Glee Writer’s Panel – Event WriteupBy
Living in Los Angeles is a gift to any television enthusiastic. I was only too excited to attend another event put on by the Paley Center. I’ve now gotten to see the cast of House, Big Love, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Granted, this wasn’t the cast, but it was just as fun and quite enlightening. Buying a ticket to a writer’s panel for Glee was a no-brainer. I was completely surprised to find that the writers and creators of Glee only add up to three. Hard to believe that so many voices and characters on the show only belong to three like-minded men: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan that co-created, executive produced, and wrote all of the first season of the wildly popular show Glee.
The evening started out with a twenty minute clip set that had the audience applauding, laughing, and nearly tearing up. It was just enough to remind us why we came out to see these writers speak. I have to admit I was skeptical considering I find that the writing of some of the overall story arcs is a bit lacking. I am, however, always impressed with the one-liners, especially Sue’s and Brittany’s.
The first questions was congratulatory as all three men were asked about their nineteen Emmy nominations. Murphy said he was stunned that people got such an unusual show. Never has there been a musical on television that has worked. As for the technical aspect of the writing, the stories and episodes are written before the music is chosen and Murphy noted that the movie Election was a big influence for the pilot and the tone of the balance between kids and adults in the show. This made complete sense to me as I see striking similarities between Rachel Berry and Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon’s character from Election).
In order to choose the music for Glee, Murphy works through a dream list of songs and tries to put together a song that works with the stories and the characters. So where does this dream list come from? Murphy makes sure to note that the songs are personal choices and that there isn’t any rhyme or reason behind his choices. He joked that the soundtracks looked as though they were put together by a schizophrenic.
A couple of choices were discussed in particular. One of which, the moderator brought up. “One Last Bell to Answer” was sung in a duet with Will and Kristin Chenoweth’s character April in the episode “Home.” Murphy spoke about having special ties to the song after hearing it when he was five at home with his mother and then worked to find out of if it had ever been sung as a duet. He found out it had been and joked that it was with Barbara Streisand and herself (seriously). It was also one of the first songs that had been done in a musical style from start to finish and all three writers realized it was a rather big risk. Personally, I thought the episode “Home” was a bit heavy-handed and Glee works best when it’s got some light mixed into the dark, but I realize I may be in the minority where that episode is concerned.
Murphy was also closely connected to the Kurt storyline with his dad. When Murphy was younger, his dad called him and told him that someone at his office had called him a fag. His dad didn’t do anything to defend him, so writing about Kurt and his father was his chance to live through his art.
Another popular number and one that Falchuk lists as his favorite was Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface.” Murphy spoke about how the lyrical content didn’t matter as much as the characters’ portrayal of longing which succeeded in the scene with Rachel and her mother. Falchuk said it well when he spoke about how the music didn’t get in the way of the scene and that it set the mood perfectly for the scene. Not all song choices worked though, and all three writers realized that they are taking the risk of failing with anything they choose. A song that didn’t work for the show never made it to air. Apparently, there was a mash-up of “Bust a Move” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” that never quite made it past the ears of everyone on set.
So how difficult was it to get artists to lend their music to the show? Not difficult at all, according to Murphy. The most eager artists were Beyonce and Journey who each got on board with the show in its earliest phases. As for future artists, Britney Spears is a definite yes for a Madonna-like tribute episode, but Michael Jackson’s music, while highly considered isn’t in the current plans for the show.
As for the actors, each writer spoke about how lucky they were that they are able to showcase so many great talents, especially Lynch and Morrison, but the biggest surprise when it came to talent was Heather Morris who started as a dancer on the show and turned her role into one of the funniest with her brilliantly idiotic one-liners. Apparently Morris voiced that she should take an acting class and was given a passionate, “F*** no!” from all the writers. Egos on the set aren’t a problem either as all the actors are very supportive of each other and when asked about balancing the character’s storylines, Murphy said each actor was excited to have another one shine and that all the reactions among the actors during performances are real.
I was excited when Sue’s lines were discussed. Ian Brennan is mostly responsible for writing her lines and when asked about how he comes up with them, he quipped, “I didn’t realize I was an asshole.” Apparently Sue’s long diatribes start even longer and cutting them was compared to “killing children.” The line Brennan was most surprised managed to get in past the censors was something along the lines of “Shut your mouth before I rape it!”
What about spoilers, you ask? Plenty were dished out, although only a few were new news for me. Guest stars like Kristen Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, and Johnathon Groff are welcome back but do have busy schedules and are working on other projects. However, Javier Bardem, who was rumored to guest start next year, will in fact be given a role. Murphy saw him and congratulated him on how well a film of Bardem’s had done at Cannes and Bardem immediately responded by telling Murphy “I don’t want to talk about Cannes. I want to talk about Glee.” Bardem had evidently watched the season in a week and knew everything about the characters, so Murphy could hardly turn him down when he asked for a role. If Javier Bardem asks, you answer.
Jessalyn Gilsig, who plays Terri Schuester will be back full time next fall. When the moderator asked the writers if they were surprised at some of the negativity Terri’s storyline’s received, Murphy said yes and discussed how everything Terri did was out of love, but they may have stretched out the hysterical pregnancy storyline too long which got fans wondering why Will didn’t notice earlier that Terri was faking her pregnancy.
As for the star couple, Rachel and Finn, expect them to go the distance for the better part of next season, although as for Rachel losing her virginity, it won’t happen tomorrow. Murphy noted that sexual tension keeps the audience around and once the two of them sleep together, the air will be let out of the balloon. The same can most likely be said regarding Will and Emma although none of the writers said anything about if/when the two of them would get together for good.
We can expect to see sectionals, regionals, and nationals covered next year and while the three men are balancing the writing now, about five more writers will be coming on board come January. The talent search to find real life Glee talent will continue and launch into a small series on the Oxygen network sometime next season.
Towards the end of the evening, the audience was allowed to ask questions and I managed to get the usher’s attention and asked the last question of the night. I talked about how I was a teacher and I wanted to know who motivated them and why they decided to pay such great homage to teachers.
Ian Brennan spoke about how his mother is a teacher and as a result is quite sympathetic to the teacher’s plight: hard working, underpaid, and under thanked. Murphy talked about how one of the biggest rewards of the show Glee is that the arts in education are being appreciated more and talked about how in the upcoming season, donations can be made to help arts in education.
All three writers voiced that many of the characters are great access points to so many fans which is especially rewarding for them. By the end of the evening, I left gratified that the show Glee is on the air and I await Glee‘s sophomore season next fall on Fox which starts Tuesday, September 21st.