Why ‘Glee’ is Safe, Successful and Will Soar in Season 4

With so much unsettling if exciting change in the air, and with so many Glee haters still predictably preaching doom for its ratings fate (uh, four seasons ago you said the same thing), I figured Glee lovers could use some reassurance. And I’m just the guy to provide it, not only because I love this show, but because I covered the entertainment biz for 20 years, and the journalistic eye I apply to Glee reveals a far different picture.

So when you fret about the new format being iffy or new characters being “whodats” or other shows trumping Glee in its new time slot, I say “Relax.”

And here’s why:

Glee always has done well enough in the ratings to survive, and this year’s second season of The X-Factor — with Britney Spears — should be a strong lead-in, with ample singing-show cross-promotion. (Glee’s second episode is conveniently titled “Britney 2.0.”) As for its new time slot at 8 p.m. CST on Thursdays, Glee now goes up against not top-rated CSI, but Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, Person of Interest on CBS and The Office/Parks and Rec on NBC — aging shows and a new one that’s not that big.

Besides, as clueless haters never grasp (don’t confuse them with facts), Glee is huge in international markets around the world, and it  makes a dramatic amount of money in domestic ancillary profits. Translation: money earned from sources beyond TV ad time.

Indeed, does any other TV series have the added money-making benefit of 40 million download sales? Any show? CSI? DWTS? I’m listening. No one?

Right — no one but Glee. And to put Glee’s numbers in a broader music-industry perspective,  Justin Bieber has sold under 8 million downloads. Glee has 40 million. You do the math.

In short, from a commercial standpoint alone, you can relax. Glee rocks. And if I read the tea leaves (studio statements) correctly, Fox already has committed to Ryan Murphy for two more seasons, at least through Season 5, just as Fox re-upped for two more seasons simultaneously after Season 1. They just haven’t formally announced it. Five seasons also will give them 110 episodes, topping the magic number of 100 for daily strip syndication.

Oh, and btw:  Glee even has a spinoff reality show that’s quite popular, The Glee Project. And Murphy (who likes to dish on his new Twitter account) already is floating a Glee concert tour for next summer. It goes on and on.

I also think the new format is gonna be a boost. With a New York setting (and exterior location work — do you hear me, Castle?), with two big actors (Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker) in major recurring roles and with a fresh-blood cast of young hotties, what’s not to love? New ships are on Glee’s horizon, and I think we’ll find the chronological inevitability of high school careers ending — and things changing — actually helps the format, not hurts it.

After all, Glee never has been the same old thing, so why start now? Glee is new — a trailblazer — and it remains that, notwithstanding shows like “now that it’s safe we’ll try too” Smash and Nashville. So to keep such newness from growing stale, it makes sense that Glee changes, too.

But one constant still pops out like it should: Glee still has Lea Michele, who’s still central to this show, big-time, as I always said she’d be. Glee may be an ensemble production, but she plays that ensemble’s main character. And c’mon — if you have an incredible pro like Lea Michele under a seven-year contract, you don’t phase her out. You showcase her. You use her.

Oh, and one other thing. Besides all those contractual and business issues, there’s this:

Is Glee not the best TV show ever?

I mean ever. And that should count for something.

So relax. Glee is here to stay. Many folks may not have figured it out, or may wish it wasn’t true, but trust me — I covered this business.

And it’s not like I’m crowing. In fact, for me the simple fact that Glee exists is enough. I don’t need it to top the ratings or kick other shows’ butts. I just need it to exist, so that I and many others can keep appreciating an uplifting, funny, moving, socially conscious and boldly entertaining show that does more for music than any scripted series in the history of network TV.

Sure, Glee has flaws — we all do, right? We’re all human, and are united by our humanity. Isn’t that a message of Glee itself?

But Glee is here to stay. So relax and stay tuned. The best may be yet to come.

— Bruce Westbrook

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