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Tips on how 'Glee' can avoid the sophomore slump

June 11, 2010 |  5:19 pm
Gl_18-Group-Bleachers_1981noBoxRed_lyF Gleeks still reveling in Tuesday’s season finale of "Glee" are no doubt already counting the days and anticipating Season 2, and why not? The freshman season of the hit show turned a little ragtag team of vocally gifted misfits into a pop-culture phenomenon.

But with that frenzied hype comes the undeniable pressure to avoid the sophomore slump. So we thought we’d help out and offer some tips on how to make Season 2 even better. We admit, we’re not show runners by any means here at Show Tracker, but we are in the business of offering a bit of unsolicited advice from time to time, as we pride ourselves on being experts in the shows we cover.

After reading comments on a weekly basis from our loyal and, thankfully, critical readers, I kept tabs of what you all didn't go gaga over, made my own notes and made a nifty little guide of things the crew should ponder while on hiatus. 

Easy on the guest stars: Make no mistake, there have been some phenomenal guest spots this season. It’s impossible to think of the season without Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff and their multi-episode arcs. (I consider Mike O'Malley more of a regular than his technical “guest” status.) I'm not afraid to say Eve’s stint on the show was my favorite because she truly felt like a guest star and none of the kids got lost, which is hard when you have three Broadway vets.

I’ve yet to understand the purpose of Molly Shannon joining the ranks from what we’ve seen so far, and if she's not fleshed out next season then there is no use for her, which is a shame given her excellent comedic chops. Although I’m excited to see John Stamos as the dentist pursuing Emma’s affections, my head is pounding at the thought of another guest-star-packed season that loses sight of the background players that have yet to be given much of a chance to shine, which leads to my next tip.

More play for the background players: While I’m all for the occasional guest star, I feel there has to be a way to get our background players higher up into the mix. We’ve had some great stories with Kurt and Artie and a few with Mercedes and Tina, but now that New Directions has expanded let’s find a way to integrate the other Asian with the fantastic dance moves and the adorable but quiet black guy -- we've had lots of Brittany and Santana moments, but no story, so let's fix that as well. It seems that finding this balance is increasingly difficult, and that could partly be because the major guests have had so much to do this season.

Smartly use the new three characters: I think the newbies could go either really well or painfully awful. There is no in-between for this Gleek. I think a boyfriend for Kurt and a love interest for Mercedes will offer up some good material, as will this Christian country singer who competes with Rachel. But I do fear that trying to introduce new players when some of the others haven’t been fully developed is dangerous. The good thing about the show being set in high school? Students are easy to transfer right out the door.

No more Madonna: Please, please, please, please don’t do another all-Madonna episode! I'm begging here. It was fun the first go round, it truly was. I love the Material Girl just like anyone else, but do we really need another full hour of Madge? I mean, really?

Limit the themed episodes: This goes two ways. Although I think another Madonna episode is incredibly self-indulgent, I do think it is fun to do maybe one of these themed episodes a season because it can be something fun for the fans. Even though there were only two Lady Gaga songs in “Theatrically,” it felt like a Gaga tribute, and we don’t need to see a slew of these tribute episodes because while the show is about music, there is a story to be told. The best story that was told during the Gaga fest had nothing to do with Gaga (sorry Tina, that story line was a weak setup).

Because I know a few more of these puppies will be cooking for next season (one at the most would be fun), here's to hoping the crew finds a way to make the music propel the episode’s story because when it’s done well there are some incredible results.

Going on the whole idea of themes, it seemed that as of late Will took the backseat as the teacher and just gave them an assignment for the week to set up the episode's theme. I miss the old days when he worked with them (even if he had to teach by showing, just no more rapping … no more). There doesn't need to be so much "here's the theme that you should take away from this episode."

Know what works, and what doesn’t: After suffering through the “Funk” episode, which just fell completely flat, I realized they are still figuring out what works for them, and what doesn’t. And that's OK.

Here are some quick observations: What works is when the kids have had the entire hour. It’s yielded some of the better plots; story-driven episodes with complementing songs such as "Hell-O" and "Home" are always a match made in Gleek heaven (though some fans only care for the music, us theater geeks like a good story); and fleshing out the stronger story lines over time has benefited viewers. What doesn’t work, however, is abandoning stories after they’ve been set up (we never forget); the often cheesy after-school-special approach; and some of the random decision making when it comes to song selections ("Ice, Ice Baby," sigh).

Think before you sing: I’ve always respected how the kids of New Directions have an eclectic mix of songs that offer something for everybody – but for Season 2, dig even deeper. We’ve had a lot of ‘80s classics and some great Broadway tunes, but it’s time to up the ante. The greatness of the show is that, regardless of how viewers may feel about a particular song choice, the show is introducing a new generation to classic music. Let the kids explore Elvis, Bob Marley and everything else. And, of course, for the young uns out there, throw us a bone with some contemporary cuts. There has always been a great blend of old and new. Now that it's Season 2, more risks in song choices is the way to go, and let’s be honest: There is a line of artists begging for the “Glee” treatment.

Too much of a good thing: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. A summer break is something fans need, regardless of whether they want to admit it. Once the show became a phenom, it drifted into that dreaded overexposure category, which very much worries me for Season 2 and beyond. It’s great to see this cast truly blow up because they are wickedly talented and I don’t mind seeing them everywhere.

But now that they have become lil’ pop icons comes the inevitable oversaturation of merchandise. I’m absolutely not prepared to see "Glee" merch at Macy's or Claire's. My stomach churns at the thought of a Christmas album, karaoke machines, musical greeting cards, pajamas, games, books (“Glee: The Beginning,” “Glee: Foreign Exchange”), bedding and cosmetics. Though I admit a box of “Glee”-branded Cheerios would be a nutritious way to start the day (make it happen, General Mills and Fox). The three, OK five, soundtracks for one season alone was enough to make my wallet say “no mas.” I'm sure beyond Matthew Morrison's debut album we'll be treated to albums from other cast members -- and that I welcome with open arms.

On behalf of Fox, I apologize ahead of time to the parents who will undoubtedly be stuck with the oh-so-tragic decision between the “Glee” bedspread, karaoke machine of the new line of clothes and accessories. Gosh, could you imagine if your kid liked "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "Glee"? Yikes!

Any tips I left out? What are you hoping to see in Season 2?

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

twitter.com/GerrickKennedy

Photo credit: FOX

Related:

Complete Show Tracker coverage of 'Glee'

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