For a waning 'Glee,' actor's death poses difficult challenge

Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:36pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy and Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES, July 15 (Reuters) - 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.