, Amber Riley and especially Heather Morris have been blows this series couldn't quite recover from. Now it seems the show is going to leave McKinley behind completely for Season 6, regulating Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch almost entirely out of the picture. It's as if Murphy, burdened with other projects, can't be bothered with the basics of the show any more.
I'll probably watch Glee for it's final season, but unlike the final seasons of Parks & Recreation and Parenthood, it will be more of a duty than a privilege. There is now too much sorrow connected with a series whose title once stood for joy, and whose song we have already heard.

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