The sudden death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith leaves the show’s producers with the daunting task of deciding the fate of his character Finn Hudson. Now, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “Glee” executive producer Ryan Murphy reveals that the FOX series will pay tribute to its deceased star on the third episode of the upcoming season. After that, the show will go on hiatus to reassess its direction.
“When you’re faced with something so sad and so shocking, what do you do? Do we cancel the show? Do we start shooting in January? What do we do?” Murphy asked. “The right thing to do for the show, at least at this point, is to have that character pass.”
Murphy told Deadline there will be an episode that will “deal with the death of Finn’s character.” He added, “For many of the people we work with who are very young, and also for the fans of the show, this is probably the first time they have experienced death, and that was not lost on any of us here.”
Gleeks are not alone in mourning the loss of a deceased star both on and off the screen. “8 Simple Rules” dealt with John Ritter’s untimely death by killing off his character, as did the 1970’s series “Eight is Enough” when star Diana Hyland died. One of the most touching real life deaths played out on the small screen was the 1982 death of “Sesame Street” star Will Lee. You knew him as Mr. Hooper.
Watch Big Bird learn about Mr. Hooper’s death here.
But some past TV shows that have handled a star’s death in ways that didn’t involve killing off the character. In fact, some characters just disappeared.
Fans of the 1960’s sitcom “Bewitched” may remember that Alice Pearce originally played nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz during the show’s first two seasons. When Pearce died in 1966, producers replaced her with actress Sandra Gould, but the switch was never mentioned on the show. (Of course, this is the same show that conjured up an entirely new husband and best friend for its lead character without explanation.) Suddenly, Mrs. Kravitz just looked different — and no, witchcraft wasn’t involved!
A 1970 TV Guide article revealed that when Gould was first offered the role, she said, “I couldn’t do it” because she and Pearce had been close friends. To make matters worse, directors would sometimes mistakenly call her “Alice” on the set.
But while “Bewitched” was known for its character switcheroos, one character vanished without a trace. The beloved Aunt Clara — played by Marion Lorne — was never mentioned again after the actress died in 1968. Strange, considering she was Samantha’s favorite aunt.
See Marion Lorne as Aunt Clara on Bewitched” here.
Actor Joseph Kearns was a regular of the CBS sitcom “Dennis the Menace” from 1959 until his death in 1962, playing the long-suffering next door neighbor of troublemaking tot, Dennis Mitchell (Jay North.) But instead of killing off dear ol’ Mr. Wilson, producers wrote Kearns’s character out of the show and brought in a new character: His brother John. Gale Gordon played John Wilson, who at first came to visit while his brother was out of town, then eventually bought his house. But jeepers, we certainly can’t imagine good ol’ Mr. Wilson skipping town without saying goodbye to Dennis.
See Joseph Kearns as Mr. Wilson on “Dennis the Menace” here.
And it took a while for the NBC sitcom “Cheers” to address the real life death of actor Nicholas Colasanto. When the actor – who played beloved bartender Coach — died in the middle of the show’s third season, his absence was explained in a variety of ways: The character was said to be going back to school to get his GED, going out of state to renew his driver’s license, and attending a family reunion for a family that wasn’t even his. Colasanto’s death was finally addressed in the Season 4 opener, when Woody Harrelson joined the cast as a new bartender.
Harrelson told Moviefone, “I wasn’t really familiar with ‘Cheers.’ So I didn’t have this relationship with Nicholas Colasanto, which would have made it really stranger for me. I had watched ‘Cheers’ exactly twice before doing my first scene. And I think it was probably more awkward for those guys. But they really didn’t show it. I think Shelley Long did one time, she said something like, ‘I can’t believe it. I miss Coach.’ Not in a mean way to me, but that was probably the most real awareness I had to whatever they were going through.”
See the “Cheers” episode that addressed Coach’s death here.
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