Glee, whose fourth season premieres tonight, is at a crossroads. At this point, the once-revolutionary musical comedy-drama has alienated most of the critics (and, judging by its falling ratings, some of the viewers) who once rallied around its quirky storylines and underdog characters. Perhaps that’s why, during May’s upfronts, creator Ryan Murphy announced that the show will be a bit different this year, splitting its focus to both remain at William McKinley High and follow some newly graduated characters to performing arts school in New York. Whatever the cause behind the change turns out to be, the show is clearly experiencing some growing pains. So, while we hope Glee will get it together in Season 4, we think it’s only fair to provide viewers with a (spoiler-filled) guide to spotting a teen TV show that has exceeded its expiration date.
1. The main characters have graduated from high school
Sorry, Glee, but in our estimation the #1 sign a teen TV show is headed for obsolescence is graduation. Take Veronica Mars. After two fantastic seasons, the cult girl-detective series opted to split the season into two ongoing mysteries in a misguided attempt to attract more viewers — and added two shrug-worthy characters in Veronica’s college classmates, Parker and Piz. Although we could never hate this show, we have to admit the quality nosedived once Veronica moved on from Neptune High, with its evil rich kids and sinister class divisions. But Veronica Mars is hardly the only show that lost its touch when the characters moved on to college. Remember Beverly Hills, 90210 around the time Dylan meets his faux little sister and Ray Pruit shows up? Need we even go into the specifics of Saved by the Bell: The College Years?