There used to be a show on NBC called "Ed," which started out as a clever, charming series about a goofy guy who opened a law firm in a bowling alley.
"Ed" charmed a lot of people when it first debuted, because there was a sweetness and honesty to the writing that made the show both clever and relatable. But "Ed" got uneven over its last couple of seasons, mostly because the writers tried too hard to make it more off the wall than it needed to be.
The writers often had the characters openly decide to be as zany as possible, rather than just let them be their usual, slightly quirky selves. In that series finale, when Ed marries his girlfriend Carol, they try to have a wedding in which they dress up like clowns and declare "Let's be zany!" It was awful. Later on, the characters finally do get married in the aforementioned bowling alley. That part of the episode was heartwarming, funny and slightly offbeat -- the characteristics that made the show worthwhile in the first place.
So, why do I bring this up? Because it seems to me, the writers of "Glee" are in danger of losing their way, much like the writers of "Ed" did.
When "Glee" first started, it was about a collection of misfits banding together in the high school glee club, the only club that would have them. The show was both tongue in cheek and a biting social satire. The musical selections were not only eclectic, but terrific and original takes on familiar songs. The show grew in popularity, not only in the ratings but on iTunes over the course of the season.
So, what happened? Somewhere along the way (really, during its midseason break), the "Glee" writers became conscious of what they were doing and started to TRY to be quirky and over the top, rather than letting it develop naturally.
Instead of coming up with music that was appropriate to the moment of a particular episode, they tried coming up with a theme for each week's show -- getting away from the spirit of what made "Glee" so good early on. The songs became mostly covers, performed well but in unoriginal ways. And the writers would come up with a theme, say the music of Madonna, and write a whole episode around that music, instead of writing an episode and then picking songs appropriate for different scenes.
The "Glee" writers are good at listening to their fans, doing things such as dropping the whole fake-pregnancy storyline of the first half of the season after too many people complained.
So I hope they are listening now. The heart of the show is allowing the characters to develop naturally and not trying to force different situations. The music should be subtle comments on the plot for the week, not the entire focus of the plot.
Think of some of the standout numbers of the first half -- the rival school's peppy version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," Kurt's rendition of "Single Ladies" on the football field, or Quin expressing her frustration in a cheerleading version of "You Just Keep Me Hanging On." There was the blistering rendition by Rachel of "Don't Rain On My Parade" and a beautiful version of "Imagine" performed by a school for the deaf (and somewhat ruined when the writers felt they had to make the glee kids join in). There was wheelchair-bound Artie's sad longing in "Dancing With Myself" and the club's tribute to him later on with "Proud Mary."
The big-name guest stars cast for "Glee" in the first half of the season made dramatic sense, such as Kristin Chenoweth as a former glee star.
Think back over the second half. Do any of the performances stand out particularly for their originality? Maybe Puck's cover of "The Lady Is A Tramp" and the duet of Rachel and her mom for "I Dreamed A Dream." The guest stars, such as Olivia Newton-John, were more casting stunts rather than necessary to the episodes (though the show did have standout performances in the second half from guest stars Neil Patrick Harris and especially Idina Menzel.)
Tonight, the first season of "Glee" (Fox, 8:59 p.m.) wraps up as the team faces off with its rivals at regionals, with guest stars Newton-John and Josh Groban. Will the writers display the heart of the first half of the season, or the playing-to-the-crowd of the second half? I don't know.
"Glee" is still a worthwhile show that can easily return to form when it comes back next season. It's up to the writers to remember what made the series worthwhile in the first place.
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Glee" isn't the only show wrapping up tonight. "Justified" (FX, 10 p.m.) ends its witty and offbeat first season as viewers finally discover if Boyd (Walton Goggins) can be trusted or if he was playing Raylen (Timothy Olyphant) all along.
Also on cable, "Ashes To Ashes" (BBC America, 10 p.m.) is new, as is "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (USA, 10 p.m.)
On the networks, it's Game 3 of the NBA finals (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) NBC airs a new "America's Got Talent" at 9 p.m.
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