By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Eight stars of Fox TV's musical comedy "Glee" bid farewell to McKinley High and headed down separate paths to pursue their dreams, leaving fans guessing how the show will follow their stories next season.
Fox has said "Glee" will split time between McKinley High in Ohio and New York City, where two characters were heading, and creator Ryan Murphy has said all the current stars will return in some fashion.
During Tuesday's third-season finale, the seniors who graduated were Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), Kurt (Chris Colfer), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), Puck (Mark Salling), Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Santana (Naya Rivera). Brittany's (Heather Morris) poor grades kept her from getting a diploma.
Amid tearful goodbyes and covers of Bruce Springsteen and Beatles songs, show-choir star Rachel won acceptance to a New York performing arts school. But in a surprise, she traveled to the Big Apple solo after classmate Kurt didn't make the cut and fiancé Finn was rejected by an acting studio. Finn joined the Army and told Rachel to pursue her Broadway dreams on her own.
Santana planned to move to New York with her mother's blessing using money she had saved for college. Dancer Mike Chang was headed to Chicago, and Mercedes was going to Los Angeles to try a singing career.
With the characters heading in different directions, it is unclear how "Glee" will weave them all into next season.
When it returns in the fall, the program will feature a "show within a show following some of the characters to New York," Fox executive Kevin Reilly told reporters last week.
"A couple of fresh faces in Ohio" will join the castmates still in high school," he said. Returning students include Artie (Kevin McHale), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Blaine (Darren Criss). Actresses Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker will appear as guest stars on some episodes.
"Glee" also will move to Thursday nights this fall, and all the current stars will make new appearances, show creator Murphy told New York magazine's Vulture website last week.
"We've become like a family, and I said to them, 'Anybody who wants to stay on the show will stay on the show,'" Murphy said. "They're all coming back. Anyone who is a regular is coming back. Everyone said, 'yes.'"
How much each will be on screen, however, is unknown. "It doesn't mean everyone will be doing 22 episodes," Murphy said.
"Glee" emerged as a pop culture phenomenon in 2010 with quirky humor plus dance routines to cover versions of popular songs. The program is one of Fox's top shows, although ratings have fallen sharply this year.
Heading into last year's finale, "Glee" averaged 8.4 million weekly viewers, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media. That slipped to 6.6 million this year.
Fox is a unit of News Corp.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)