Thursday’s tribute to Cory Monteith was, as expected, a weepy one. To their credit, Fox did not overly exploit the hour. No advance screener was sent to critics. Calls to interview executive producer Ryan Murphy or others were ignored. The episode, titled “The Quarterback,” was allowed to speak for itself.
There was no breaking of the fourth wall or stepping out of character. It was in many ways like any other episode, basically a reunion at McKinley High with Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison) asking Finn Hudson’s glee club colleagues old and new to sing a song in remembrance of their friend.
The episode picks up three weeks after Hudson’s death and the character’s passing is never explained. Kurt (Chris Colfer) speaks for us all when he says he’d rather dwell on how Finn/Cory lived, not how he died.
Several players returned for the episode, with Dot Marie Jones (Coach Beiste) and Mark Salling (Puck) handed some of the best lines. Missing was Diane Agron which was a shame because she always shone when Glee got real.
Murphy did not over task a grieving Lea Michelle, Monteith’s real-life girlfriend. Any more of Michelle would have been too raw, for her and the audience.
The song tributes were, if anything, subdued. Several cast mates chimed in on James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. I thought we’d hear Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) but maybe the rights cost too much. Amber Riley knocked I’ll Stand By You out of the park.
You could see a lot of the story points coming all the way from Lima. You knew Mr. Shue would sit crying with Hudson’s old football jacket at the end. You knew Sue Sylvester would behave badly and then pour out her love for the lad.
The predictable plot didn’t matter. Much more effecting was the genuine grief on the faces of almost every cast member during several scenes Thursday night. It was heartbreaking to watch and while it powerfully conveyed the sorrow felt by all of Finn Hudson’s friends, it also felt weird to witness the personal loss those actors must have felt for Monteith.
A few years ago, Monteith called me at home–I can’t remember if it was to do an interview or re-arrange one. I wasn’t home but my son Dan answered. Instead of rushing the kid off the phone, Monteith took the time to talk about the series and even ask Dan a few questions. He was always the same way whenever I’d encounter him at press tours–polite, considerate, able to see past himself.
In July at the most recent press tour, Mike O’Malley–who played Finn’s step-dad–praised Monteith as an actor and said he brought the best out in him during their scenes together.
O’Malley returned to Glee Thursday in an emotional scene opposite Colfer. Tears in his eyes, he said that he just wished he had given Monteith a hug the last time he saw him. Don’t we all.
SHOW MUST GO ON: Read here in this story I wrote this week for The Canadian Press how other shows have dealt with the real life death of a lead actor.

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