A while back now, I was browsing iTunes when I saw a yellow box appear with the words glee ‘Glee.’ The ‘L’ had been made to resemble the typical ‘loser’ sign we’ve all probably once given or received. Curious, I clicked on it and a song appeared for 99p – ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ a cover of the infamous track by Journey in 1981. Little did I know the phenomenon that was Glee had already taken over the United States, and would soon be spreading to the UK.
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, Glee was deemed as ‘the next big thing’ in an interview the creators gave to the Fox Panel in 2009. Though TV was no stranger to Murphy and Falchuck, who had who previously lent their writing chops to develop Nip/Tuck, the surgical series made sexy with affairs on the operating table, as well as the gory, yet addictive, American Horror Story franchise, which enrolled talents such as Jessica Lange.
Viewers were introduced to a group of teenagers who try to find their place in high school in Lima, Ohio by forming a Glee club. A wannabe actress with broadway dreams, a soul singer with an attitude to match her pitch, a confident yet closeted countertenor, an asian ‘emo’ with a stutter induced by her fear of being noticed, a wheelchair bound lothario who wanted to be seen like everyone else and, lastly, a quarterback who loved to sing in the shower but chucked slushies on nerds in the halls to fit in. Along with the pack came the leader, a Journey loving, sweater-vest-wearing, toe-tapping Spanish teacher, Will Schuester. He was in a constant battle with cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester, who waged war on whoever was in her way. Once formed, ‘The New Directions’ were bursting into song at every moment. Lead girl Rachel Berry told us from the beginning that “Being a part of something special, makes you special.”
A winning formula
Deemed as outcasts, freaks, losers, the Glee club battled through pretty much everything together. Through unison and song, they encountered fake pregnancies, real pregnancies, forbidden romances, coming out of the closet, staying in the closet, cheating, breaking up, making up, wanting to dance, wanting to walk, dropping the stutter and dropping the attitude. It covered harder grounds such as homophobia, gender dysphoria, transgender developments, down syndrome, eating disorders, adoption, domestic abuse and sadly, death.
The first series saw ratings soar as ‘Glee Mania’ swept over the USA. Over 10 million people watched the club come together and teens flocked to buy the albums, T-shirts and books books released alongside the show. The music of Glee spent weeks in the charts, securing no. 1 spots against Beyonce and even Michael Jackson. The popularity of the show grew and grew. Critics like Tim Goodman of The San Francisco Chronicle hailed it as ‘one of the best and most anticipated new series…Quirky, sweet, humorous, nonpartisan funfest.’ Not only did Glee introduce newcomers to the screen, it incorporated guest stars galore, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris and even Lindsay Lohan. Everybody wanted a bit of Glee.
Over the years
As Glee’s popularity soared, audiences were connecting more and more with the social outcasts on screen. Whether through song or issue, fans saw they were not alone in their struggles in growing up or dealing with a crush. Audiences also loved the music Glee was showcasing, bringing back classics like Journey and Whitney, as well as celebrating the likes of Katy Perry or Britney. Mash-ups became a staple of the Glee soundtrack, inspiring people everywhere to record their own covers and enjoy music.
A sudden but appropriate end
As soon as a new season would premiere, a new season was renewed, until 2014, when Murphy and Falchuck announced Season 6 would be the last series of Glee. The cast members were ever-changing and the guest stars still came aplenty, but most agreed they had seen all they wanted to see. On March 20th 2015, the Glee club took its final bows and, naturally, ended with a song. Past characters came back to wave six years of comedy, drama and music goodbye.
Front runner Lea Michele, who played the amazingly talented Rachel Berry, was quoted in The LA Times as saying “Glee was a very specific, unique experience that leaves me feeling like I can achieve anything that comes my way.” Jane Lynch, who played tough, no nonsense coach Sue Sylvester explained to WTOP.com why she thought Glee propelled – “It inspired people to explore music as a means in television and film, and I also believe it impacted kids a lot. People tell me that the amount of kids auditioning for the school musical in some places has gone up because of people’s love for Glee.”
Fans of the show also took to social media to declare their love and thanks. The self-proclaimed ‘Gleeks’ singled out actors like the late Cory Monteith (Finn Hudson), Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez) and Heather Morris (Brittany S. Pierce) for their courage, hope and even their down-to-earth and inspiring approach to a lesbian relationship.
As the last episode aired, the tweets came flocking in:
— Jasmine Mason (@JasmineAMason) March 21, 2015
The last episode of glee was so perfect. Loved how they ended the show☺️
— Nicole (@Nicole_Crowie_) March 26, 2015
Love Love Love Loved the LAST GLEE EPISODE!! Especially the part where every member ever of New Directions was there!!!! #gleegoodbye
— Proud Kardashian. (@ProsperousChamp) March 26, 2015
As Glee fans, we watched them grow from outcasts to blossoming actors, directors, dancers and even parents. We experienced the highs and lows of life, from losing loved ones to finally reaching Broadway. Glee spanned over 6 years and always had a song to go with every moment they shared. I am sure that their legacy will live on for a long time.