“Glee” Has Cross-Generational Appeal

Glee's Lea Michele (Fox)

Glee’s Lea Michele (Fox)


I’ve written about Glee and its Millennial -friendly appeal in the past.  Now that it is an official Fox hit, ‘Glee’ is everywhere.  In the past two days, I’ve seen a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, an article in TIME magazine and a feature in today’s USATODAY.  Wednesday night is Glee’s season ending episode. Count on it being a ‘trending topic’ on Twitter tomorrow.

According to Nielsen, Glee is the top rated show among the desirable 18-49 demographic segment and has even higher ratings among 18-34 year old women.  This kind of cross-generational pull is unusual for a show about high school teens. But Glee is not just another High School Musical, Secret Life of the American Teenager or Greek.

Here are some of the things that set it apart:

  • The talent is top notch (Jane Lynch, Lea Michele) and the production is slick, with cost per episode rumored to be $3 million, about the same as Mad Men.
  • There are big-name guest stars — Kristen Chenoweth, Josh Groban, even Madonna is rumored to be doing an appearance next season.
  • The music is wildly diverse in order to bridge generational differences. Here’s the list of songs from the second album ust released today that offers Broadway, Beatles,  Hip Hop and everything in between.

1. Proud Mary
2. Endless Love
3. I’ll Stand By You
4. Don’t Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl
5. Crush
6. (You’re) Having My Baby
7. Lean On Me
8. Don’t Make Me Over
9. Imagine
10. True Colors
11. Jump
12. Smile (cover of Lily Allen)
13. Smile (cover of Charlie Chaplin)
14. And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going
15. Don’t Rain On My Parade
16. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
17. My Life Would Suck Without You

I enjoy Glee, but I have a complaint: the primary characters are manipulative.

Two of the three major plot lines involve women misleading clueless men to advance their own agenda. Terry dupes her husband Will into believing she is pregnant (she’s not) in an effort to save her marriage.  Quinn tells her boyfriend Finn she is pregnant with his baby (she’s not) because she believes he is better husband material than her baby’s real father, Puck.  The minor plot lines also involve lies – Will originally tricks Finn into joining the choir through coercion. Sue, the hilariously hardened cheerleading coach who is the choir’s major antagonist,  coerces the school Principal into a role managing the Glee Club. Sue also informs the competition of the choir’s song list in order to derail its chances of winning sectionals.  Even the generally admirable diva-to-be, Rachel, has not been above some manipulative moves. (See earlier blog post, “Is Glee’s Rachel Berry ‘ That Girl!’ for Gen Y?”)

These actions are not ‘misunderstandings’ – each character actively compromises their moral position to get what they want. It’s all in fun and no doubt the plots webs will untangle nicely tomorrow night.  I wonder, though,  if Millennials are just tolerating the plots, rather than really enjoying them?  Authenticity, ethical behavior and ‘making a difference’ are all famously part of their DNA.

Next season, I hope the writers come up with plots that make the characters seem less ‘calculating’, for the sake of the show.