Co-creator Ryan Murphy was on hand at the screening to talk about getting back to basics with the show -- more focus on the core group of characters and the show, and less about movies, products and mall tours. "Things took a bit of a nasty turn," Murphy admits when talking about the hiccups of Season 2. With all the other stuff going on, the show lost its way a bit (OK, a lot) and they know it. "Frankly I think the fans resented it."
Now it appears to be somewhat back on track with a season premiere that made me laugh, sing along a bit and, most importantly, start to care about these characters again.
I don't want to spoil anything for fans, but after the jump there are a few teases and some scoop on who's sticking around, who's returning and a few surprise guest stars fans will really love. There's also a well-marked spoiler or two for those of you who just can't get enough 'Glee.'
The episode starts with Jacob (a.k.a. Jew-Fro) catching us up on what everyone's been up to, which is pretty quick painless thanks to the roving reporter hand-held camera style. The biggest changes? Mercedes (Amber Riley) tells him his gossip is old, that she's no longer with Sam (Chord Overstreet) since "his dad got a job out of state," and that she's got a new man. Hello, LaMarcus Tinker! No, he doesn't say much (yet), but he's there, and that's more love than Mercedes has gotten in a while.
Then we get the scoop on Lauren Zises (Ashley Fink) from Puck, who cracks that she's "the one that got away ... really, really slowly." When asked about the decision to let Fink go, Murphy made some excuse about New Directions only being allowed to have 12 members (which even he admits is a dumb excuse they made early on), then promises we haven't seen the last of her.
"Lauren's coming back for really major storyline," he teased, before dishing that she'd have big scenes with Kurt (her real-life pal Chris Colfer).
If you're still freaking out about your favorite stars leaving the show, don't be. Well, at least not yet. After being quoted saying the main stars were leaving to make room for new blood, then very publicly back-tracking, Murphy joked: "I will never again say people are leaving. I've learned my lesson -- never again!"
But the premieres does put quite a bit of emphasis on class, noting who is a senior, and therefore graduating, and who's a junior sticking around McKinley for a bit longer. Also with talk already of choosing colleges and making a plan, Murphy quickly ruled out having the show follow Rachel (Lea Michele), Kurt (Colfer) and Finn (Cory Monteith) off to college.
"We would never do 'Glee' the college years ... the show is always going to be in that choir room," he promised, before noting that maybe they could become teachers at the school. Hmmm ...
As for huge tribute episodes and big-name guest stars -- both of which are great but cause the focus of the show to get a little blurred -- Murphy reassured us again that the emphasis is on the core group this season. They're only working on one "huge" tribute episode for now, slated to air in spring, which they're hoping can be a 2-hour event. Any guesses?
And even though Gwyneth Paltrow won an Emmy for her guest starring role on the show, her Holly Holliday isn't a shoe-in to come back. All Murphy would say is, "Gwyneth might return."
But fellow guest star Idina Menzel -- who plays Rachel's biological mom, Shelby, who also adopted Quinn and Puck's baby girl -- will definitely return in Episode 2 for an "unexpected, dramatic and juicy" turn involving new bad girl Quinn. And then she's sticking around McKinley for quite a while. "She becomes a teacher at the school," Murphy said, adding that she'll be in more than six episodes this season.
And, yes, that's on top of using his series stars more as well, including those that fans complain are underutilized. Mercedes has her new man, and Murphy dished that Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr) has already had two big songs this season, and they're only just shooting Episode 4.
A few semi-spoilery premiere details:
*There's a Go-Go's hit, a Tom Jones classic that makes us want to do The Carlton, some wickedly good show tunes and something with a beat that's unstoppable.
*Mr. Schue and Emma (Wemma!) are in full couples mode, settled into their routine which includes packing each others' lunches in the mornings in complimentary classic lunchboxes: Superman for him, Wonder Woman for her.
*Quinn's new "ironic tattoo" involves one of Fox's biggest stars and regular punchlines.
*If you loved 'The Glee Project,' get happy -- there's already someone from the show in this episode, and their scene is phenomenal. New Directions better get their guns ready and find some group harmony, because there's some new competition from that reality competition in town. Murphy says that same person is the star of their school's choir, and will "probably be in Sectionals."
*Rachel and Kurt are truly on the page, acting as sounding boards for each other on what the future holds and how to get out of Lima, Ohio. So much so that Emma assumes they've finally decided to be together ... you know, because that's pretty much the only coupling combo the glee club hasn't explored.
*We'll see Blaine out of his Warblers uniform and into some equally preppy and adorable red pants and a bowtie. And yes, that matters.
*Sue is in fine form, running for public office on a platform that naturally aims to make Mr. Schue's nickname-filled life even more miserable.
*Someone gets kicked out of New Directions. (Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnnn!)
*Santana's got some new Cheerios competition: Sue's trusty #2, Becky.
And now some very spoilery Season 3 details:
*So yes -- the 'Glee Project' kids are coming! They're really coming! Murphy confirmed that beyond the person in the premiere episode, we'll also be seeing co-winners Damian McGinty and Samuel Larsen. Damian will play a sophomore foreign exchange student "shacking up with Brittany," who, of course, is totally mystified by him and his Irishness. We won't see Sam until Episode 10 or 11, but he'll likely play one of Puck's relatives. Alex doesn't come on until later as well ... so who does that leave? (You do the math.)
And some random premiere quotes that made me laugh:
*"Paula Abdul is an Arab."
*"Why is the T-rex eating the Jew?"
*"What about toast? Bread is already cooked."
*"I have self-diagnosed Asperger's."
What do you think: Are you excited for more 'Glee'? What do you want to see happen in Season 3?