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Glee, Now With Writers


 

I’m late on this, but I wanted to add my fifty-two cents (inflation-adjusted from two cents) on the long-awaited announcement that Glee will hire a writing staff for its third season. Though the three creators wrote every episode for the first two seasons, the outside writers are necessary because Ryan Murphy is working on the new show “American Horror Story” for FX and doesn’t have as much time to devote to Glee.

Also, the third season will be a transitional year, since it’s graduation year, meaning they’ll have to start planning in advance for the fourth season – coming up with some new characters at the school, figuring out which regulars will continue on the show and how. Since they’re going to have to shake up the formula that got them through the first two seasons, it makes sense for the creators to call in some new people for the task of retooling the series.

Does this mean the show is going to get better in the third season? I’m not the best person to answer this, because I was not as frustrated with Glee season 2 as many people seemed to be. In fact, it’s one of the shows I enjoy most, even as I acknowledge its flaws. (It’s preachy, frequently fails to make sense, and makes characters act totally inconsistently based on what the writers need that week. But it also has some very valuable qualities: good-natured craziness, willingness to go out on a limb and risk being silly, and a writing style all its own.) But the issue is whether those flaws might be corrected with a new batch of writers on hand.

I tend to think not, because individual writers are not the driving force behind a show. If Glee had completely new people running it, that would be another matter, but with staff writers, everything that makes it into the final show is something the showrunner approved or demanded. One of the writers is Marti Noxon, and people used to wonder how she could write such good episodes for Buffy and then write such bad episodes in season 6. The difference was between being a staff writer and being a showrunner – writing to someone else’s specifications versus writing to your own. Glee will be different in season 3, but it was already different in season 2; it might be hard to know how much of the change, if any, will be due to the new writers.

As to whether the show would improve if Murphy hired someone else to run it, I would say probably not. (Remember I said “probably,” a useful word I can point to when my prediction turns out to be wrong.) I can think of shows that have gotten better after the creator left, and others that have maintained the same level of quality or success with a new showrunner. But what we’re talking about here is a particular type of show: one that has obvious big strengths but equally obvious big flaws. The temptation is always to wish that the flaws could be fixed while keeping the strengths intact, and I suspect that’s not really possible – the stuff that makes Glee popular is bound up with the creators’ shoot-from-the-hip, wildly inconsistent approach. A non-Murphy Glee would make more sense, but it would risk being duller.


 
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