How 8 Hit High School Shows Dealt With TV's Dreaded Graduation Problem


“Glee” creator Ryan Murphy dropped a bomb over the weekend: he’s prepared to let his star characters graduate high school and leave the show as early as next season.

Murphy made it clear that he considers Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester) and Matthew Morrison (Mr. Schuester) the permanent anchors of the musical comedy.

New cast members, he added, could replace Lea Michele and Co.

We can’t say we saw this coming.

“Glee” isn’t exactly neurotic about logic and realism — so we wouldn’t have been surprised if Murphy kept his kids crystallized at seventeen indefinitely.

And taking characters out of their happy high school setting is always a ratings risk — but one that “Glee” is apparently ready to take.

(At least they’ve got some extra ammo onhand — Murphy also recent said he’s hiring a real writing staff for the first time in the show’s history.)

It wasn't the end of its characters' high school careers that felled 'The O.C.' The writers killed off one of the four main characters (played by Mischa Barton) in the same episode as high school graduation. The next season (the show's fourth and final) felt generally deflated. It culminated with watered-down flash forwards showing the rest of the kids finishing college and going off into the world.

But don't feel bad. Its failure gave us the TV movie that wrapped everything up: 'Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas.'

The season five finale of the series saw the gang graduate from high school -- but more importantly, Topanga proposed to Cory. Writers managed to keep the show alive for two more seasons by balancing their odd little college-set marriage with the typical coed adventures of the show's other characters.

That CW soap's creators had stretched the characters' teen years as far as they could (each season only saw them age six months for a while) -- but when graduation could be avoided no longer, the writers decided to skip college altogether. The fourth season finale saw the kids get their diplomas; season five caught up with them in their early twenties. It evidently worked -- the show's ninth and final season will air this fall.

Part of the show's DNA was sticking to natural high school timing -- and easing audiences into new characters (like Michael B. Jordan) by having some old friends (like Taylor Kitsch) drop in and out.

Some got into NYU. Others just lolled around. And to be honest, their lives didn't look all that different -- so the viewers weren't disturbed.

The cast of the original '90210' survived high school graduation and went on to cause drama at the fictional California University. Shannen Doherty's departure from the show (she was off to college in London, the writers decided) was a change bigger than any plot point could have cause -- and fans, accustomed to the show's constant cast changes, hung in there.

The season finale of the CW reboot saw the main cast graduate from high school -- but the network has kept mum on what next season has in store.

Now check out what happened this week in history.

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