Sunday, December 5, 2010
Has Glee Jumped The (Gay) Shark?
This post could therefore also be called "Has Glee jumped the dolphin?" But you get my point. For some reason, people love to talk about shows jumping sharks. I, for one, think it's silly. Firstly, calling it "jumping the shark" is about as dumb as Fonzie actually jumping that shark, and endlessly discussing if shows have indeed "jumped the shark" is about as pointless as Fonzie wearing a leather jacket whilst on water skis.
For those not in the know, "jumping the shark" refers to a moment in a TV show's history where something absurd or awful happens within the show's storylines (like that time Fonzie from Happy Days jumped over a shark on water skis). From then on out, the show completely loses all credibility and is never recovered from said moment. According to Jon Hein, the man who popularized the term, "It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on...it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it 'Jumping the Shark.' From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same."
Well, I'm here to pooh-pooh the theory. Perhaps I'm a far-too loyal TV viewer, but it strikes me absurd to just write off a show after a small bout of clunky creative handling. Of course, this stubborn faithfulness has led to me doggedly wincing through the second season of Lost, the third and fourth seasons of Grey's Anatomy, the seventh season of Gilmore Girls, and the sixth season - minus the musical episode! - of Scrubs. (I still shudder any time I think about Locke pushing that damn button or that time Izzie had to resuscitate a deer.)
But I think that it's largely unfair to say that none of those shows got any better after their alleged "jump the shark" moments. You can't just write off a show like that. Grey's Anatomy is currently better than it has been in years (thanks to killing off a large quantity of characters, natch) and Scrubs' musical episode is one of the best the show ever did - even after it had reportedly begun to run out of steam. And don't forget Lost's amazing revitalization at the end of Season 3, simply by constructing the show in a new way. People are too quick to box a television series in and say, "After (fill in the blank with slightly less-than-stellar storyline) happened, it was just all downhill from there." It's more often than not just a matter of opinion. Seriously, I've heard people say that Friends jumped the shark after Ross and Rachel got together. The first time. In Season 2. Really, guys? You wanna tell me that one of the most beloved shows on television was all downhill from Seasons 3 through 10? Uh, okay.
So, of course, what with its endless parade of guest stars, glaring continuity flaws, and the producers' tendency to play with the characters' story arcs like they were pretending to be Godzilla in a ballpit at McDonalds, Glee has come under fire for having jumped the shark, not even a full ten episodes into Season 2.
I know I give the show a lot of shit, but the truth is, I don't think it's jumped the shark. Even if I really believed in the concept of "jumping the shark," I still wouldn't really apply it to Glee's current situation.
The fact of the matter is that Glee has always been plagued with problems. I remember watching the final moments of "Sectionals," almost a year ago exactly, and thinking, "That was really awesome. There have been some continuity and character consistency issues so far, but I can't wait for the creators to look at the critical reaction and tidy them up a bit. The Back 9's gonna be so great!"
Boy, was I surprised. Because no one fussed over the little things in the first 13 episodes. Everyone said "OMG SINGING!!!!1!!!1!" and RBI said, "I KNOW, RIGHT?!" and then continued their proceedings in the McDonalds ballpit, completely unawares. Then they added guest stars and tribute episodes and a thick layer of heavy-handed themes and called it a day. Oh, you can imagine my horror when "Hell-O" aired after months of anticipation. I was not a happy camper. (At some point I plan on retroactively reviewing Season 1, and oh, just you wait for when I get to "Hell-O." Just you wait.)
So if you just now want to say that Glee's gone downhill, you've only just begun looking at the show realistically. Truthfully, the main problems I have with the show have been there since Day 1 and will continue to be there until Ryan Murphy fires all his regulars and hires anew. I love the First 13 as much as the next Gleek (there's something so charmingly days-gone-by about them) but I find it unfortunate that we hold them to some gold standard because we think the show has lost something. And maybe it has, tonally, or thematically, or whatever. But in terms of execution? The First 13 is not perfect.
This is not to say that I think the show has always been "this," or "that." The thing about TV shows is this: they change. And they are allowed to change. The First 13 episodes are allowed to be about one thing, and the Back 9 are about to be about this whole other thing, and Season 2 is more than welcome to be about something else entirely. Season 1 is allowed to be more about Finn and Rachel, and Season 2 is allowed to have more Kurt, Brittany, and Santana. I can't hate a TV show for changing.
I just want any and all changes to be done well. And with Glee? It's always a crapshoot. The only thing that Glee is, consistently, is inconsistent. The show is like cotton candy laced with crack. It is what it always has been, and always will be. As a fan, I think it's silly to say it's "lost that magic" or "isn't as good as it used to be." Sure, the show may take a misstep or two (or six), but I don't see Rachel Berry on water-skis jumping over a dolphin, so until then, I'm with Glee for the long haul: for better, and for maddeningly and frustratingly worse. Because somehow it always gets better again. And that's the beauty of television, and the true argument against the shark-jump. It can always get better again.