Glee farewells Cory Monteith in The Quarterback: reviews
Episode mourning Monteith's Finn Hudson was moving, but there was no message, say critics
THE hit TV drama Glee was faced with an "impossible task" when it set out to incorporate the death of actor Cory Monteith into its storyline, critics say. The result - an episode that aired in the US last night called The Quarterback - was "heartbreaking", but in some regards a "missed opportunity".
Monteith, the 31-year-old Canadian actor who played American footballer-turned-performer Finn Hudson in the hit show, was found dead in a hotel room in Vancouver on 13 July. A toxicology report found that he died from a lethal combination of intravenous heroin use and alcohol.
In The Quarterback, the third episode of Glee's fifth series, the cast gather for a private memorial for Hudson three weeks after his funeral. They sing songs including James Taylor's Fire and Rain, the Pretenders' I'll Stand by You and Bruce Springsteen's No Surrender.
The show's co-creator Ryan Murphy told the Vancouver Sun that the task of remembering Monteith without appearing exploitative or sensational - or worse, mawkish and maudlin - was "extremely difficult". As well as getting the script right, the episode had to be filmed by a grieving cast, including Lea Michele who was Monteith's girlfriend in the show and in real life.
Writing in the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley says some fans would have been disappointed that the cause of Hudson's death is not discussed in The Quarterback.
"There are no elliptical references to the dangers of substance abuse - not even an Amy Winehouse song," writes Stanley. "That decision will undoubtedly disappoint antidrug advocates who may be hoping for a teachable moment, but it's a bold and respectful one."
Variety's Brian Lowry agrees that the discussion of how Hudson died would have provided a "teachable moment to the younger quadrant of the program's audience".
Other critics felt The Quarterback was a little too manipulative. Robert Bianco, writing in USA Today, says the episode was a "labour of love" but it was walking a delicate line between "fact and fiction, tribute and exploitation".
"One just wishes the writers had put a bit more trust into [the audience's] natural response, and not tugged at our heartstrings quite so strenuously," he writes.
A UK broadcast date for The Quarterback has not been announced.