While FlashForward and V crumbled after long breaks in the middle of their seasons, Glee has actually seen its profile rise after four months away. And with recent cast performances at the White House and on The Oprah Winfrey Show — not to mention tickets for the sold-out live shows at Radio City Music Hall running upwards of $1,900 on StubHub — it’s safe to say the Fox hit is going into tomorrow night’s return as a phenomenon. Unfortunately, judging from past TV-hit history, that can mean only one thing: The backlash is just around the corner. Here’s how we predict the fans will turn.
April: After the premiere used all songs that have “hello” or “hell” in their titles, and then the next week’s all-Madonna episode (ten songs!), some fans begin to grumble that “stunt singing” is overshadowing the story. These first ripples of discontent are mostly shouted down, but they are premonitory.
May: At this point, Glee has seen a run of guest stars that include Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Molly Shannon, which causes some to wonder if Glee is starting down the dangerous path of guest-star overload, à la Will & Grace and 30 Rock.
June: Between the live concerts, the multiple soundtrack albums, and a split-season DVD release, fans gripe that Glee is less about the actual show than the merchandising.
July: Despite reports of the cast being a tight-knit group, gossip columns begin reporting rumors of backstage diva behavior on the tour. True or not, fans lose the untainted joy that comes from believing that the Glee cast are the same kind of wide-eyed, “let’s put on a show” everyteen that they appear to be on the show.
August: A central cast member asks to leave the series to pursue a music career. The idea that someone would not be as dedicated to Glee as the Gleeks is flabbergasting and infuriating. Facebook “hate” groups appear.
September: Having already humanized Jane Lynch’s evil coach Sue Sylvester by showing her home life — which includes a Down syndrome–affected sister — Glee will push her breakout character to the forefront even more. Fans complain that she is taking over, and derisively refer to Glee as “The Sue Show.”
October: Creator Ryan Murphy allows his more outlandish instincts to take over, much as he did with Nip/Tuck. Good-bye, glee-club competitions and fake pregnancies; hello, serial killer who murders for the cause of full instrumentation!
November: The worst fears of guest-star-phobic fans are confirmed in sweeps when Murphy hires two of his famous movie-star friends to play Lea Michele’s gay dads.
April: After a four-month break, Murphy gives Michael Ausiello a mea culpa interview and promises the second half of the season will go back to its roots. For the moment, the backlash subsides.