Glee returns tonight and I’m pretty excited about it. From talking to the producers and cast members at Comic Con, it seems that they are trying to get back to basics, and have a third season that’s more like season one. I fell in love with the show in season one, and while I really enjoyed season two as well, season one is what the show is all about. Ian Brennan (Executive Producer) talked about the upcoming season, Sue Sylvester’s new political campaign and which secondary characters we might see in the spotlight in season three.
Do you want to bring it a little back to basics?
That’s a fair summary. When you’re in it, the three of us have written 44 episodes and it’s just us. You sort of get into a bubble. The technique, the way we go about shows, has never changed since the beginning — literally since we wrote the pilot until now. So all the changes in the show were never deliberate. We were never like, let’s do a season that’s _____. That said, I think so. It’s really less about getting back to anything than just sort of the stories that we have to tell in season three needing somewhat more of a narrative structure just to sort of do justice to the fact that it is their senior year. That requires a little more structure and it’s going to be plot heavier.
There are a lot of benchmarks to senior year, so can you tell us about the milestones they’ll be having this year?
I just think it is in and of itself, a benchmark. That’s what’s the tragedy of high school, as soon as you get used to being there and you finally feel at home, you have to leave. And I think that’s a very melancholy Glee sort of thing. We toyed early on with it being like M*A*S*H and the Korean War goes on for ten years, but it didn’t seem right. It seemed like you couldn’t tell a high school story without the fact that it ends. So that’s what’s really exciting about this season and I think, because we just started writing it, and you can never really tell until you see it air, but I think it’s going to be have sort of melancholy tendencies, which I think is going to work really well.
Is there going to be an overarching theme? Like the bullying element last season?
There are three or four of those…just because the stakes are higher.
I’ll update this as more stuff comes in, so keep checking back!
Press Line Interviews
GLEE AT COMIC-CON PANEL
(huge thank you to firegaze21 on YouTube!)
I will add to this post as more videos are released:
(old interview, new to me)
Jane Lynch, Cory Monteith, Kevin McHale, Chris Colfer, and Matthew Morrison spent an hour with BBC Radio 1 on Sunday night for “The Story of Glee”.
Ian Brennan stopped by AfterBuzz for their episode of BuzzTV’s recap of “Funeral”. The whole show is an hour long but you can catch a short clip below. Check it out HERE and watch it because Ian answers some great questions!
Ian Brennan and his home were featured on HGTV’s “Secrets of a Stylist” last week and I am a total design nerd so I was positively giddy when I saw the before & after pictures. Check it out!
Before and After: Glee Co-Creator’s L.A. Bungalow
HGTV Design Star winner Emily Henderson discovers Glee co-creater Ian Brennan’s design style, a mixture of historic traditional, ’60s mod and global traveler, to make over his L.A. home.
You might have noticed that we’re big Glee fans here at Tube Talk, so when we got the chance to chat to Ian Brennan – one of the executive producers – it was all very exciting. We fired questions at him about the romances on the show, whether we’ll be seeing any more original songs, and how he keeps coming up with new insults for Will’s hair… Read on to find out what Ian had to say!
Are you pleased with how the second season has gone so far?
“Yeah. It’s been a lot of work as ever, because there’s just three of us writing the entire season. It’s always a little overwhelming, but totally fantastic. I really like how this season is wrapping up. We’ve got just a couple more to write and then we’ll be done for now, but yeah, it’s been really great.”
You’ve got such a big cast now – is juggling all the characters challenging?
“Yeah, actually. There are usually three or four, sometimes five, characters an episode that we have to focus on, so the show actually comes in and out of focus with different characters at different times. A lot of times we’ll take a couple of episodes off from Rachel and Finn or from Sam or whatever, but we always kind of come back to it. It’s actually a really refreshing aspect of the show that you can put storylines aside for a little bit and focus on other things and then come back to them.”
Some fans have been saying that there’s not been enough Tina this season, for example.
“Yeah – we literally hear that about every character! We have 15 of them. Like, I swear we’re going to get to it. It’s literally trying to juggle all those characters but they’re all so beloved and they’re all so interesting for us to write for so we try not to play favorites. We just try to get back to stuff when we can and when it seems right. So yes, there’ll be more of Tina, more of Mercedes, more of everybody ultimately.”
What can you tell us about Finn and Rachel’s relationship at the moment?
“Finn and Rachel are sort of at a crossroads, I think. In a way, that relationship feels a lot like how my second year of high school felt. That sophomore year where the bloom has come off the rose and you realize everything’s a little bit harder and a little bit more frustrating and a little bit more fraught. That’s sort of how that relationship has felt for me.”
