As regular Remote Patrolled readers will know, I gave up on Glee a few weeks ago, after realizing that the current third series of the show simply wasn’t going to get any better.

Though I’d been a fan of Glee for it’s first two years I eventually felt so exhausted by the character inconsistencies, tiresome romances (yes that would be you Finn and Rachel) and Sue Sylvester, the most cartoonish character on TV, that I just had to bail.

But last week I gave Glee a brief second chance. Having followed The Glee Project over the summer I was interested to see how one of the winners, Damian, would fit into the show. But after just a few minutes the same old problems surfaced once again and I was out.

And it seems I’m not the only one. Since the third series began Glee’s ratings have fallen every single week. The season 3 premiere pulled in 9.21 million (down substantially from the 11.80 million who watched the season 2 finale), then hit 8.60 million, then 8.42 million and last week 7.47 million. By comparison the first five episodes of season 2 were all above the 11 million mark. Not exactly a hard trend to follow is it?

So does this mean Glee is in terminal decline? Can a once hot show ever bounce back and reclaim its lost viewers?

Honestly, I don’t think so. TV shows tend to go one of two ways. They either build over time – often following a reasonably successful launch – as is the case with most of today’s biggest hits like Modern Family and True Blood. Or they start big and fall fast (Pan Am would be the most recent example of this trend)

Interestingly Glee wasn’t a huge hit when it launched back in 2009 – in fact it was almost on the verge of cancelation following middling numbers for its post American Idol premiere. But strong sales for the show’s first single, Don’t Stop Believing, convinced Fox execs to give the show a try as a regular series. From then the show muddled along for its first few months, building its audience and its buzz, before exploding in the second half of its first season, boosted by its Idol lead in.

In a nutshell Glee burned through its ‘cult’ phase and its ‘popular’ phase far too quickly, leading to a sudden backlash and a huge drop in viewers. Many people have commented that the show is the new Ugly Betty – or the new Heroes – two fellow shows that hit it big initially and then went into death spirals. And that’s the problem for Glee. When you go into a dive it’s virtually impossible to pull out.


The fact is there are so many entertainment options out there that there’s not many viewers who are willing to give a show a second chance. ABC thoughts audiences would flock back to Desperate Housewives in its final season – but they haven’t, and why would they? Once you give up on a show you give up.

I’m sure over the next few months the Glee producers will try everything they can to boost ratings for the show – adding controversy, stunt casting and tribute episodes – all tactics that have been employed by shows in the past. But I doubt they will work. Glee used to be cool – and quite simply it’s not anymore. And rebuilding buzz is terribly hard to do.

The best Glee can hope for is that they’ll be able to stem the tide of ratings declines. The aforementioned Desperate Housewives managed that in its fourth season with the inclusion of Dana Delaney’s Katherine Mayfair, which actually built on the season 3 audience. But the gains didn’t last. They never do.

The problem for Glee is that it doesn’t have much room to fall. 7.47 million is already a pretty low figure for a re-energized Fox (The X Factor has been a big help for the network’s Fall figures). Sure Fox have basically committed to another year of the show due to the renewal of The Glee Project on Oxygen but at what point will the ratings bottom out. When does Glee just become an embarrassment… I have a feeling we may soon find out…

But what do you think? Do you think Glee has any chance of making a comeback – or is the show fatally wounded? Comment away…