On Friday 22nd May, Ryan Murphy pondered a reimagined pilot for the high school musical comedy, Glee, with Lea Michele, Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein serving as the core members of the club.
The Instagram post attracted a huge amount of support with fans calling for the return of their favourite characters and even potential new cast members, such as Kerry Washington, star of Scandal, coming on board as a teacher of McKinley High School.
While many hail the potential return of the show, the legacy its original run left might have some questioning whether a reboot would return the same response from fans.
Glee was not a perfect television show and the vast majority of its popularity is owed to the showrunners’ blunders on writing storylines throughout the seasons. The sheer outrageousness of these mistakes and how they were aired as if seemingly part of Murphy’s grand design for the show, is what has inspired fans to not only recount the many, many questionable choices made but to imagine what themes would be explored in the show’s structure if it were still airing today. TikTok episode anyone?
Rather than exhume the bones of this delightfully campy teen show which covered just about every possible issue related to young adults as possible, there are many tv series that still have the potential to explore new themes, but were cut short or had a strong premise that would flourish with audiences today.
Starting off with a criminally underrated series produced by Ryan Murphy, the first season of what was meant to be an anthology series akin to American Crime Story, follows the feud between Hollywood stars Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) during the production of the only movie they filmed together: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? The series explored systemic exploitation of actresses in Tinseltown and the unfair stereotype that all women must be brutally at each other’s throats to one up each other.
A brilliant mesh of melodrama with venomous one-liners from both Lange and Sarandon, FX decided to cancel the show before they could begin production on their second season, which was to focus on Prince Charles and Princess Diana, with Matthew Goode and Rosamund Pike rumoured to be cast as the respective leads.
Murphy is at his best when he creates stories that resonate with his LGBTQ+ audience and there are countless stories that could revitalise the series from Madonna vs. Elton John to Patti LuPone vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber to James Charles vs. Tati Westbrook vs. Jeffree Star (I’m only half kidding on that last one). Each providing dramatic roles grounded in real-life that would have actors clawing their way to perform.
This is an example of show that still had more storylines and issues to explore when it was cancelled. The series revolved around a woman, Erica (Erin Karpluk) who begins seeing a therapist and discovers that he has the ability to send her back in time to deal with her regrets and learn from the consequences. Time travel and therapy, what more could you want to obsess over during a pandemic?
The show explored the internal journey of bettering oneself, while also discussing themes of alcohol and drug use, Judaism, relationships, coming out as LGBTQ+, parents divorcing and the death of a loved one. In later seasons, we see the show delve into the therapist/patient dynamic that Eric and her therapist have, which in my opinion was the most interesting aspect of the entire show.
Despite the show creator, Jana Sinyor, telling TV Guide that she didn’t plan on writing a 5th season, but the series ended with Erica completing her training and becoming a therapist to pay back the help she was given, and I think that is the perfect jumping off point to discuss themes of career changes and juggling your personal and professional lives in today’s work-focused environment.
In a similar vein, Ugly Betty concluded with Betty being offered a job opportunity in London, and the series could pick up from the finale. Ugly Betty has the added advantage that throughout the original run, the supporting cast where given proper character development that audiences could see and relate to their struggles and triumphs.
What a reboot could do for the series is stay true to its core tone of the telenovela and introduce storylines such as Betty and Mark as competing editors of rival magazines while also tackling more wide-scale social issues, such as class divide told through the perspective of those directly affected by it. The showrunners highlighted the divide between the Suarez’s and the Meade’s in the original series and Ignacio Suarez’ season one storyline was as educational as it was gripping to watch, so that can be repeated and built on.
Yes I know it’s going to Broadway, but this is the hill I will die on. SMASH was musical drama series that followed the lives the of a theatre company writing a new musical on the American icon, Marilyn Monroe. With a star-studded cast that included Broadway giants such as Megan Hilty, Katherine McPhee, Christian Borle and Leslie Odom Jr., the show was jokingly referred to as “the adult version of Glee” before it first aired in 2012.
It has been commended as a cult classic, which shined the light on Broadway from the industry’s point of view. Over the course of its run it tackled the topics of the pressure placed on those in the performing arts and sexual harassment in the industry, before the rise of the #MeToo movement, receiving a total of 4 Primetime Emmy nominations and winning the award for Best Choreography in 2012.
The second season introduced Jeremy Jordan and Krysta Rodriguez to the cast and created a second musical, HitList, to rival that of the Marilyn Monroe musical, Bombshell. Between the rivalry of the characters and the chemistry between the actors onscreen, it had fans waiting with baited breath and fingers crossed all the way up to the season finale at the Tony Awards, perfectly reflecting the real-life anticipation surrounding awards season.
Like the other shows mentioned on the list, this show finished with possible avenues to explore should they decide to revisit it. As is with the real life counterparts of the characters, it’s all about the next project.