Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Wishlist for an Improved 'Glee' in Season 3

Attention All Gleeks: tonight is the season premiere of Glee's third season. As if you needed reminding.

At this point last year, I was head-over-heels excited for a similar occasion, admitting that, despite the hype, it looked like Season 2 would be one for the books. Well, Season 2 came and went and while it was certainly "one for the books," that's not necessarily a universally positive descriptor. Season 2 brought us exciting highs—Kurt and Blaine, the rebirth of a more beloved Gwyneth Paltrow, The Warblers, plus an amazing array of award-worthy songs—but it was also the source of many fans' headaches and frustrations. From plot lines that made no sense (Emma's marriage to Uncle Jesse) to tribute episodes that just plain stunk (hello, "Britney/Brittany"), Glee experienced what I would call a huge sophomore slump.

The good news about sophomore slumps is that the third time is often a charm—just look at Friday Night Lights. I'm choosing to go into Glee Season 3 with an optimistic mind and an open heart. In fact, I've avoided reading any information on the upcoming season in the hopes of avoiding hype or, more likely, early disappointment.

Of course, I have a few suggestions for how Glee could learn from its mistakes and improve from its lackluster second season. I avoided writing this immediately after the Season 2 finale because my frustration was too high to write a piece that wasn't just an angry rant. After seeing the tour and, yes, the 3D movie, I was reminded that at the end of the day I am a huge fan of the show, and any frustrations I have with it are just because I know how excellent it can be and all I want is for it to continue its success. So, with that in mind, here's my wishlist for a better Season 3:

  1. Pay Attention to the Larger Story Arcs
  2. This is a major one. So much of the frustration with Season 2 was that each episode was just another string of randomly slapped together scenes or another one of Mr. Schuester's weekly lessons. With the exception of Kurt's arc—more on that in a minute—nothing that happened in Season 2 contributed to the larger story or made sense in the context of what we'd already been told.

    At the beginning of the season, New Directions was beyond thrilled to get to Nationals in New York, but then (with the exception of an occasional "when we get to Nationals" line) that goal was completely ignored until they were sitting in a hotel room trying to write songs 12 hours before showtime. Really? The plus side is that the lack of preparation was rightfully their downfall at Nationals; the down side is that they then brushed it off with a "winning doesn't matter" attitude. It sure seemed like winning mattered right up until their name wasn't on the Semifinals list, so when exactly was that lesson learned? When did they earn that revelation?

    And one more thing—what happened to Artie's magical robot legs? And how exactly did Coach Beiste afford them? Oh, wait a minute—what happened to Coach Beiste?! See what I mean? If a story isn't going to contribute to the overarching theme of the season or the character, then why is it there?

    In Season 3, I'd love to see New Directions kick it into high gear and work their butts off to get to Nationals and win. Stop learning another silly Schue lesson, New Directions. Learn from your mistakes and you might have a better chance at success. How meta.

  3. Choose Songs That Match the Plot, Not Vice Versa
  4. Can someone explain to me why a Britney Spears tribute episode was necessary? And even then, the writers couldn't stick to that theme because Rachel ended the episode with a Paramore song. Instead of saying "I love this song... how can we get them to sing it?" think, "This is what the characters are going through. What song matches that direction?" Some of the greatest songs in the show's history ("Keep Holding On," "Teenage Dream") worked because they supported the story, not vice versa.

  5. Use Sue Wisely
  6. There's no denying the comedic power of Jane Lynch, which is why she deservedly won the Emmy for Season 1. Unfortunately, too much of Sue Sylvester is a bad thing, especially when they turn her into a massive cartoon character. The "League of Evil" is enough to prove that point—yes, I enjoyed Sue naming Terri Schuester "Honey Badger," but was that really the best way to utilize Sue's character? They need to figure out how to use Sue without it turning into another "I hate the glee club so I must destroy them" one-off. This isn't a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

  7. Let the Adults Act Like Adults
  8. When your students are more mature than you, there's a serious issue. And at the moment, Will Schuester is a serious issue. He is hands down the worst educator on television. From leaving the students unattended in New York City so he could live out some misguided Broadway fantasy to orchestrating shockingly inappropriate school assemblies (hello, sex-riot "Toxic" and high school productions of Rocky Horror). I'm not saying Schue should be perfect or that he shouldn't have his flaws—after all, his relationship with Terri was a major highlight at the beginning of the series—I just wish that he (and Emma for that matter) could stop acting like an insufferable teenager. The only responsible adult on the show is Coach Beiste, who, as previously mentioned, pretty much fell off the face of the Earth in the second half of last season.

  9. Get Rid of St. Kurt
  10. Don't get mad at me. I'm not saying to get rid of Kurt entirely—he's one of my favorite characters—I just think that Ryan Murphy and company shouldn't be afraid to let Kurt do something wrong from time to time. Like when he has a boy (who, by the way, ends up being his boyfriend) sleep in his bed and his dad rightfully gets angry, perhaps we should side with the dad instead of having Kurt scold Burt for "not being educated." For the most part, Kurt's story was a highlight of Season 2 and it certainly did incredibly important things for gay youth across the country—there's no denying that, and I'm not trying to diminish any of it. But, as an example, in Season 1 we recognized and acknowledged that Kurt's advances on Finn were inappropriate, and after that happened we still loved Kurt just as much (in fact, that was an important thing to show as many gay youth probably go through similar experiences and mistakes). In Season 3, maybe he can make a mistake and learn from it every once in a while?

  11. Stop Ignoring Tina and Mercedes
  12. Remember Tina and Mercedes? They are two of the founding members of New Directions that have been in the group (and on the show) since Day One. Unfortunately, unless there is a diva ballad to be sung or Mike Chang's abs to swoon over, those two aren't getting much air time. Yes, we occasionally discuss Mercedes' image issues or (ugh) her obsession with tots, but when was the last time we really dug into the lives of Tina and Mercedes? I'd be fine with taking a break from Rachel and Finn drama to talk more about those two for sure.
As I said before, I am choosing to remain optimistic about the future of Glee, mostly because when it's at its best it is one of the best shows on television in either drama or comedy. It's been said countless times before, but the series was truly in its prime during the first 13 episodes from the pilot through the first Sectionals. If they can recapture that same energy and that same excitement, Glee will be a force to be reckoned with in Season 3. Let's just hope that's the direction New Directions takes.

[Image Source: FOX; Collage by Please Welcome Your Judges]
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