An autopsy will be conducted on the body of Glee star Cory Monteith today, as Fox execs begin discussing how to handle the return of the series on which he was a breakout star. The show’s writers, meanwhile, will consider what to do about the first two episodes in which the return of Monteith’s character was to have played an important part. Fox network had planned to open the Glee’s fifth season early — Sept. 19 — in order to get a batch of episodes broadcast before the network’s annual post-season baseball messing up of its primetime schedule. The first two episodes of the fifth season had been written before the traditional long summer hiatus, in order to get a jump on the new season; production had been scheduled to start next week. The return of Monteith’s character, hunky high school football star turned glee club darling Finn Hudson, was much anticipated by fans, Monteith having been absent from the final episodes of last season to check himself into a drug treatment facility late last March. The 31-year-old Monteith had been open about his substance abuse problems in the past, revealing two years earlier he’d first entered a rehab program in his late teens. Along with Lea Michele and Chris Colfer, Monteith had been prominently featured last season despite his character graduating from McKinley High at the end of the previous season as part of a show “reboot.’ When the announcement was made that he was temporarily leaving the show, Glee production house 20th Century Fox TV said in a statement, “Everyone at the show wishes him well and looks forward to his return.”
Monteith had been out of rehab since April, and had visited the set of Glee-creator Ryan Murphy’s HBO movie The Normal Heart two weeks ago. He was found dead in his hotel room Saturday in Vancouver, BC. No foul play was suspected and Vancouver police said the actor had been dead for several hours when he was discovered by hotel staff, after missing his check-out time. His death creates something of a crossroad for show creator Murphy. While Monteith’s return from rehab was sure to have been a ratings draw for the show, writing his tragic death into the series could draw even bigger numbers to the show that had had its ratings challenges in recent seasons, though it did manage to finish last season as Fox’s seventh highest-rated show among 18-49 year olds – No. 26 among all broadcast series – with an average 3.2 rating in the demo.
Murphy has never been one to shy away from turning news headlines into Glee storylines – he and drama impresario Dick Wolf have become well-known for their ripped-from-the-headlines episodes. On Glee, Murphy cast pop trainwreck Lindsay Lohan right before she was scheduled to attend one of her several court-mandated stints in rehab. He cast Kathy Griffin to play a Sarah Palin-type Tea Party candidate when Palin was much in the news. But, most recently, and most controversially, the producers of Glee dismissed comments of Newtown parents who were upset with the show’s school-shooting episode, with the explanation it had been written before 20 of the town’s elementary school children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This time, however, Murphy’s Glee star IS the headline. And the question is, will a re-written season-debut episode make use of that headline about the star of whom Murphy tweeted last season, “I am so proud of Cory Monteith and love and support him 100%.”