Three Ways Glee Could Be Helped By Ryan Murphy's New FX Show

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When word came down from the folks at FX that 'Glee' impresarios Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy were going to return to the cable net with a new drama entitled 'American Horror Story,' I'm sure many fans of the FOX musical mega-hit were wondering what that would mean for their favorite show.

It's not a misguided thought; Murphy's fingerprints are all over 'Glee,' which would make sense because the writing staff consists of Murphy, Falchuk and Ian Brennan. The theme of how it feels to be a high school outcast has been, by his admission, very near and dear to him; it's not a stretch to say, for instance, that the breakout character of Kurt is a thinly-veiled version of Murphy as a teenager. With Murphy and Falchuk splitting time between the two shows, will it lose what makes it 'Glee?'

I don't think it will. In fact, Murphy and Falchuk splitting their time between the two shows might be the best thing that's ever happened to the show, for three pretty good reasons.

1. They might finally hire a writing staff. 'Glee,' is a show with a ton of moving parts -- music clearances, dance routines, almost a dozen characters, multiple storylines going at once -- which is what makes the fact that it's only written by the three executive producers all the more remarkable. But having such responsibility heaped on so few shoulders, especially as the show becomes the biggest thing since 'ER,' is a recipe for disaster.

How many shows have suffered in their later seasons when its hard-driving auteurs started cracking under pressure? Either the show collapsed under its own weight -- 'Heroes' set the gold standard here -- or the creator burned out and left (or was removed), as what happened when Aaron Sorkin departed 'The West Wing.' While the pressure will still be on 'Glee' to bring in the big stars and have the big event episodes they've become known for, the fact that the pressure will be spread among a writing staff will hopefully lessen the chances of the show imploding.

2. A writing staff may foster some consistency. It's a counterituitive notion, because usually the more people on a writing staff, the further away a show gets from its creators' initial vision. But in this case, it might work to 'Glee's' advantage.

I have no insight into the writing process of the 'Glee' trio, but it feels like sometimes -- as I speculated after last week's episode -- that they're throwing caution to the wind when they break stories, trying anything they can think of and not really worrying about whether the audience takes notice or not. Sue Sylvester wants to shoot a Cheerio out of a cannon? Rachel cheats on Finn with Puck? Puck goes after Lauren Zizes by singing 'Fat Bottomed Girls?' Sure, why the hell not?

A writing staff may keep the producing trio honest. Sure, Brennan will keep writing all of Sue's dialogue, but maybe someone can speak up and say that having her splatter on green makeup and steal poor kids' Christmas presents isn't the world's best idea.

3. Murphy won't spoil every damn millisecond of the show in interviews. With his attention elsewhere, perhaps Murphy won't give what seems like a new interview every day to some outlet or another, spoiling everything from what artists have agreed to let the show cover their songs -- and which haven't -- to what's coming up in the various storylines. I'm all for teasers and spoilers, but by the time each episode comes around, a 'Glee' follower already has an idea of what is going to happen, including most of the songs that are going to be sung each week.

It's exhausting, and as the guy who reviews the show every week, I try to stay away from most news about the show so I can judge each episode on its own merits, taking each episode for what it is instead of thinking of it as a string of "events." But it's hard to avoid all of the news -- hey, what website wouldn't want the traffic boost that comes with yet another 'Glee' story? -- and it blunts a lot of the experience of enjoying the show as it takes its twists and turns. I bet a lot of the show's fans feel the same way.

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