“Glee” has gotten desperate — or at least Ryan Murphy has. Gone are the days when “Glee” possessed intriguing plotlines and engaging characters. Now all that’s left is a hot mess.

Before all the die-hard “Gleeks” start lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks, know that I don’t hate the show. Some redeeming qualities still lie beneath the gimmicks, but lately you have to dig pretty deep to find them.

One question that I find myself asking every episode is: Why are all the old characters still hanging around McKinley? Murphy decided that, unlike other TV shows in the genre, he wanted to keep his show realistic, so he forced half his cast to “graduate.” Yet at least one of those McKinley graduates manage to make it back each week, despite the fact that they all moved far away from little Lima, Ohio.

But, then, I watch a few painful scenes with the newest cast members and I understand why the old characters pop up so often. It’s not that the new characters are bad; they’re just boring, and I feel nothing for them. Murphy had no motivation to create new characters, so, instead, he opted to make all of his new cast members into less dynamic versions of past ones.

I can’t be the only one who finds it incredibly ironic that Murphy was so concerned about realism when he decided that each season be an individual school year. Now, realism has been thrown out the window, run over by a bus and then set on fire, just to bring back the old cast members.

In fact, in this new reality Murphy has created, “You don’t need to go to college, you can just go to L.A., or New York, and be a star.” And if you do go to college, you rarely need to show up; feel free to travel around the country whenever you want because your classes will clearly take care of themselves. And if being a star or going to college doesn’t work out, then it’s completely acceptable and not at all pathetic to return to your high school and take a job that you’re entirely unqualified for.

Now that the show must focus on the old New Directions and the new New Directions, relatable plot lines have been sacrificed for short, uncomplicated ones. Regardless of the fact that the unnecessary New York plot doesn’t work and could be removed without much damage to the rest of the show, condensing important story lines isn’t always the best idea.

When Quinn (Dianna Agron) got pregnant and Kurt (Chris Colfer) was bullied for being gay, viewers followed their dilemmas throughout the whole season. But this season, when new girl Marley (Melissa Benoist) developed bulimia, she was discovered by the Glee Club and subsequently rehabilitated in only five or six episodes. Not only does her quick recovery make light of an issue hundreds of teenage girls go through, but it seems like Murphy only used the eating disorder plotline to add drama rather than promote needed awareness.

But, more often than not, storylines are created and then just never brought back. Wasn’t Kurt supposed to be working for Vogue at some point? Didn’t coach Sylvester (Jane Lynch) just have a baby? And wait, didn’t we find out in the Christmas episode, “Glee, Actually,” that Kurt’s dad (Mike O’Malley) has prostate cancer? Why has that never been brought back up? I would much rather see that storyline develop because it focuses on drama that’s true and realistic. Instead, I’m supposed to believe that a 19-year-old ex-student would randomly kiss his former guidance teacher to stop her from having a panic attack. Why, Ryan Murphy? Just, why?

I’m not saying it wasn’t entertaining to watch the guys perform a variety of musical numbers shirtless, but there was no real message to be found beneath the well-tanned and well-toned abdominals. Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Rachel (Lea Michele) both come to realize that they don’t need to bare their bodies to be successful — unless of
course it’s for a “Men of McKinley” calendar — and the money is needed to pay for a trip to nationals. Then it’s completely OK to strip off your shirt and pose with a variety of holiday-themed objects.

Regardless of the gimmicks employed, I still can’t help but notice the prolonged absence of some beloved characters. Where have Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and coach Sylvester gone? I understand that Morrison’s character was sent to Washington D.C. on some bizarre plot twist, but that doesn’t explain why Lynch has suddenly gone AWOL. The pair set up a good-versus-evil dynamic that was enjoyable and consistent. It gave the show a clear hero and villain, especially when other characters were morally ambiguous.

All of these choices Murphy has made leave me disappointed for the show I used to love. The gimmicks and pandering to society’s recent interests aren’t what made “Glee” great, but they are the reason it kind of sucks now.

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