Musicals on stage are captivating. Musicals as movies are endearing. Musicals as television shows are awk-weird. The obvious comeback to this statement is to bring up Glee‘s overwhelming and unprecedented popularity in its first season. Sure, it amassed quite the fan base and launched a few careers, but there’s a reason its concept is called one-of-a-kind, or unlike anything else: that’s because this concept usually fails for adult demos.
Take a look at Smash.
The show was on the air for a little less than a year-and-a-half. The plug was pulled after only 32 episodes. By the time, Smash hit the airwaves, Glee had established itself as a must-watch show, so it’s safe to say that everyone working on Smash was pretty shocked that it didn’t garner the same positive response. Unfortunately not even the beautiful and talented American Idol runner-up Katherine McPhee could bring in the ratings for those adult viewers. The show’s series premiere was off to a smashing start, attracting just under 11.5 million viewers, but after the initial hype, the song-sewn episodes just became gimmicky to the 18-49 demo, and the show’s final episode barely collected 2 million.
But the teenyboppers are bopping to the beat.
Remember Hannah Montana? Of course you do. Because it was wildly popular on The Disney Channel for years. The show wrapped its fourth season only two episodes shy of hitting triple digits. But that’s okay, because even though it didn’t reach that milestone it still produced multiple soundtracks and an actual movie. Let’s not forget the kicker here: It was a TERRIBLE show. The acting was flat, the songs were cheesy, and the plots were always outrageous.
So why did it work?
Mistakes like that would not be so easily passable on any network except one geared predominantly towards kids/tweens/teens. Most children, still living in their fantasy worlds where they grow up to be absolutely anything and everything they want, dream of being a star one day. So, shows like Hannah Montana, Victorious, and Big Time Rush all managed four solid seasons (ratings-wise) because they made that dream of stardom relatable and attainable to its child audience. That’s why these shows all ran twice as long as Smash. They weren’t designed for clever plots, character development, or phenomenal acting. They were designed to create catchy songs and enchanting teen icons that would not only keeps these kids’ dreams alive, but also keep them watching.
I’m not done with Glee.
Sorry, gleeks, but the show is not the wildly enjoyed program it once was. In its prime (AKA the season 2 premiere), Glee had about 12-and-a-half million viewers. Season 5’s premiere this past fall attracted less than half that number, bringing in a meager 5 million. Glee has been rapidly tumbling downhill in the ratings comparatively since season 2. In that season alone, about half a million viewers dropped off the wagon, and then two million more didn’t even tune in for season 3. The show has lost about two million viewers each season since, proving that musical numbers in a television show attempting to appeal to the 18-32 demo is simply a novelty, fun at first, but tired and forced after too long of a run.