May 14, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Glee”


To use an analogy that’s unfortunately apt, GLEE is heading out the door like a Broadway diva who won’t admit that her voice is shot and she can’t remember her lines anymore.  The show probably would have been canceled this season, after a run of ratings that have gone beyond disappointing to flat-out dreadful, but FOX had given it a 2-year renewal last season, which caused financial obligations to kick in.  (Nevertheless, at this week’s FOX Upfront there was talk about cutting down what is currently a 24-episode order for the sixth and final set of episodes, which won’t begin airing until midseason.)

Give Glee credit:  it had to deal with the stomach-punch tragedy of actor Cory Monteith’s sudden death, plus what appeared to be significant budget issues (a series doesn’t drop half its regular characters and settings for no reason) and whatever’s been going on with actress Naya Rivera (network, studio and performer reps have been waving around “Nothing To See Here!” flags, but her absence from tonight’s season finale couldn’t have been more conspicuous).  The show deserved high marks for the two episodes this season that really counted, the hour that addressed the tragic death of Finn and thus Monteith, and the 100th episode that put an end to the original concept of the series, dropping the entire high school glee club (and all the characters that came with it) and setting the rest of the season in New York.  The rest was rarely better than mediocre and often much worse.  Particularly cringe-worthy was just about everything having to do with Rachel’s (Lea Michele) starring on Broadway in a revival of “Funny Girl”–even on a series that’s rarely trafficked in reality, that storyline might as well have been set in outer space.

Tonight’s episode, written by Executive Story Editor Matthew Hodgson and directed by Brad Falchuk, barely bothered to feel like a season finale until the last 5 minutes.  It’s always a pleasure to have Heather Morris’s Brittany make an appearance, and Shirley MacLaine provided her august presence and some impressive song and dance, but the main storyline was an idiotic one, with a TV writer played by Kristen Schaal (with an eating disorder and dialogue driven entirely by non sequiturs) following Rachel around as she came up with the world’s worst script to serve as Rachel’s starring vehicle–only to then write the world’s best script once Rachel had sung her a song.  The finale ended with that script being picked up to pilot, which means that Season 6 will be set in LA and feature more meta-gags about the TV business and Glee itself than the mind can likely tolerate.  (Remember, in Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy’s The New Normal, the TV showrunner character produced a show that was obviously Gleemaking next season something like meta-meta.)

The B stories were no better.  In one, Sam (Chord Overstreet) was freed of his commitment to Mercedes (Amber Riley, now a guest star), since she’d decided she wouldn’t be having sex until she was 30 years old or so.  Sam, his desire to be a model extinguished as abruptly as it had arisen, is now headed back to Ohio, so he may not be around for Season 6.  Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer, who wrote last week’s sad rest-home “Peter Pan” episode) had one of their many crises, this time because Blaine had lied to Kurt about his benefactor (MacLaine) not wanting Kurt to be in a showcase she was backing (for no apparent reason)–but then, this being Glee, Blaine brought Kurt on stage anyway, Kurt killed it, and the benefactor couldn’t have been happier.

Glee needed to face the aging of its original stars and the fact that they couldn’t stay in high school, and it made sense that since neither the network nor the show wanted to lose viewer favorites (who were still under contract), the series would follow them into their professional careers.  It’s turned out, though, that outside of its very specific high school context, Glee makes next to no sense, and the writers are either unwilling or unable to adapt.  As talented as its performers are, Glee was often nearly unwatchable this season–and it’s hard to have much hope for its grand finale.  It’s always been a show about unexpected triumph, though–maybe it has one more song worth hearing.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."