Glee ran for six seasons on Fox, from May of 2009 until March of 2015. In hindsight, this musical comedy series was responsible for achieving very important feats in the early days of what is now being considered the “Golden Age of TV.”
For instance, Glee solidified Ryan Murphy’s career as a television writer and showrunner, leaving behind his fame as Nip/Tuck creator and propelling him to projects such as American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Eat, Pray, Love, and The Normal Heart. Moreover, this show was responsible for launching the careers of up-and-coming actors such as Lea Michele, Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, Naya Rivera, and Dianna Agron. What’s more, Glee also provided ample room for veteran actors to shine, including the likes of Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, and Jayma Mays.
On an even deeper level, Glee was the first broadcast television series aimed at kids and teens to successfully explore themes such as diversity and inclusion. As such, the series represented a wide variety of races and cultures, LGBTQ characters, as well as strong female leads, and characters with physical or mental disabilities. Despite certain criticisms that the show earned throughout the years, Glee was at the forefront of what would become a standard for most TV shows today.
However, after so many years on air, it was evident that Glee would have to make certain last-minute changes in order to deal with real-life circumstances. While some of these changes helped the series as a whole, others left marks that were hard to forget.
These are 9 Last-Minute Changes That Hurt Glee (And 11 That Saved It).
20 SAVED: CREATING A CHARACTER FOR CHRIS COLFER
In hindsight, it is absolutely impossible to think of a version of Glee that did not feature Kurt Hummel, a character played by Chris Colfer. In many ways, aside from Lea Michele’s Rachel and Cory Monteith’s Finn, Kurt was the protagonist of the series. What’s more, Kurt’s story was a very personal one to showrunner Ryan Murphy, as they were both gay men.
As the story goes, Kurt Hummel was not always in the plans for Glee.
Chris Colfer originally auditioned for the role of Artie Abrams, which ended up going to Kevin McHale.
However, Ryan Murphy and his production team fell in love with Chris so much that they decided to write a character for him, which became Kurt.
19 HURT: THE SHAVING OF MARK SALLING’S MOHAWK
Apparently, Mark Salling was not a huge fan of Puck’s mohawk. More specifically, the actor was quoted saying: “I’m so over the mohawk, I’m not gonna lie. I hate the mohawk.”
Puck’s signature hairstyle stayed with him over the course of most of the series. However, to the displeasure of several fans, eventually the character was shown shaving it all off, destroying one of the most memorable things about Puck.
During the same interview in which he expressed his distaste for the mohawk, Salling said that he was fine with it initially, but that it got old very quickly. After a year of having the mohawk, Salling was already expressing that he felt better without that hairstyle.
18 SAVED: BRINGING IN DARREN CRISS AFTER REJECTING HIM
Darren Criss joined Glee in 2010, during the show’s second season, but that was not always supposed to be the case.
As a matter of fact, Criss auditioned for the role of Finn Hudson during the inception of Glee, which ended up going to Cory Monteith. From that audition, Criss was unable to land the protagonist role of the series, but met Ryan Murphy, with whom he would develop a years-long professional relationship.
Clearly, Criss left his mark from his original audition, despite not landing the role he had tried out for.
For season 2 of Glee, Darren was cast as Blaine Anderson, who became a staple character for the series.
In 2018, the actor once again came aboard the second season of a Ryan Murphy project: American Crime Story.
17 HURT: BEING REJECTED BY KINGS OF LEON
Ryan Murphy really wanted to use Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” on Glee. In 2011, both the show and the band were at the height of their mainstream appeals, and it would have made sense, in theory, for this collaboration to happen. However, during a Hollywood Reporter cover story, Murphy opened up about how the band treated his request, calling them “self-centered” and saying that they “missed the big picture.”
Kings of Leon did not appreciate Ryan Murphy’s words and reacted accordingly, which created a long-standing feud between Glee and rock bands in general.
Years later, Murphy stated that he had regrets about saying such words. “I didn’t speak with as much clarity as I would have liked,” the Glee creator said about the matter.
16 SAVED: CHANGING FROM A MOVIE TO A TV SHOW
The original plan for Glee during its early conception was for the project to be a movie. Thus, Glee was not being thought of as a TV show at all when it was first conceived of by Ian Brennan. After Ryan Murphy got involved, however, he pitched the project back to Ian as a television comedy.
Murphy had already had a similar experience writing a comedy set in high school for TV, with the 1999 series Popular.
Over time, it became evident for everyone involved that Glee had a place on TV. With the massive success of American Idol, Fox was excited about music on television, which certainly allowed Glee to find its place rather quickly on a broadcast network.
15 HURT: ELTON JOHN WAS MEANT TO BE ONE OF RACHEL’S DADS
It is established early on in the main Glee storyline that Rachel Berry has two fathers, who are gay. However, the series took a very long time to actually show them. All of Rachel’s early scenes at home only took place in her bedroom, and she was shown by herself.
