What’s next for “Glee’s” big stars after their departures?

Last week it was revealed that three of the biggest stars from the popular – well, once popular – Fox series would be leaving the show. Lea Michele (Rachel), Cory Monteith (Finn), and Chris Colfer (Kurt), who were sophomores when the show started, will be graduating at the end of the third season.

Show creator Ryan Murphy said, "When they started the show they were very clearly sophomores and they should graduate at the end of their senior year.” He said he wanted to keep it real, but what’s so real about having a 27-year-old play a high school sophomore (Monteith was 27 when he started playing Finn)? But that’s beside the point.

Colfer, who now has two Emmy nominations, apparently learned that he would not be returning for a fourth season via Twitter. But he’ll have no shortage of job offers when he leaves the show. He’s already filming the comedy “Struck by Lightning,” which also stars Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men” fame, Dermot Mulroney (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”, “About Schmidt”) and Allison Janney (“The West Wing,” “American Beauty,” “Juno”).

Michele, who already had quite a career on Broadway before joining “Glee,” already has two films in post-production: “Dorothy of Oz” and “New Year’s Eve.” But it seems the best place for her would be back on Broadway. Michele has a powerhouse voice, often being compared to a young Streisand. That’s where she really made a name for herself, and how she landed her role on “Glee,” so it only makes sense for her to return to her roots. But if she can keep her increasingly diva-like ego in check, she may be able to make it in Hollywood too, if her two upcoming movie roles go well.

Monteith, the oldest of the three, already had several film and television roles before joining “Glee,” so he could easily go either route. Staying on the small screen seems pretty unlikely, though, so he’ll most likely end up doing more movies with bigger roles or maybe continuing with his music career.

But the big question is how will “Glee” fare without its biggest cast members? The show’s ratings have already been slipping steadily since the first season, as many viewers grew tired of its novelty. It was cute at first, but quickly became predictable (Rachel and Finn would always get the leads, Kurt would make some statement about being gay, Mercedes [played by Amber Riley] would continue to be the sassy black girl, etc.)

To be candid, the show will probably fail once its dream team leaves. None of the other characters (except maybe Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester) offer much incentive to stay tuned in. But maybe the show will prove us all wrong like it did with its early success and find a way to stay relevant and successful. Wouldn’t that be something?

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