Glee's place in TV history

Despite facing a plunge in popularity over the seasons, the musical TV drama has made its impact in ways worth recounting

The series also put stars such as Britney Spears (with actress Heather Morris,) and Gwyneth Paltrow (above) back in the spotlight. -- PHOTO: STARWORLD, FOX BROADCASTING
The series also put stars such as Britney Spears (with actress Heather Morris,) and Gwyneth Paltrow (above) back in the spotlight. -- PHOTO: STARWORLD, FOX BROADCASTING
The series also put stars such as Britney Spears (with actress Heather Morris,) and Gwyneth Paltrow back in the spotlight. -- PHOTO: STARWORLD, FOX BROADCASTING
Glee made its mark on TV incorporating music and dance routines into drama and propelled to fame relative unknowns such as (above from left) Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Naya Rivera. -- PHOTO: STARWORLD, FOX BROADCASTING

After six seasons, Ryan Murphy's musical television drama Glee has come to an end. For some fans, it overstayed its welcome long ago, but there is still no denying the huge mark that the show has left on the mainstream TV landscape since it burst onto the scene in 2009.

At the height of its popularity, roughly during the first two seasons, Glee was all that many TV fans talked - and sang - about, launching the careers of its then mostly unknown stars and popularising the musical TV genre.

Audiences also lapped up its progressive themes and characters, which gave due credit to the underdogs and marginalised groups of the world on primetime, mainstream TV.

The show was such a hit at one point that it spawned not only the TV spin-off The Glee Project (2011-2012) - a reality series that auditions new cast members for Glee - but also many hit singles on the music charts as well as a two-year live concert featuring its cast that travelled through North America and Europe.

Life! looks at the major cultural impact Glee has had and why it will likely be considered a TV classic in the years to come.

All about the music

Musical TV was never this hot until Glee came along. According to a report in the New York Daily News, American dramatic TV over the past seven decades tended to minimise musical scenes in dramas as much as possible because they came off looking fake.

It may be a given for people to suddenly break out in song and dance on stage at Broadway, but on TV, it just feels awkward.

Glee, however, found a natural fit for plenty of music to be written in, given that the show revolves around a high school glee club, or a show choir.

Many of the songs featured in the series, even though they were just covers, were so catchy and popular that they consistently made the singles charts. In the show's six-year run, the Glee cast made headlines for being the act with the most number of entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with a whopping 207 hits.

And with the popularity of Glee, TV executives pounced, trying to cash in with other music-centric shows such as the Broadway-themed Smash (2012-2013), Nashville (2012-present) featuring country music and the oh-so-hot new hip-hop drama Empire (2015).

The South Koreans also attempted their own take on Glee with the music TV drama Dream High starring Kim Soo Hyun and miss A's Suzy, about a group of performing arts students striving to become K-pop idols.

In Singapore, the series can be credited for contributing to the rising popularity of show choirs among young people.

John & Deniece Glee Studios Singapore, a local firm offering professional show choir instructors and services, says the company has gone from working with seven schools in 2012 to almost 30 schools now.

Co-founder of the school, Ms Deniece Foo, 27, says: "Whether or not our students still watch Glee the TV show these days, the series definitely gave the art form of show choirs a lot more awareness among Singaporeans. If people don't know what a show choir is, all we have to say is Glee the TV show and they will understand."

Don't Stop Believin'

This rousing song by Journey that has become Glee's signature tune says everything that the show is about - never give up no matter how difficult things get.

Glee made nerds and geeks cool, while its recurring themes of respect and self-confidence were inspiring for many viewers.

The show was also notably groundbreaking - especially for a mainstream TV programme - for its inclusive scripts giving voice to so many underrepresented figures of society such as members of the LGBT community.

Gay couple Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) were hugely popular with fans, while Santana's (Naya Rivera) struggles to come to terms with her sexuality was commended by critics as real and moving.

Republic Polytechnic student Marcus Leong, 18, is a Glee fan who lapped up the show's message of wide tolerance.

He says: "I find the show to be relatable and it also has many good takeaways. Some characters are discriminated against and bullied for being different, but they can all come together and create music regardless of their backgrounds.

