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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fox television on Friday confirmed that three lead characters of its high school musical comedy "Glee" would be "graduating" at the end of the upcoming season, but tried to play down a fan furor over their exit.
Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said the show's Emmy Award-winning creator Ryan Murphy "probably regrets" going public with the news, and the subsequent confusion over a possible spin-off show for some of the departing "Glee" stars.
Murphy told the Hollywood Reporter in July that actors Lea Michele (Rachel), Cory Monteith (Finn) and Chris Colfer (Kurt) would not be back for a fourth season in a bid to keep the show about a struggling high school choir more credible.
The news stunned fans and some of the actors said they learned of their fate on Twitter. "Glee" producers then said that plans were underway for the three to appear in a spin-off show, which had later been canceled.
Reilly said on Friday that the "public nature of it did take everybody by surprise" and had "taken on more heated momentum than it in fact is".
"A spinoff was in the wind. It is still in the wind. We haven't said we are not doing it," Reilly told TV journalists, saying the idea would be revisited later this year.
Reilly said the upcoming third season, starting on September20, would be a "back to basics year" for the show.
"There are no big guest star-driven shows, no big tribute numbers. We are focusing on our core characters and relationships. There will will be a graduation at the end, we know the characters who will be graduating. How that is going to play out, I am not going to say. There's going to be surprises," he said.
Reilly blamed Murphy's "creativity" for the confusion over how the characters will leave the show and a possible spinoff. Murphy's interview with The Hollywood Reporter took place at the end of a successful live summer tour by "Glee" cast members as preparations were being made for the new season.
"I think in the middle of Ryan's creativity, this got out and we were a little surprised at how it took on a life of its own," Reilly said.
"Ryan did talk to all the actors about it...Ryan has said he probably regrets talking about it at that point because in the interim we had decided to focus on this year."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte