Critics’ Roundtable: “Glee”

Is Glee doing the right thing keeping Klaine apart??

From day one, Glee has been one of those love it or hate it kinds of shows. The Ryan Murphy-created series is in season 4 now and big changes have come as it divides its time between Lima, Ohio’s McKinley High and the Big Apple, where grads Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) are living life post-high school.

But has this split shift in focus made the show better or worse? Do we care whether Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) are together or apart? Are we missing the originals who have faded into the background… or just faded? Is the show going to live a long life, or should it close its songbook for good?

AfterElton asked those questions and more to some TV critics in this week’s Critics’ Roundtable. Helping out are Brian Gianelli (Senior TV Editor,, Marisa Roffman (Managing Editor,, Miranda Wicker (Staff Writer,, Heather Hogan (Senior Editor, and our own Jim Halterman.

While Heather Morris (r) is still featured, are we missing Naya Rivera?

Question: Is Glee more tolerable this year? Why do you agree or disagree?

Brian Gianelli: I think splitting the action between NY and Lima has helped get some of the zing back for the show. Plus, Sue has been in fewer episodes this season. Perhaps less is more there? I have never fallen off the Glee bandwagon, even through last year, but am more invested this season for sure.

Marisa Roffman: For the most part, yes, I feel like cohesively this season has been better than 3. There have been a couple of episodes I felt didn’t work (“Dynamic Duets” and “Britney 2.0″ to name a few), but as much as “The Break-Up” hurt, I also think it was the best episode the show has done in a very long time. The highs Glee has reached this year seem to be higher, and I find myself listening to the music again post-episode, which is a nice change.

Heather Hogan: I think it’s so telling that you asked if it was more “tolerable,” as opposed to, say, “likable.” It’s as if we’ve all accepted that Glee’s long, slow descent into madness has reached a point from which it can’t return. We may never love it again like we loved season one, but can it at least reach a stasis where we don’t want to throw things at the TV while watching it? I actually do think Glee is more tolerable this year. The writers’ formula — because I’m not sure they’ve ever really understand what, exactly, makes the show work — has always been to throw as much stuff at the wall as possible and see what sticks. And this year, they’re throwing more than ever. So there’s a bigger buffet of un-enraging moments to choose from.

Are you favoring the NY stories over the Lima stories or vice versa? Why?

Miranda Wicker: In the first two episodes, I was all “I love New York!” But Lima is for Lovers, guys and ladies. Rachel and Kurt are important to the show, but putting too much of the focus on them was where Glee lost its way in the third season. If the show places more emphasis on them than on the ragtag group of McKinley Misfits, it will lose its way again. The new cast is revitalizing, and following Rachel and Kurt’s escapades in New York every week makes this the “Rachel and Kurt Show”. Glee outside of high school isn’t Glee.

Marisa Roffman: As much as I’m digging Marley, Blake and Jake, up until this week, I was enjoying the NY stories more. It felt like in NY, we were covering new territory, whereas at the high school, there were times where it’s felt like a retread of what we’ve already seen. But after that hot mess of “Let’s Have a Kiki” I may have to reconsider my stance. (And really, Rachel and Kurt wouldn’t go home for the holidays?)

Jim Halterman: As much as I thought the dual locales would be a disaster, it’s actually given the show a lot of room to breathe. Whether we spend a whole episode at one place or another or hop back and forth, it’s working for me. And, thankfully, the NY side of things does feel post-high school for Rachel and Kurt. So while they’re still misfits in a way, they (and the show, perhaps) are growing up.

Um….y’all look familiar but… (Rivera, Dianna Agron, Harry Shum Jr, Mark Salling, Amber Riley)

Of the originals that we’re not seeing in every episode (Lea Michele, Naya Rivera, Chris Colfer, Matthew Morrison) who are you missing and who are you fine never seeing again?

Brian Gianelli: Seeing snarky Santana back for Grease was pretty fantastic. Conversely, not really sure why Mike Chang and Mercedes ended up back for the play as well. Sadly, they have not been missed. It was nice to see Quinn back for the Thanksgiving episode and bonding with Kitty.

Heather Hogan: I think Matthew Morrison is a damn fine performer and all around awesome guy, but Glee hasn’t known what to do with Mr. Schuester in two seasons. Actually, they gave him a fake pregnant wife in like the third episode. I’m not sure they ever knew what to do with him. So, Mr. Schue’s absence is actually welcome to me. I miss Naya Rivera and Chris Colfer the most. They always sell whatever the writers throw at them, and as long as they’re peddling it, I’ll be buying it.

Jim Halterman: I thought there would be gaping holes when some episodes have focused on the newbies, but last week’s episode felt more like the changing of the guard since the new kids have completely held their own for the most part. Seeing Santana, Will, Mike Chang and Mercedes back felt more than a little forced. The show is proving it can go on without them.


How have the guest stars (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson) measured up? Do they add to the show or take away?

Miranda Wicker: Kate Hudson as Cassie July is fantastic! I can’t say that I think she’s adding to the show necessarily, but she certainly makes New York more interesting. SJP is so bland it hurts.

Marisa Roffman: I’ve LOVED Kate Hudson — so perfectly bitchy, and I’ve been so impressed with her singing and dancing. On the other hand, Sarah Jessica Parker has been an utter waste. Why did they bring her in? It feels like they just wanted the chance to make Carrie Bradshaw dance and sing and interact with Rachel and Kurt. Such a bummer.

Heather Hogan: Sarah Jessica Parker has really made the New York thing work for me. We innately associate her with the Manhattan fashion scene and being single in the city, which lends legitimacy to Kurt’s entire story…as for Kate Hudson, anyone who can make a bitchy face and writhe around with chiseled abs could have played that role. So, she can stay or go. But if her salary is cutting into Chris’ screen time, I’d rather she go.

Is Kurt (Chris Colfer) getting over Blaine or just putting up a brave front?

Did you buy the Blaine/Kurt break-up? Is it best to keep them apart, or does a reconciliation need to happen NOW?

Brian Gianelli: Let’s keep them apart! I personally have never gotten the whole obsession with this pairing. Let’s be honest, Blaine can do better than St. Kurt. Although it looks like reconciliation is in the works since advance photos have come out showing the pair skating together in New York.

Miranda Wicker: I spent a great deal of time discussing this (read: being blasted) after “The Break Up.” Nothing about Blaine cheating on Kurt felt in character for me. As for a reconciliation, I’m ready for it. Those two are better together than apart, and I hope the conversation that takes place before they reconcile is a good and grown up talk about trust and second chances.

Marisa Roffman: At the risk of majorly angering the “Klaine” fanbase, I almost want them to stay apart for a bit. It’s understandable they’d go through some bumps on the road of their relationship, and if the writers felt they needed to have cheating occur, at least make it matter. If they undo a breakup a couple of episodes later, what was the point? (Please don’t kill me.)

Of the new cast members, who are you loving and not loving? Why?

Marisa Roffman: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Melissa Benoist (Marley), Jacob Artist (Jake), and Blake Jenner (Ryder). All three are charismatic, interesting, and really fun to watch on-screen. While I don’t blame this on Becca Tobin, the writers have made Kitty so one-dimensionally evil that it’s borderline ridiculous.

Heather Hogan: I liked Marley until she got walloped over the head with this eating disorder storyline. Of all the ludicrous crap Glee has asked us to believe…plus, of course, she’s falling into that same trap of needing a guy to validate her and explain basic life sh*t to her. So, yeah, I don’t like her anymore. I’d rather have the originals.

Jim Halterman: At this point Kitty is too cartoonish to care about, and she may have already gone too far to ever care. Yeah, the Marley story is dumb, but in the musical numbers I love watching Melissa Benoist’s pure joy. And the guys are surprising me more than anything. All hot in their own way, they’re also showing some nice depth and are carrying stories without merely being eye candy.

Is Rake a thing yet? If not, can we start? (l-r, Jacob Artist & Blake Jenner)

The original cast members still in Lima (Brittany, Tina, Artie) have almost become background players. Miss them being more prominent… or don’t miss them at all?

Brian Gianelli: Let’s face it, Tina and Brittany were never meant to be stars. They are probably right where they belong (playing second fiddle to the “stars” in the group – Rachel last year, Marley this year). I am missing Brittany’s epic one-liners. They seem to have been cut down so far this year.

Miranda Wicker: It’s hard to miss characters who’ve rarely been given a prominent role in the first place, isn’t it? Of those three, I think Tina’s been the most underused. Artie and Brittany get a few good one-liners per episode, but poor Tina. I hope that the second half of the season gives them a little more room in the spotlight once our new faces are firmly established. It is their senior year, after all.

Heather Hogan: It was always annoying to see these guys play second fiddle to Rachel & Co., but seeing them play second fiddle to The New Rachel & Co. is pretty infuriating. I’m glad Tina is at least starting to express some meta indignation on her and Jenna Ushkowitz’s behalf.


Who of the new guys should we see in a towel next? Jacob Artist? Blake Jenner? Or is it all about Dean Geyer?

Brian Gianelli: Dean Geyer in a towel is always a good thing! Nothing wrong with that at all. …also, perhaps a return to Sam’s strip club?

Miranda Wicker: How is this even a question!? All of the above, please!

Marisa Roffman: Wait, why is “all three” not an option here? (And how is there a wrong answer among these choices?)

Heather Hogan: It’s all about Dean Gayer for me. Perfect pecs and abs are a dime a dozen on this show, but telling Rachel Berry to grow up is a slice of sexiness of which we’ve never dared to dream.

Jim Halterman: Dean Geyer in a towel was/is terrific but, yeah, let’s do a Magic Mike number with Jacob Artist and Blake Jenner. If nobody is shipping these two then let’s start NOW!!

Note to Glee writers: More of this, please. (Dean Geyer)

Overall, season 4 could be called a rebuilding year. Is the future bright for the show… or should they shut it down soon?

Brian Gianelli: I think the show has done a good job in revitalizing itself, but I am more compelled by the stories in NY. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of a focus on the NY college world of Rachel, Kurt and company. Perhaps Sue could get a job coaching the cheer squad at NYADA and Mr. Schue could head from DC to NY? Or not. His storyline has been a bit tepid lately.

Miranda Wicker: The writers and producers played it right in starting the season with the focus on our old cast and slowly building up the backgrounds of the new characters. Sure, there have been a few hiccups, and there will always be those who clamor for the old characters because they’re resistant to change, but the transition has been mostly seamless and the new cast has integrated well. Right now I’d say the future is very, very bright!

Marisa Roffman: I have hope! I don’t think the show will ever be solid with every single episode, but if I enjoy it more than I cringe — and the music remains fantastic — I’m in.

Heather Hogan: Recently Ryan Murphy tweeted a photo of Brittany and Sam in wedding clothes. Last week, the promo showed them kissing. Honestly, I’m not sure Glee will have a chance to shut it down before the lesbians burn the whole operation to the ground. I think the future isn’t so much “bright” as it is “clouded with apocalyptic ash.”

Jim Halterman: Broken record here, but all the newness of this season has surprisingly worked and has given the show some legs to walk on a few seasons more. Sadly, expectations are generally low for the show and the often-forced storylines, but when they hit some creative high, it’s still worth watching.

Glee airs Thursdays at 8pm on Fox.