Will we be seeing more of the Kurt and Karofsky storyline?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. In the last five or six episodes it comes back to the fore.”
Can you give us any hints about what we can expect?
Have you found that storyline difficult to write – to do it justice?
“I wouldn’t say that, it doesn’t feel that way. This whole second season, in a way, that character of Kurt has stepped to the fore, and we didn’t really intend that. It feels like it just sort of clicked. It’s more that we want to do justice to that storyline that we’ve been doing the entire season. It’s more just for our story rather than any broader thinking about bigotry or the things that have been said over and over again. I don’t know if we have much to add to that. But I’m more interested in making the storyline come round to a satisfying conclusion and I think it will.”
There are a lot of fans of Brittany and Santana – how will their relationship develop?
“We’ll see. I think we’re setting up what I think is a really interesting dynamic of sexual identity and sexual fluidity. Partly, in a pair, those characters are so much fun to write for. It’s just a blast to do. So playing against what has sort of been a comedy pairing – really giving that much more, just grounding that a little bit more – I think should be really satisfying.”
There were reports recently that the upcoming ‘Born This Way’ episode will be 90 minutes long – is that true?
“Yeah, I think that’s going to be the case which is going to be great. We’re always desperately cutting down our episodes. Even when we write them, and then in the editing room we’re always throwing away stuff that I really love to get it down to time. It will be actually really interesting to have that extra whatever it will be – 24 minutes – added on. It will be just really interesting content-wise for us. That episode’s going to be fantastic.”
What can you tell us about that episode? Why is it so long?
“I think there were a couple of numbers that we had to cut for length but are going to be good. I just think the story’s going to be very ‘on’. It’s going to be a really Glee episode of Glee and the music, that song, is just going to fit in really well, I think. I think it will be one of those episodes that cracks away – sometimes the show can really do that, where you just feel like it’s really cracking and funny and smart. I think that [‘Born This Way’] will be one of those episodes.”
You write Sue, who has become such an iconic character. Where do you get your inspiration?
“Oh, you just take out the filter! You just say all the things you wish you could say to people in positions of authority. I think there’s a little Sue in all of us – we just all get used to not saying it. That’s what’s great about the character, because she really, really, really will say anything.”
Is it ever a struggle to find new ways to insult Will’s hair, for instance?
“Sometimes! I actually thought a couple of weeks ago, ‘I wonder if I’ve run out?’ And then actually it was yesterday I figured out a whole new way to make fun of his hair, so I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s great’. But that’s sort of what happens with Sue. It’s such a fun character to write. She has so many nuances and there’s just no place she won’t go to make fun of someone, which is great. It really opens you up. And Jane [Lynch] is such a genius. She could make the phonebook hilarious. She makes my job very easy.”
Do you prefer writing the funny moments or the emotional scenes?
“Both. That’s what’s great about the show and that was such a surprise. As the show grew and developed I was actually surprised about how well those two things go together. I think early on I thought of this show as much more of a ‘comedy’ comedy, and then you realize, no, it’s a really different sort of weird little animal where those things sit right next to each other. You can have scenes that are very funny and biting that butt up right against – sometimes literally in the same scene – [moments that] can then be very emotional and very sweet. I think that was a surprise for all of us. We didn’t expect for that to be what the show would feel like. And then you add music to it and it’s just… I personally think that’s why people have responded to it in such a big way. It feels different than it usually does to sit down and watch television. It’s a different kind of experience and it is just more emotional. The show has a big heart as well as a big mouth!”
There have been original songs in the show this season – are you planning to include more of those?
“I think so, yeah. To me the joy of the show is always that endorphin rush of music that you’ve heard and reinvented, or music that you haven’t heard in a while from our collective rock and roll memory. I was really surprised at how much fun that was, to write those songs and to work on them and have them in, so I’d be shocked if we didn’t do more of those.”
Do you feel under pressure to do what the fans want? They’re so involved in the show.
“I try to do as little reading [as possible] about the show, whether it be fan input or criticism or whatever. There’s such a lot of material to get out that I usually find that can be sometimes a little overwhelming. That said, you generally get a sense of stuff – you get a feel of what people like and what people don’t like. You get an aggregated opinion of what people are thinking. I guess the key is to let it influence what you do but don’t let it control what you do. To be honest, I don’t think you should really write to what the fans are asking for. I think you listen and then you sit aside and then you think, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do’. I think a lot of times that’s when you get really exciting stuff. And then stuff is unexpected to fans, rather than just like, ‘Well, we wanted this and then it happened’. That’s our job, to come up with stuff that will surprise you. I think we’re pretty good about doing that. There is so much volume that you do when you’re doing 22 episodes of television – it’s a lot, so some of the stuff you do is going to work better than others. It’s a credit to how well the show has clicked with people that people have opinions. I’m always shocked at the depth with which people attach themselves to the show. So it’s all a good thing.”
