| LOS ANGELES, July 15
LOS ANGELES, July 15 The death of "Glee" actor
Cory Monteith over the weekend comes just weeks before
production begins of the fifth season of the Fox musical comedy,
throwing it into disarray at a time when the creators needed to
revive the waning series.
Canadian actor Monteith, 31, was not only a founding cast
member, but also an integral player in promoting "Glee's"
overarching message of tolerance.
Making matters more complicated for producers was his
off-screen relationship with another of the show's top
actresses, Lea Michele, who plays his love interest on the show.
It is unclear how their story would have proceeded in season
five. And in the wake of Monteith's death in a Vancouver hotel
on Saturday, representatives at Fox Broadcasting, a unit of
Twenty-First Century Fox, were not commenting on the future
plans of the show which was scheduled to return to production
later this month.
The show was renewed by Fox for two more seasons earlier
this year, running through 2015. But producers for "Glee," which
has been one of Fox's top shows, were facing some tough truths
even before Monteith's death.
"Glee" garnered an average 10.1 million viewers according to
Nielsen during its peak in 2010, but its viewership has been
dwindling. Season 4, which concluded in May, dropped to the
show's lowest ratings average yet, with 8.7 million viewers.
"The show's been running out of storylines and sort of
reaching its end thematically ... and Cory's death is a huge
loss for the show as one of the founding characters," said Ian
Drew, entertainment director of Us Weekly.
FANS WANT 'HAPPY ENDING'
Monteith had talked openly about his struggles with
substance abuse. In April, he completed voluntary treatment at a
rehab facility for an unspecified substance addiction.
An autopsy was conducted on Monday and results will not be
available for several days.
"Glee" premiered in 2009 and instantly became a hit for Fox,
with its motivational storylines, upbeat musical numbers and a
diverse young cast playing a mix of popular and oddball school
students who come together in a musical choir group.
Monteith became a heart-throb in his role as the jock who
turned into "Glee" member Finn Hudson.
"He was actually the center of the show in terms of
promoting tolerance," said TV critic David Bianculli.
"When his character began, he was the jock that just
happened to sing. He ended up liking the misfits and loving them
and sticking up for them and eventually teaching them."
MTV Buzzworthy editor Tamar Anitai, who monitors social
media buzz on pop culture topics, said "Glee" fans known as
"Gleeks" were eager to see a tribute paid to Monteith in the
show and a happy ending for his and Michele's characters.
"Unfortunately you can't control what happened to Cory in
real life, but the creators have control over what happens to
him in the show. Fans would really like to see a happy ending,
even an off-screen wedding, for Cory and Lea," Anitai said.
While "Glee" has not shied away from handling serious topics
such as homosexuality, bullying and teenage pregnancy, the show
never had to deal with the death of a major character. The only
death in the show was the sister of Sue Sylvester, the high
school coach played by actress Jane Lynch.
Previously when television shows have dealt with the death
of a major star, the impact on the series has been mixed.
Actor John Ritter died mid-way through production of the ABC
sitcom "8 Simple Rules" in 2003. The show went into a hiatus and
then incorporated the death of Ritter's character on its return.
Its ratings declined and it was canceled in 2005.
Other major stars to pass away mid-series include Phil
Hartman in "News Radio," Nicholas Colasanto in "Cheers" and
Larry Hagman in the recently revived "Dallas." All those
characters were written out of the shows and new characters
replaced Hartman and Colasanto.
While Monteith's death is unlikely to force the early
cancellation of "Glee," both Bianculli and Drew said it could
mean an eventual end to the series.
"It could be harbinger of things to come, but honestly I
don't think the show had much longer anyways," Drew said.