As Glee heads toward the mid-point of the season, an interesting question about the show is what side of this show will wind up predominating. The show mixes different tones and styles, which is intended, but it also sometimes seems to be confused about its attitude to the characters, which is presumably not intended. There’s been some speculation that because Glee has three creators, the most powerful of whom (Ryan Murphy) was dividing his time between Glee and his big movie project, it is being pulled in three different directions at once, and that a particular creator’s vision predominates if he happens to have written this particular episode.
When it finishes up the initial 13-episode order and moves into the back 9 of the season, the show will almost certainly become a bit more tonally consistent; any show has some episodes and moments in the first 13 that are never repeated in the next round of production. (A famous example: the episode of The Simpsons where Homer is embarrassed by his drunken wife and annoying kids. Never again after the first 13 would they do an episode where Homer is legitimately worried that his family is going to embarrass him.) The most likely casualties are the darker aspects of the show, since these already started being played down a little after the pilot. Still, at the moment, the show is almost like a lighter Dennis Potter production: musical numbers alternating with depressing drama. I suspect that the show will get lighter as it goes along; shows often do. Though whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is another question, since in some ways the dark, downbeat aspect of the show is the most intriguing.
Zack Smith had some thoughts on the subject of where Glee is coming from and where it might be going, which are reprinted with permission:
The EW story revealed it originated as a screenplay that was much more of a dark comedy about deluded, helpless souls… The initial draft of the pilot script, which circulated around last year, was a bit interesting in that the two breakout characters — Kurt and Sue Sylverster — are absent, and the worst character, Teri Shuster, is a bit more understandable. She’ s just written as a wet blanket worn down from her job and a low standard of living, as opposed to the flighty cartoon on the series. Without the cheerleaders as antagonists, the antagonistic force of the intial pilot comes across as the worn-down, cash-strapped school that can barely support the program, with the dying town as the backdrop.
Looking at the pilot as produced, there are some much darker moments than what made it into the series, including Rachel getting Sandy fired to get a solo, and Will framing Finn for having pot in his locker. But things get a bit broader and more cartoony almost immediately in the series, which I think is likely the result of Ryan Murphy’s voice. It’s worth keeping in mind that the first 13 were produced before the series aired, so certain plotlines were likely locked in place — most prominitely the pregnancy stuff, the weakest plot on the show.
What I think will be interesting with GLEE is to see what happens in the back nine, along with the following season. If this follows the pattern of NIP/TUCK and POPULAR, what will likely happen is that Murphy will assume what works should keep working, and you’ll see the characters standing still as they repeatedly change careers and situations without learning anything. Sort of like TWO AND A HALF MEN.