Finally, what one thing can you tease for the rest of the season?
“Geez… I don’t know if I have anything! Yeah, that’s going to have to be a question mark – sorry!”
Ian is by far my favorite of all the Glee writers. Check out this great article!
In 2005, Ian Brennan was a New York City-based actor who decided to write a darkly comedic screenplay about a high school glee club. While he had trouble selling the project as a film, it landed in the lap of TV super-producer Ryan Murphy, at the time most famous for Nip/Tuck. Murphy liked the idea of the project so much that he and fellow Nip/Tuck writer Brad Falchuk teamed up with Brennan to turn the idea of a story about high school performers into a TV show. Glee debuted in the spring of 2009 after American Idol and quickly became one of television’s most buzzed-about shows, soon gaining the ratings to match its press. Now, Fox has given the show the much-coveted spot after the Super Bowl, where it’s all but guaranteed to bring in its biggest audience yet. Brennan talked with The A.V. Club about the process of writing Glee, his Super Bowl programming memories, and why he writes so much stuff for Sue Sylvester.
The A.V. Club: Do you have any memories of watching certain programs after the Super Bowl?
Ian Brennan: Well, I grew up in Chicago, and the ’85 Bears winning was about the most insane thing that had happened to that time. I remember that specifically. I remember the whole month leading up to it. I remember you could go to McDonald’s, and they had these weird square pressings of the Super Bowl Shuffle, on like 78s or whatever. Strangely, I did watch that ’85 Bears Super Bowl a while back; my friend Travis had it on VHS, he had the entire ’85 Bears season on VHS, and it’s crazy to look at how different the Super Bowl was then. Oddly enough, the ’85 Bears halftime show was literally Up With People. It is astonishing. Anyway, so that’s my big memory, and then after that, the Super Bowl has always been sort of a depressing time for Bears fans. … But as far as stuff following it, nothing rings a bell.
We were really flattered and surprised when Fox approached us with this because we thought it was an interesting combination and hilarious and a good opportunity for us. It’ll be by far our biggest audience tuning in. It’s just sort of the cream of the television crop, I suppose, so it’ll be interesting. [Laughs.]
AVC: Are you shifting the show at all to accommodate people who’ve never watched it?
IB: Not really. It just sort of happened that the first frames of the show are of the Cheerios doing an outrageously overblown number, which should be really, really funny. And then we sort of commented after the fact, “Oh, that’s actually a really good way to lead into this.” But other than that, no, we sort of break every story the same. We mull things over a lot and this one we thought a lot about. We thought, you know, was it going to be a themed episode or whatever, and finally, we were just like, “No, let’s just write an episode the way we would write it and just make it big and funny.” I think we succeeded. I have to qualify this by saying I haven’t seen a frame of the final cut. I know what we shot, and I know what we wrote. Hopefully, in a couple days, I’ll be able to see a full cut. But yeah, it was the same process that we always use.
AVC: This show was originally based on a screenplay you wrote, correct?
IB: Yeah, essentially, I had the idea for a film. I had written a screenplay; it’s so different though from how it was conceived of, sort of as an independent film, as to how it is now. It’s just two sides of the same coin, I suppose. But yeah, I was in glee club in high school and then had always thought it was interesting, sort of a strange niche, a strange aspect of high school, and no one had told that story, and it was astonishing to me.
I was an actor in New York—I’m not trained as a writer at all—and I sat down. It was five years ago, almost exactly five-and-a-half now. It was in the summer of 2005. I bought Final Draft on the computer. I’d read a lot of screenplays, but I’d never written one. I’d written some plays and stuff, but I sort of joke that it’s easier to get a pilot on television than it is to get a play produced in New York.
Anyway, I figured I would spend that August writing this story that I had, and about a month later, it sort of popped out as a screenplay, and a couple of years later, it just randomly ended up in Ryan’s lap, and it just struck a chord with him. I went in and met with Ryan and Brad and just instantly hit it off. We just all laughed and that’s sort of the process now. We just sit in a room and try to make each other laugh. And it’s not easy. It’s a big task. It’s just the three of us. We haven’t hired a staff. We probably will soon. But it’s a lot. Twenty-two episodes is a lot in any circumstances, but then for just three people to do, it’s like a suicide mission in a lot of ways. [Laughs.] We’ve been hesitant to change the formula because it has sort of worked, and we really enjoy each other’s company and have been reticent to mess with that.
