Glee season 3 and the Trouble of TV Show Phenoms

According to preliminary TVByTheNumbers numbers, Glee has fallen a further 5% to a 3.5 (18-45) demo. It’s up from 8.12m to 8.30m in the overall, but that’s not much. Now, let’s get this out of the way – Glee will get a fourth season. The empire that the show built for the latter half of the first season carrying over to midway through the second season will be the reason, even if the numbers are not there. And, honestly, I’ll be very shocked if it goes as low as even a 2.5 this season… assuming it doesn’t go off-the-rails.

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Sure, I’m being presumptuous, but assuming the numbers keep steadily falling for the rest of the season, it’ll make Glee a particularly interesting case of the ‘Burn Bright, Burn Fast’ phenomenon that catches the TV zeitgeist every so often. Heroes*, a show that didn’t have the answers the viewers were looking for, didn’t lose many viewers over the course of the first season so the majority had enough faith to follow through the second (even with the writers strike interrupting the season) and that’s when the major flaws fell through. Being as short as it was though (11 episodes), people still had enough trust and I personally thought the writers still had a vague idea of what they were doing and the show remained fun and sort of speculative. Until the third season, anyway: the third season the audience began dropping like flies because – creatively – the show was huge mess. It didn’t have direction, the writing were clueless and Tim Kring kept moaning at everyone about it, learning the wrong lessons and mentioning how it was popular “overseas.” The show was DOA. (It’s forth season, apparently, was less of a mess but whatever – people didn’t care.)

Similar story with The OC, although I remain a fan of it. The first season (granted, never reached the rating heights of Heroes or even early season two Glee). The show “burnt” through a lot of story potential in the first season, in fact, this was considered one of the exciting things about it. The second season didn’t live up to it the expectations set and the audience began to drop. The show needed a balance of drama, romance and comedy to work and while it managed in some cases, it never felt like it was back home. Enter the third season, the darkest season, and the one where nobody began to care. It fell, and fell, and the network notes became more and more visible. Upon arriving in season four, it was, like Heroes, absolutely DOA. (Arguably, killing off a major/popular character didn’t help.)

Glee, however, is and always has been in an interesting place. I don’t quite understand it. 13 episodes of the show were filmed and and finished before even began airing. There’s a finality to that 13th episode. A finality that is almost ignored when it returns. A return that is more significant of what Glee is, and shall be remembered for however many years it’s continues on. The “phenomenon” of Glee lasted about a year. I’d argue it began with it’s April 2010 return ‘Hell-O’ and continued until some in season two where it’s huge demo began to dwindle. Actually, for a lot of the second season, the show averaged middle to low 4.0 ratings, capping it up with a 4.6 for it’s ‘New York’ finale. Not that bad.

Now, three episodes into it’s third season, we’ve already seen a steady downfall – from 4.0, to 3.7 and for the latest, a 3.5. Again, I don’t quite understand it. The ratings are falling, but the series isn’t going batshit and dreadful in-show. In these trends, it’s one of the few times the wider audience gets it right. This isn’t what is happening. The show has a writers room this year, and arguably in the three episodes that have premiered it’s had some already pretty strong stuff from all the characters and critically, episodes have been received on-par or, better than most of season two.

But there’s been no spectacle. No spectacle = no onslaught of fandom and viewers? Glee is basically back to where it started. It’s telling darkly funny and emotionally manipulative stories and seemingly because of it, it’s audience is back to where it began. (S1: 3.0~ w/ 7~ million overall). Is this Glee fandom burn out? Are people done finished with the crazy unfulfilled writing of season two? Or did people seriously just watch the show for Lea Michele singing Katy Perry songs?

I guess, like the kids in New Directions; the show can have a moment in the limelight, it just needs to remember normalcy and a Slushie is never far off.

*I do love how the Heroes narrative can be applied to the state of NBC right now.

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