How many characters are on Glee, anyway?

In the first episode of the TV podcast that my friend J. and I started (shameless plug), we spent some time talking about Glee. While discussing the pilot, we agreed that a major issue with it was “all the other characters,” and I got to thinking: how many characters does Glee have, anyway? There were a ton introduced in the pilot alone, and almost all of those are still with us, plus a lot more. An early first season episode made the mistake of establishing that to be competition-legal, a glee club has to have at least twelve members. Just consider that for a moment: there have to be twelve students in the cast. Imagine if there were twelve sweathogs in Welcome Back, Kotter, or twelve members of the study group on Community, or twelve doctors on House (well, there was the fourth season). Not all of them have to take the forefront obviously, but that is a lot of fucking characters. And that’s not even counting the adults or incidental characters. I think we accept this from Glee because it was sprung on us fairly slowly. After all, the show originally spent a lot more time on Will and his home life, and there were originally only six student members of the club who didn’t get a lot of focus. Then the show switched its focus to the kids just as the size of the club grew to a competition-legal size. And we were left with this multi-headed beast of a cast that can never be slain.

Seriously, I want to list all these characters. It’s been a while since I’ve done a list, so cut me some slack. This will be done from memory, in no particular order, and it refers to the current cast as of “Choke.”

1. Rachel
2. Finn
3. Kurt
4. Puck
5. Mercedes
6. Blaine
7. Sam
8. Quinn
9. Joe
10. Rory
11. Sugar
12. Santana
13. Brittany
14. Tina
15. Mike
16. Artie

17. Will
18. Emma
19. Sue
20. Roz
21. Shannon

I could have stretched the list to include people like Burt, Becky, and Figgins, but I’m only including characters that had significant screen time in season three and are at least semi-regular.

So, good God. That’s over 20 characters. No wonder people just look at me quizzically when I try to talk about specific characters or relationships on the show (well, that, and I’m trying to talk to them about Glee). None of them are what you would call background characters either. Almost all of them have had at least one story. How can a show possibly expect to do justice to this huge a character list? I don’t think it’s possible, and I think it’s a big part of the reason that multi-episode arcs are coming, going, disappearing, and reappearing so randomly this season. They’re doing things with so many characters that you can’t keep up with all of them, especially when they spend so much time on Rachel and Finn alone and when so much of every episode has to be taken up by musical numbers.

Funniest of all is that Tina, a character who has been with the show ever since the very beginning, still isn’t fully established! In 62 episodes, she hasn’t had a single storyline of her own! Sure, she’s played relatively significant roles in episodes like “Wheels,” “Theatricality,” and, most recently, “Asian F,” but all those stories were about someone or something else, with her as a supporting character. We already know more about Wade than we know about Tina, for God’s sake. This show just has no idea how to handle this many characters. I don’t think any show would.

And you know what’s even worse? If season four really creates a show split between New York and the kids back in Lima, the cast will grow even more.

What they really should do is write the graduating seniors out of the show for real, and pare down the season four cast into one that has a core group of main characters that we can concentrate on. Unfortunately, that won’t happen because Glee is a runaway train at this point, and it’s going to stay on this track until it crashes.

(I keep predicting the demise of this show, despite the fact that I love it. I have a strange relationship with Glee.)