Well, the original plan from showrunner Ryan Murphy and actress Lea Michele – who portrayed Rachel Berry – was to have Elton John play one of her fathers. In 2010, when Glee was at its height, Elton John and husband David Furnish had their first son, Zachary, which probably prompted Ryan Murphy and Lea Michele to think of him as the perfect candidate to play the role of Rachel’s gay dad.
Unfortunately, the plan of bringing Elton John into Glee was not fulfilled. Instead, Rachel Berry’s fathers were played by Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
14 SAVED: CASTING DIANNA AGRON AS QUINN
Can you imagine Quinn Fabray being portrayed by anyone other than Dianna Agron?
Well, as the story goes, Dianna Agron was cast as Quinn Fabray during the very last minute before the show started its production. Moreover, as Ryan Murphy would put it, Dianna “humanized” the part and gave Quinn “a conscience, a soul, and great vulnerability.” Instead, the character was envisioned as just a mean girl, being compared to Last Picture Show’s Cybill Shepherd.
Dianna Agron’s contributions on Glee are thus not limited to delivering lines.
She brought a sensitivity to Quinn, who would've otherwise just been an antagonist for Rachel and Finn.
Thankfully, this last-minute change gave Glee one of its most human characters.
13 HURT: BEING REJECTED BY THE FOO FIGHTERS
It was not just the Kings of Leon that put their foot down when it came to Glee. Foo Fighters, whom had already been a successful rock band for many years before the show, decided to speak out during the ongoing feud between Ryan Murphy and Kings of Leon, expressing that they, too, were not interested in lending songs for Glee.
There were certainly plans for the show to use Foo Fighters songs, to which frontman Dave Grohl responded: “Not everyone loves Glee, me included.”
The vocalist also stated that the TV series managed to be worse than Grease, the 1978 musical motion picture that propelled the careers of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
12 SAVED: CASTING HEATHER MORRIS AS BRITTANY
Even hardcore Glee fans – known as Gleeks – may not be aware of the fact that Heather Morris was not really meant to be on the show at all. Rather, Morris was brought in to teach Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” choreography to the Glee cast, as she had been a backup dancer for the popstar in several occasions, including The Beyoncé Experience world tour.
The Glee production team saw something special in Morris.
They decided to cast her and write a character for her, who became Brittany Pierce.
It is hard to remember now, but Brittany was initially just a one-liner type of character, and took time to evolve into a fully developed person on the show.
11 HURT: DIANNA AGRON’S ABSENCE FROM THE CORY MONTEITH TRIBUTE EPISODE
Despite the many iconic scenes involving Quinn Fabray and the many contributions that Dianna Agron brought to Glee, the actress left the show’s main cast after season 3, being simply a recurring character during seasons 4 through 6.
While all of that is perfectly understandable, one particular absence of Quinn was really felt by fans: the character did not appear on the show’s tribute episode for Cory Monteith (Finn Hudson).
No concrete reason has ever been given for Agron's absence from the episode, but it was especially glaring for fans of both characters. We all wanted to see Finn's first love get closure and Agron deserved some as well.
10 SAVED: WHEN COLDPLAY CHANGED ITS MIND
Thankfully, not all rock bands stood by their harsh words and negative stance in regards to Glee. For instance, Coldplay initially rejected any attempts from the show to use their catalog of hit songs, but changed their minds over time.
As the story goes, frontman Chris Martin called the Glee production team, apologized, and authorized the show to use Coldplay’s back catalogue of songs.
This change of heart led to fantastic moments like “Fix You” season 3 and “The Scientist” in season 4.
It is certainly interesting that Coldplay changed its mind about Glee during the show’s second season, which featured Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow was, at the time, married to Chris Martin, Coldplay’s frontman.
9 HURT: THERE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THREE GLEE MOVIES
Even after Ryan Murphy changed Glee from being a movie to a TV series, Fox signed the entire cast of the show for three movies. There were legitimate plans for the show to be brought to the big screen for at least three installments, which clearly never happened.
It is important to note that Glee premiered on the heels of the success that the Disney Channel had with the High School Musical trilogy, which spun two TV movies and one theatrical release. As such, it was perfectly conceivable for Glee to also make that transition eventually, and Fox was clearly putting the pieces together.
However, the closest Glee got to the big screen was 2011’s Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, which was essentially a documentary of the series’ live tour.
8 SAVED: CHANGING QUINN FABRAY’S ORIGINAL NAME
It certainly seems like Quinn Fabray was a complicated character for the Glee team to get right, as she underwent several changes before the series premiered. Besides the last-minute casting of Dianna Agron, there is yet another major change that the Glee team made regarding Quinn: her very own name.
During the show’s original pilot script – and for a long time thereafter – Quinn was actually named Liz Fabray.
While there is no official explanation for why Glee decided to change her name from Liz to Quinn, it is hard to imagine Quinn Fabray going by any other name. What’s more, Ryan Murphy’s Nip/Tuck had a recurring character named Liz, which may have been a reason for the renaming of Quinn.