Anyway, for me it’s been a dream come true. To say it’s the opportunity of a lifetime is an understatement. This has been the opportunity of 10 lifetimes. [Laughs.] It’s just such a strange circumstance that I find myself here. It’s totally wonderful.
AVC: What were some of the biggest shifts you had to make to take it from something that was going to be a film to something that was going to be a TV show?
IB: It was essentially starting from square one. It was essentially taking just the idea and sort of the tone and being like, “Well now this has to be in our television show.” Initially, from an outsider’s point of view, with television, you have censors breathing down your back and network executives with notes and notes and notes. I’ve been really surprised, and I think it’s a credit to the way Fox works and to Ryan’s force of character that we’re actually spared a lot of that. It helps that the network are big fans of the show, and the studio, and that they’re sort of on our side and that they rarely raise a stink about anything, and when they do that’s usually stuff that they should be raising a stink about. Or they usually have a point. So that’s actually been a really pleasant surprise. I remember reading a blurb from Seth MacFarlane, who was talking about the process of Standards And Practices, and he was like, “You know, those people are your friends. They’re not the censors. They’re actually trying to protect you from the censors.”
And we have a great team. It’s been exciting. Just the way we the three of us write together, it’s just a fast process. It’s almost like writing a comic strip, in a way. You just continue, just always talking it out. For me, as compared to how it is writing by myself—and in particular, not being trained as a writer, writing for me was always a very solitary, very lonely, depressing process. It was just wrenching. And this is such the opposite of that. It’s sort of a joyous fountain that stuff shoots out. It’s just enjoyable to sit in a room with the two of them, and the three of us just entertain each other.
AVC: So you guys break all the stories together. What’s the writing process then from there?
IB: We essentially write to different characters. There are some characters that generally Brad will write, and some that I will write. It’s generally fast and loose. It’s not always the same; it depends, episode to episode. In the room, tonally, there’s certain characters each one of us will take the lead on. Which is actually—I hear multiple voices on the show, and I think that’s one of the things that’s unique. It bounces between tone, it bounces between voices. Some people might find that frustrating; that’s actually one of the most fun parts of it. That’s my greatest joy is just sitting down and seeing what Ryan and Brad write. Just the stuff that they can whip out is just really, really funny. It’s amazing to see what each of us can come up with when given the same sort of input.
It’s not a typical writing process. It’s my first go at it, so I actually have trouble envisioning doing it any other way. It’s become very, very efficient, and I, personally, like the process, and I like more and more what we’re doing. It’s interesting on TV, because as the story changes, the show changes, and the show tells you what it wants to be, it feels like.
AVC: Jane Lynch mentioned in her Golden Globes acceptance speech that you have written everything for her character. Do you have relationships with any other characters like that? Or do the other writers have particular characters they always write for?
IB: There is overlap. None of us can truly claim authorship to any character. We all write together, but the Sue character I tend to write. For instance, Brad writes most of the Burt/Kurt stuff, father/son stuff, which I find just remarkable. And then the character of Kurt in a lot of ways is Ryan, so there’s a lot of different voices in there. I’ve been recently writing a lot of Santana and Brittany stuff, and sometimes Brad does as well. It all sort of shifts and moves. It’s a little reductive, but early on in the process Ryan sort of remarked, “Well, I’m sort of the brain. Brad’s sort of the heart. Ian’s sort of the funny bone.” That is true in a lot of ways.
AVC: You just mentioned the comedy stuff, but are there particular types of scenes you enjoy writing the most?
IB: For me, personally, it gets really fun when the characters are allowed to get mean. That’s unexpected for me, as I’m generally a very jolly person. That may actually be the reason why I enjoy it so much. But there’s something about when you just allow characters to go at each other that that’s when it gets really fun for me.
It’s interesting. I was able to write a really emotional scene yesterday, and I’m not a big crier, and, God, it’s lame to cry as you’re writing something, but that’s sort of the joy of the show, is that it does flip between the two. And I credit a lot of that to the fact that it’s a musical. Those shifts in tone work, if at all, because of the music underneath them. It sort of buoys it in a way. You can just get away with a tiny bit more, and that’s really a surprise, and I think that’s something we stumbled on and found. I would have never guessed that to be true, and we didn’t really have a model, either. We didn’t know. There wasn’t really a formula to follow for a show like this because it didn’t really exist before. Or hadn’t existed for a while, if at all.
