Tonight is the finale of “Glee” and I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m going to be sad to see it end. Well, maybe a little embarrassed. But not slushie-to-the-face humiliated or anything.
Anything you could say to criticize “Glee” would be completely accurate. Yes, it’s WAY cheesy. Yes, it’s basically an hour-long musical every week, which poses the same problem all musicals do (who just breaks out in song like that, really?). Yes, there are plot holes the size of a dinosaur-wiping-out craters, really basic stuff like “how does a high school manage professional-quality productions, complete with stage lighting, costumes and sets at the drop of a hat?” And “are the state requirements to become a teacher somehow not in effect in Lima, Ohio?” and “why did New York City look so much like LA?” “Glee” is guilty of all that and much more, such as questionable guest stars, repeated plot devices and no real concern for the boundaries of space, time and the actual taking of high school classes.
But the “Glee” pilot remains one of the best first episodes of a show I’ve ever seen, hands down. And that’s saying something. I downloaded it from iTunes and brought it with me on my new iPad when I’d been called for jury duty; sitting in that bullpen all day, waiting to be picked or sent home, I put on some headphones and started watching, and couldn’t stop. It was like nothing else on TV at the time in its sheer, unadulterated, so-cheesy-I-can’t-watch-without-crackers, well, glee. I went to a performing arts high school and even we didn’t have a show choir — I was jealous. I wanted in, slushies and all. I loved a lot of the songs they covered, and I found a lot of new artists to listen to, by following the “Glee” versions (handily released on iTunes, of course) to their originals. “Glee” is where I first heard Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Adele.
Confession, though: my enthusiasm waned, after awhile. Somewhere in Season 3 I got bored. I didn’t like the music, the plots seemed more ridiculous than usual. I stopped watching. Stopped, completely. And came back a couple seasons later — something I’ve never done with a show. When Corey Montieth died, I couldn’t help but wonder how “Glee” was going to adapt. As any Gleek can tell you, the Rachel/Finn pairing was supposed to be endgame, in fact, the very focus of the show. Creator Ryan Murphy even had the final scene written, one that would reunite Broadway star Rachel and new glee coach Finn for their happily ever after. Tragically, then, Murphy really was going to have to find a way for the show to go on without its male lead, and without a roadmap to the finish. I couldn’t resist seeing how they were going to pull it off.
It’s been interesting, you can’t deny that. I mean, sure, there was an entire new glee club that got pretty much thrown under the bus for being uninteresting, and the New York City plotline bounced around from one crazy week to another. (Rachel’s boyfriend is a male escort! Santana’s on Broadway! Rachel’s bored of being the lead in “Funny Girl” after a few dozen performances, despite this being her life’s ambition! And wait, we’re all back in Lima, for some very flimsy reasons!) It was downright silly, but it was fun. One of the best things about “Glee”, after all, is that it knows how to laugh at itself, with self-mocking asides and self-referential nods to the absurdity of it all.
But “Glee” was also more than itself, in some very important ways. This show unflinchingly addressed the problems and pressures that young gay men and women face, including bullying, peer pressure and the threat of physical violence. Later seasons addressed transgender rights, as well as domestic violence and hate crimes. The not-such-a-surprise double wedding of Brittany & Santana and Kurt & Blaine was really a celebration of everything “Glee” had done before to give a voice to those who are too often silenced by hate.
So, this season I’ve watched as the remaining episodes have dwindled down to just this one, and I’ve already been misty-eyed more than once. “Glee”, flaws and all, tugs at my heart a little. It’s heavily laced with nostalgia and it delivers a whopping overdose of schmaltz, and I’ll be watching tonight with a box of tissues ready.