7 HURT: WRITING BRITTANY OFF DUE TO HEATHER MORRIS’ PREGNANCY
Over time, the character of Brittany Pierce evolved from a one-liner factory to a fully-fledged character. She even married Santana Lopez alongside Kurt and Blaine during what became known as Glee’s “double gay marriage” episode. Moreover, Brittany played a major role during the series’ Britney Spears episode.
However, when Heather Morris – the actress who played Brittany – became pregnant, Glee decided to take an unexpected step. The show wrote the character off entirely for several episodes, in order to avoid showing the pregnant actress playing a high schooler.
While this was surely a joyous occasion for Morris and her loved ones, perhaps there could've been another solution than writing Brittany out just as the character was beginning to find her own footing on Glee.
6 SAVED: EXTENDING GWYNETH PALTROW’S PRESENCE ON GLEE
There were dozens of special appearances on Glee, but it is hard to compare any of them to Gwyneth Paltrow’s first time playing substitute teacher Holly Holiday on the series. This moment, which took place on the show’s second season, had Gwyneth singing Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”, and earned the actress an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2011.
With so much critical and commercial acclaim, Glee decided to extend Gwyneth Paltrow’s presence on the series by many episodes. First, the actress returned to Glee in the very same second season.
She was featured yet again in Glee’s season 5.
As previously noted, Gwyneth Paltrow’s presence on Glee may have also contributed to the fact that Coldplay allowed the show to use their songs.
5 HURT: THE SHOWRUNNERS DELEGATED WRITING DUTIES AFTER SEASON 3
Glee had three creators who served in the role of showrunners: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. From season 1 up until season 3, the trio was heavily involved in the show, writing many of the episodes.
As time passed, however, and the three became involved with other projects, the writing on Glee started to be delegated to other members on the production team.
While this circumstance gave several new writers the opportunity to gain more experience and TV credits, it became evident that the show’s overall quality in regards to plot dropped starting on season 4, as its showrunners were no longer feeling the pulse of the show.
4 SAVED: GIVING CHRIS COLFER AN EPISODE TO WRITE
In 2011, two years after his debut as Kurt on Glee, actor Chris Colfer signed a book deal to publish two children novels. This was the beginning of The Land of Stories series of books, which have now spun six novels in total.
The production team behind Glee was certainly aware of Chris Colfer’s talent as a writer, because they decided to ask the actor to write an episode on season 5.
The nineteenth episode of that season, titled “Old Dogs, New Tricks,", was written by Chris Colfer.
This Glee episode written by Chris features storylines such as Kurt feeling unsupported by his friends, Rachel struggling with her productivity, and Sam adopting a dog.
3 SAVED: CASTING IQBAL THEBA AS PRINCIPAL FIGGINS
The original plan for Principal Figgins was for him to be a white man. However, as time passed and Iqbal Theba auditioned, the team behind Glee quickly realized that it made a lot of sense to cast the actor instead.
For a show that was so much about diversity and inclusion, it made sense for the school principal to be a person of color. Furthermore, Principal Figgins’ bickering with Sue Sylvester gained a new life, as the chemistry between Iqbal Theba and Jane Lynch was undeniable.
This was yet another evidence of how Glee was on the forefront of what would become commonplace for television years later: a diverse cast of actors playing equally important characters on broadcast TV.
2 HURT: THE LOSS OF CORY MONTEITH
On July 13, 2013, actor Cory Monteith lost his life. During that summer, Glee was in-between its fourth and fifth seasons, and the production team had to rework on entire storylines and long-term plans in order to deal with the actor’s loss and address the fact that his character would no longer be seen on the show.
The third episode of Glee’s fifth season, titled “The Quarterback,” was entirely dedicated to Cory Monteith’s character, Finn Hudson.
This was, without a doubt, the most disheartening last-minute change that the show had to endure.
It yielded a sad tribute episode that featured Lea Michele (Cory’s girlfriend in real life and on Glee) saying her goodbyes.
1 SAVED: THE SHOW DREW INSPIRATIONS FROM CHICAGO
Because Glee premiered in 2009 as a musical TV project aimed at young audiences, critics were quick to draw comparisons between the series and Disney’s High School Musical franchise, which had just premiered its third and final movie in 2008.
When directly asked about whether Glee had drawn any inspirations from High School Musical, Ryan Murphy stated that he had never watched any of the HSM movies. Instead, Ryan spoke about the role that American Idol played on convincing Fox to greenlight a scripted TV musical series, and how Glee had been inspired by certain “types of rules” established by the Academy Award-winning 2002 film Chicago.
The so-called “postmodern musical” tone gave Glee a much different voice in comparison to High School Musical, which was great, because audiences were craving something different at that point.
What's your favorite last-minute change made to Glee? Let us know in the comments!