AVC: It seems like you guys kind of take episode credit in order, usually going Brennan, Murphy, Falchuk. Does that mean you’ve turned in the first draft or done the last pass at it, or does it essentially mean nothing?
IB: It varies. A lot of the times it’s who’s taken the lead in story breaking or who wrote a draft, but it is fast and loose, with the emphasis on fast. For a while, we’d been doing it in order, and now, actually, we’re out of order with the hope that it’ll all be even in the end.
AVC: You mentioned earlier that you guys had thought about taking on a writing staff. Do you think that will ever happen?
IB: Yes. Definitely. I think fairly soon. It’s, again, more just a function of the work load, and taking people right now would actually slow us down, I think. So we’ll just need a little bit of a break to then have a breather and get a staff up. Probably not a ton of people, but just some more brains to bounce off of, because right now it’s just the three of us. I look forward to that. It’ll be interesting. And it’ll be interesting to see how, if at all, it would alter the show tonally or story-wise. That’s going to be interesting to see. And quite frankly, we’ve been reticent about it because we have a very intense feeling of ownership for it, and it’s hard to hand over your baby, or let someone babysit it.
AVC: When you guys get the songs, are you figuring out story developments and then figuring out which songs will fit to that?
IB: It’s almost always the story first. I actually can’t think of an exception to that, though I’m sure there has been one. Something where we’re like, “Oh that’s an amazing song. That’s a song that should totally be on our show.” But I can’t actually think of the last time that happened. Usually in the room, we’ll talk through stuff, and that’s usually where Ryan is at his most astonishing. He has a really great ear for what will work on the show, and I feel like he has a really high success rate. He tends to pick most of the songs, and we throw our two cents in. I’ve joked before that, it’s true, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of two things, one of which is what people wore to the Oscars [Laughs.] dating back to whenever, and Top 40 songs from like, the 1960s on. He just knows. It’s sort of weird. And he just has a good ear for what people will like. It’s an interesting mix. There won’t be a song on the show, but we were actually talking about Joan Armatrading just last night, just like shit I’d never heard of, and chanteuses from the ’70s. For me it just works. It fits the tone of the show really well. I have to give mostly props to him.
AVC: It seems like some of your fellow writers and yourself will often let a lot of future story developments out into the press. Is this a show where you think spoilers can help it?
IB: I don’t know. It’s usually Ryan and Brad. I sort of leave that up to them. I don’t know whether it helps the show or hurts it. I think it helps. It keeps people interested and talking about it, I suppose, and we do get asked a lot. That’s the thing. It is a credit to the show being popular but there does seem to be a lot of hunger out there to know what’s happening, but I suppose that’s not unique to our show at all. There’s just stuff on Twitter and press events or any awards, and you’re constantly asked, so you always want to dole out tidbits to people to keep them interested and let them know that yes, that’s on our mind, we’re totally covering that. The trickiest part for me is, you want to spill the beans all the time. Whenever you hear, “You should bring back Brittany and Santana!” or “What was that with Sue?” and you want to be like, “No, we’re on it. Trust us.” [Laughs.] We get what you’re saying. We do have a cast of about 15 characters now, and every couple of episodes, some are going to disappear for a little bit. It’s on our mind. We’re trying to get back to it. It’s a fantastic problem to have, frankly.
AVC: This show has evolved a lot since it debuted. What has been a story development that worked better than you ever possibly could have imagined, and what’s been one that was worse?
IB: I would say at the beginning, the Will pregnancy storyline sort of, I think, people tired of. But we were still finding the show in and of itself, and it was funny. And also, it hadn’t aired. We filmed those first 13 episodes before any aired. I think a good example of a storyline taking flight was the storyline about Kurt and the bully and then him going to a different school. That somehow breathed life into itself. It just seemed to take flight, and it sort of became thematically a center for this whole season. Which is why it was so wonderful to see Chris [Colfer], along with Jane, at the Golden Globes. It was very affirming for what we spent a lot of time thinking about.
It’s interesting, for me, because I’m new to it, the sort of call-and-response aspect of TV. There is a lot of throwing stuff out there and then you see what people think. Particularly with a show like that where it is so out-there and in the zeitgeist, I think that we do have a sort of a responsibility in that sense, to take the temperature of the stuff we do. Sometimes we’re more successful; sometimes we’re less successful. What’s so wonderful is that there seems to be a joy and a loyalty to the show. That’s the wrong word. There’s something about the show, sort of an abiding joy to the show that’s an undercurrent beneath it that supersedes the rest, I think. It’s an enjoyable ride.