What Can 'Glee' Learn from Other TV Shows That Dealt With Cast Member Deaths?

Cory Monteith's death is no doubt a devastating loss. The talented young star, who portrayed former football player and Glee Club frontman Finn Hudson, was slated to appear heavily in the first five episodes of Glee's fifth season. The episodes have not been shot yet, leaving the writers to come up with a new way to incorporate Cory's death and Finn's permanent departure into the storyline. But there is precedent for Glee — here are some other television shows that lost a cast member... and what Glee can learn from them.

Where Does 'Glee' Go From Here?

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Cory Monteith's death is no doubt a devastating loss. The talented young star, who portrayed former football player and Glee Club frontman Finn Hudson, was slated to appear heavily in the first five episodes of Glee's fifth season. The episodes have not been shot yet, leaving the writers to come up with a new way to incorporate Cory's death and Finn's permanent departure into the storyline. But there is precedent for Glee — here are some other television shows that lost a cast member... and what Glee can learn from them.

Larry Hagman, 'Dallas': Give the Character a Proper Ending

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

TNT's Dallas reboot brought Larry Hagman's love-to-hate character, J.R., back into the fold. But when the actor died of throat cancer in 2012, the show paid tribute to Hagman and J.R. by killing off the character in the most fitting of ways. The cliffhanger question from the original series — "Who shot J.R.?" — was revisited, with the second season reveal that someone had shot, and this time, killed, J.R. If Glee decides to have Finn Hudson die in Season 5, it should be in a way that feels appropriate for the character.

John Spencer, 'The West Wing': Keep the Memory Alive

Like Dallas, The West Wing wrote the death of John Spencer — who played politician Leo on the series — into the show. The actor, who played Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the NBC series, died of a heart attack during the filming of Season 6, and McGarry suffered the same fate that same season. But, in a very touching move, The West Wing listed Spencer's name in the credits for the entirety of Season 7. Though Finn may die in the next season of Glee, a frequent reminder of Monteith and all that his character brought to the TV series seems fitting.

John Ritter, '8 Simple Rules': Make Death a Realistic Part of the Show

While dramas have an easier time incorporating a significant death into a storyline, the sitcom 8 Simple Rules dealt with actor John Ritter's death in a sensitive matter. The second season of the show had a two-part episode dedicated to the loss of Ritter's character, Paul, who was the father of the family at the center of the show. Though the show continued, the series used Paul's death as an important plot point, and showed the characters on the show grieving over the loss. Finn's potential death in Glee shouldn't be glossed over by the more comedic elements of the series, and his death should be a major, heartbreaking event for all the characters on the series.

Phil Hartman, 'NewsRadio': Let the Cast and Characters Grieve

Phil Hartman was murdered by his wife Brynn Hartman between Season 4 and Season 5 of NewsRadio. The premiere episode of the fifth season was dedicated to mourning Hartman's character Bill, who died of a heart attack off-screen. The cast was so distraught over Phil's death that the episode became a memorial for both their characters and the cast — many members were filmed sobbing over the loss on camera. The Glee cast is notoriously close-knit, and it seems right that Glee would borrow a page from NewsRadio and use the episode that reveals Finn's departure as a way to mourn the real death of Cory Monteith.

Will Lee, 'Sesame Street': Don't Shy Away from Talking About Death

Sometimes Sesame Street teaches children lessons more difficult than the ABCs. When Lee — who played store owner Mr. Hooper — died, the show took the time to discuss what that meant with its young audience. Death and grieving are natural parts of life, and the show taught its audience that it was okay to express sadness over the passing of a loved one. Glee often uses real-world events to illustrate a message, and sadly, dealing with grief is now a message that Glee has a responsibility to discuss.