Ranking the Glee Guest Stars

With just one more day until Glee returns, and eight days until the Britney Spears episode, we found ourselves thinking about the show’s many guest stars. Over the course of its first season, Glee recruited guests from the Broadway stage (Jonathan Groff), TV (Molly Shannon), music (Eve), and performers who straddle all these worlds (Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris). And just like in the competitive world of a cappella, some dazzled and some fizzled. We’ve picked nine of the most prominent part-timers and ranked them from the most major performance to the most minor. And now we sit back and wait for two things: for you to weigh in with your rankings and whom we left out, and to see where Britney will fall on this list.

As Jesse St. James, the devious, cocky star of Vocal Adrenaline (and Rachel Berry’s love interest), Groff’s winking delivery was both hilarious and, more important, touching. We always knew he’d end up breaking Rachel’s heart, we just didn’t know how. Turns out, it was with eggs. Groff’s delivery of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the season finale (spliced with Quinn Fabray’s delivery) was one of the best musical moments of the season. (Episodes 14–17, 19, 21–22)
As Will Schuester’s former high-school glee-club rival and a recovering show-tunes addict, Harris played Bryan Ryan straight. We already knew Harris had the moves and the voice, but that didn’t take away from the joy of watching him perform. His duet with Will on Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” was a highlight. (Episode 19)
Once we learned Rachel Berry has two dads, we knew there’d be mama-drama at some point. Casting Wicked alum Idina Menzel as biological mom Shelby Corcoran made perfect sense, given her uncanny resemblance both in looks and voice to Lea Michele. Their unexpectedly moving duets gave the show a schmaltzy edge that only two Broadway veterans could get away with. (Episodes 14, 19–22)
As April Rhodes, Chenoweth delivered witty lines about popping pills, being washed up, and having sex dreams. Chenoweth’s delivery never felt forced. What did feel forced was the cross-promoting of her Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, songs from which were poached for the show. (Episodes 5, 16)
It seemed weird to have a big-name guest star appear so early in this series, but Groban looked like he was having fun playing himself. Viewers who worried that the show would quickly turn to self-referential schlock could put their fears to rest; Groban didn’t sing, and declared an affection for “blousy alcoholics.” (Episodes 3, 22)
We would’ve liked to see the Jersey Boys star get more of a shot as thumbless shop teacher Henri St. Pierre, but the writers probably ran out of appendage jokes rather quickly. Plus, no solos? His Frankie Valli voice would have been perfect for his episode’s New Jack Swing tunes. (Episode 3)
As the erratic Brenda Castle, her scenes displayed typical Shannon kookiness. For a moment, there seemed to be a growing rivalry with Sue, but she faded out rather quickly, after a few funny lines. (Episodes 17, 19)
It felt overly pat to have Newton-John come through Ohio just as Sue Sylvester’s “Physical” video was going viral, but she redeemed herself during the season finale as a bitchy judge who reveals that brunettes have no place in show business. (Episode 22)
Glee guest stars are supposed to do two things: (1) be funny, (2) provide great vocal moments. Eve did neither. As reform-school choir coach Grace Hitchens, she was boring and flat; any actor could have filled this role. It’s unclear as to why Eve was so underutilized, given her impressive vocal ability. (Episodes 11, 13)
Ranking the Glee Guest Stars