Tragedy for ‘Glee’: Series Must Now Cope with Star’s Death

Cory Monteith and Lea Michele as star-crossed lovebirds Finn and Rachel on "Glee" (Photo: Fox)

The death of Cory Monteith comes just as the producers and writers of “Glee” are preparing to start production next month on next season’s episodes.

That means they are likely far into the writing of scripts for at least a handful of episodes — three or four, perhaps, maybe more — and have also likely sketched out possible story arcs that will play out as the season evolves.

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The premiere date for the fifth season of “Glee” is Thursday, Sept. 19, on Fox. Monteith, 31, was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room at around midday on Saturday.

Besides issuing some prepared statements, the shocking news of his death is still so recent that neither Fox nor the producers of “Glee” have yet talked about the upcoming season and what Monteith’s death will mean to the series.

And nor should they be talking about it just yet since, by all accounts, Monteith was a well-liked member of the “Glee” family and the show’s cast and crew are understandably in mourning. But we expect officials to begin addressing the ramifications and challenges for the show in the next few weeks as filming begins and the fall season approaches.

Among them:

1) Any and all planned Cory storylines will simply have to be eliminated or redone: Depending on how much Monteith’s character — Finn Hudson — is already figuring into portions of scripts that are already completed, this presents a huge challenge. Among the ways in which Finn was critical to the show’s success and stories was his on-again, off-again romance with Rachel (Lea Michele), perhaps the most avidly followed of all the various couplings on “Glee.” Obviously, this love affair is over. Now, inevitably, scripts or parts of them will have to be torn up and restarted from scratch, starting with the season premiere, which could now be delayed.

How “Glee” ended the fourth season in May: Watch the season finale right here:
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2) Which brings us to No. 2: Dealing with the death on the show: How will Finn be written out of the show? It’s always a tough question when a vital cast member on any TV show suddenly dies. Do you simply create a scenario where he or she moves away? Or do you deal with the death head-on? One example: When John Ritter suddenly died in 2003 at the outset of the season for the ABC sitcom, “8 Simple Rules,” the show incorporated his death — as the death of his character — into the show.

3) Heartbreak on the set: Suddenly, a beloved member of the family is dead. With a cast and crew in mourning, how do you coax the best possible performances out of your grieving cast members? Among those who will be hit hardest by the news will be Michele herself, since she and Monteith were dating. As of Sunday evening (July 14), Michele had issued no statements on Monteith’s death. “We ask that everyone kindly respect Lea’s privacy during this devastating time,” said a statement from the actress’s press rep.

4) The heartbreak of the show’s young fans: At its core, “Glee” has always been a dramatic series about teens discovering and nurturing their heretofore hidden talents and finding their true selves. While that process has always been shown on the series to bring a certain amount of heartache along with it, growing pains on “Glee” tend to be eased by music. But this is one heartbreak that won’t be as easily repaired as the fictional heartbreaks on “Glee.” In addition, because the bulk of the show’s fan base are teen-aged or even younger, dealing with the death of Finn will require a great deal of extra sensitivity on the part of the show’s creative team.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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