"The show is all about respect and tolerance and it tells you to stay true to yourself no matter what. I really like that."

Britney Spears is hot again

Many prominent names joined Glee as guest stars and, due to the popularity of the show, had their own reputations and star power burnished in the public eye.

Pop singer Britney Spears, for example, kept a low profile following her very public meltdowns between 2007 and 2008, though she reclaimed some of her former fame following her successful 2008 comeback album, Circus.

Two years later, Glee dedicated two tribute episodes to her - complete with a special cameo by the singer herself.

It would seem that viewers forgave her completely for her blow-ups, since Spears was all that anyone spoke about over those two episode airings - a big feat, given that the show had bravely referenced her fiascos, rather than pretend they never happened.

Other guest stars who made a splash on the show include Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, John Stamos and Ricky Martin - all of whom had arguably fallen off the radar screen before their Glee cameos.

Some stars were even luckier - they did not have to appear at all to have their music and their names become hot stuff again. Tribute episodes to Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Billy Joel, for example, paved the way for the veterans to garner a new generation of fans.

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

The finale of Glee airs on StarWorld (StarHub TV Channel 501, Singtel TV Channel 301) tonight at 9.50pm. Re-runs of Glee air on weekdays at 4.15pm, starting from Monday.


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Glee character: Rachel Berry

What's next: She will continue to be in the Ryan Murphy universe, starring in the Glee creator's upcoming horror comedy series Scream Queens. Centred on a college campus that is rocked by a series of murders, the new show is slated for release later this year and will also star Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis. But Michele is apparently not going to be singing in it. She told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview: "We're giving my voice a break - no singing on TV anymore."

Perhaps she is saving her voice for her own music projects - she is working on a new album, her follow-up to her debut Louder (2014).

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Glee character: WillSchuester

What's next: The long-time stage actor returned to Broadway after a five-year absence, in the production Finding Neverland, playing the role of Peter Pan writer J.M. Barrie.

He will also be seen in the period film Tulip Fever as a painter, opposite stars such as Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz and Dane DeHaan.

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Glee character: SueSylvester

What's next: She has been cast in a new comedy pilot, Angel From Hell, as a flamboyant guardian angel to an unbelieving woman (played by Maggie Lawson). She will also continue to host game show Hollywood Game Night, which pits contestants against celebrities in a series of different games and challenges.

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Glee character: Blaine Anderson

What's next: The handsome stage actor returns to Broadwayin the lead role of Hedwig And The Angry Inch, which opens its doors at the end of this month.

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Glee character: Brittany S. Pierce

What's next: Her horror movie Most Likely To Die opens in cinemas in October and she is now filming an indie road comedy, Folk Hero & Funny Guy.

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Glee character:Mercedes Jones

What's next: The powerhouse singer is finishing up her music album, scheduled for release this summer in the United States.

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Glee character:Artie Abrams

What's next: Looks like there will not be music any time soon in the career of McHale, a former member of a boyband called NLT.

He will be back as host of the second season of British TV comedy game show Virtually Famous, which features the hottest YouTube and Vine stars.

He has also been cast in comedy flick They Might Be Kennedys, about a bunch of guys who pretend that they are related to the Kennedy family.

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Glee character: Sam Evans

What's next: The country singer- songwriter is working on a solo album, which he says he has been delaying for years.

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Glee character: Santana Lopez

What's next: After breaking off her engagement to Big Sean, Rivera surprised everyone by marrying actor Ryan Dorsey just four months later.

She is now pregnant with her first child, who is due in September.

On the acting front, she will be seen in four episodes as a recurring guest star on US television drama Devious Maids, playing a maid called Bianca.

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Glee character: Kurt Hummel

What's next: Colfer will be seen in the upcoming Noel Coward biopic as the flamboyant playwright in a star-studded cast that includes Ian McKellen and Vanessa Redgrave.

Outside of acting, The New York Times best-selling writer of children's book series, The Land Of Stories, signed a multi-book deal in November last year, which means he will also be busy working on new titles for his fantasy franchise. The fourth book is slated for release in July and the fifth out next year.

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