It turns out that Lima, Ohio, was just too small to contain the big dreams of the show choir kids of “Glee.”
For three seasons, Fox’s phenomenally popular musical series has been set largely within the halls of an Ohio high school, where the highs and lows of creatively inclined misfits played out in a small pond. But with the graduation of several of the show’s key characters last spring, “Glee’s” pond just got a whole lot bigger: Rachel (Lea Michele) has entered a prestigious New York school for the arts, while her pal Kurt (Chris Colfer) is itching to make his way in the Big Apple as well; Puck (Mark Salling) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) hope to it big in Los Angeles; Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) pursues his dream of dance in Chicago; and Finn’s (Cory Monteith) new stint in the military could land him just about anywhere.
Meanwhile, their dedicated teacher Will (Matthew Morrison) continues to build the ambitions of the classmates left behind, while also welcoming a new generation of budding talents to New Directions.
“I think it's the perfect time,” Morrison says of the fourth season’s expanded scope, still centered at McKinley High but newly expanded to follow the ups and downs of the creatively striving alumni. “I mean, the only high school show that I have in my mind when I think of a high school show is 'Saved by the Bell,' and they did the 'New Class' and the 'College Years.' It wasn't always the same thing, but it's all in the context of one show, so I'm excited.”
Michele says she’s equally stoked about the chance to follow Rachel’s path to Broadway fame under the guidance of stern but compassionate instructor Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg) – or failure, if her new dance teacher Cassandra July’s (Kate Hudson) relentless grilling breaks her spirit. “I'm working with Kate Hudson, I’m at school in New York City, I'm working with Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith and a new guy on show named Dean Geyer right now,” says Michele, who in Finn’s absence may find herself courted by Geyer’s confident upperclassman Brody Weston.
The actress says the cast has embraced the show’s broadening horizons, even if they don’t get to work together as often as they have in the past. “I mean I still see everybody every single day,” she says, “and it's great because they're on one unit and I'm on another, so it's like we're just not shooting scenes together but we're still all there. So it's like the best, actually.”
Monteith remains mum as to how Finn fits into upcoming storylines – largely because he remains a bit in the dark himself, being MIA on screen in early episodes. “I've done one or two scenes from season four so far, so I start a little further into the season,” he reveals. “It's definitely a different world, but it's a great new show. It feels like a rebirth in a sense.”
There’s certainly no shortage of plotlines for the show’s increasingly expansive cast of characters: in the first episode alone, we see Kurt struggling with post-graduation life, working a dead-end job at the Lima Bean coffee shop and spending too much time visiting the halls of McKinley; Rachel struggling to adapt to her new life in New York; Sue raising her new baby daughter while putting a new “head bitch” named Kitty (cast member Becca Tobin) in charge of the Cheerios; the remaining members of New Directions – Artie, Tina, Sam, Joe and Sugar – bask in newfound popularity after their win at Nationals; and former rival Wade Adams a.k.a. the cross-dressing Unique transfers to McKinley, joining other new glee club aspirants such as the secret-keeping Marley Rose (Melissa Benoist) and the moody, mysterious Jake (Jacob Artist).
Amid all the changes, there is one constant: the never-ending string of top pop songs performed by the cast. Episode One – “The New Rachel” offers music from a wide ranging array of artists, including Carly Rae Jepsen, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Adele, The Fray and Jennifer Lopez.