“The Price of Glee” Reignites Internet Discourse

The docuseries offers never-before-seen interviews, but not with many of the cast and crew's blessing.
By Madison E. Goldberg
(Photo by John Medina/WireImage)/Getty Images

On Monday, The Price of Glee dropped on Discovery+. The docuseries explores the behind-the-scenes elements from the perspective of the crew and some friends and family of the cast. The musical dramedy premiered on Fox in 2009, and rapidly rose to popularity, with the pilot reaching 9.5 million viewers. But soon enough, what appeared to be a humorous and heartfelt satirical look at an American high school glee club took a dark turn.

In 2013, one of the show’s stars, Cory Monteith, who played quarterback Finn Hudson, died of a drug overdose. In 2017, Mark Salling, who played Noah “Puck” Puckerman, was sentenced to four to seven years in prison for possession of child pornography. Salling died by suicide in 2018. Naya Rivera, who played the fierce cheerleader turned Glee club singer Santana Lopez, passed away in a 2020 boating accident. In 2017, Melissa Benoist, who played Marley Rose on the show, was married to Blake Jenner, who played Ryder Flynn. In 2017, they divorced, and Benoist subsequently came forward with domestic abuse allegations against Jenner.

In 2020, following George Floyd’s death and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, Lea Michele was accused of making racist remarks towards Samantha Ware and Amber Riley.

The series of deaths and abuse led viewers to coin the term “the Glee curse”, wondering how one production could lead to such a dark chain of events.

@dylan_kurnia

coincidence ? #fyp #gleecurse #conspiracy #foryoupage #VibeZone #4ypg

♬ The Creepy Music Box (Psychological Thriller / Horror) – Film Music Experience

The ongoing shroud of mystery surrounding the deaths and abuse of the cast members led to the production of The Price of Glee on Investigation Discovery. The series explores many never before seen views from crew members and friends of the deceased.

Cast Reactions

Jenna Ushkowitz, who played Tina Cohen Chang, and Kevin McHale, who played Artie Abrams, host their own podcast That’s what you REALLY missed on Spotify and Apple podcasts. Their show focuses more on the positive friendships and experiences of the show. McHale took to Twitter to voice his disapproval of the ID series.

In a recent interview, Ushkowitz voiced her concerns with the Glee curse conspiracy theories.

@dearmedia

What are your thoughts on this Glee documentary covering the numerous tragedies and controversies from the show? #glee #documentary #controversial #gleecast #jennaushkowitz #goodinstincts #podcastclips

♬ Paper Birds (3 min) – Jordan Halpern Schwartz

In a recent appearance on the Elvis Duran Show, Chord Overstreet called the docuseries “bullsh*t.” Overstreet went on to say that “I think it’s a little bit of, like, trying to get people to watch something.”

Lea Michele is yet to comment on the documentary. She is mentioned multiple times throughout, and several crew members and minor cast members shared negative experiences working with her. Others claimed that she was simply incredibly driven in her craft.

Crew Takeaways

Garrett Greer, the Assistant to the Executive Producer, accused Lea Michele of driving a wedge between cast members who she felt threatened her star power. Greer even went as far as to say that Michele made Cory’s death about herself.

@thetvandmoviequeen

Both women have INCREDIBLE talents #glee #rachelberry #mercedesjones #leamichele #amberriley #thepriceofglee #fypシ #foryou #greenscreen

♬ original sound – Andrew DeVitre

@entertainmenttonight

‘The Price of Glee’ on Investigation Discovery puts the spotlight on Cory Monteith and Lea Michele’s relationship. #ThePriceGlee #CoryMonteith #LeaMichele #Glee

♬ original sound – Entertainment Tonight

Andy Swift, Executive Editor of TVLine, recounted Michele’s past as a child actress on Broadway. Swift theorizes that this could explain Michele’s perceived tendency to go to extremes. Michele was in a car accident on the way to her audition for Glee, and picked glass out of her hair mid audition.

@thetvandmoviequeen

Broadway baby #glee #rachelberry #leamichele #springawakening #thepriceofglee #fypシ #foryou #greenscreen

♬ original sound – Andrew DeVitre

Barbara Munch, the set designer for the first two seasons of the show, was shocked that Lea and Cory pursued a personal relationship outside of the show. A hairdresser for the show recalled positive memories of Cory, and how he wished he had more support when he fell back into active addiction.

The former crew members also detailed the sudden deaths of assistant director Jim Fuller, who died of a heart attack; production assistant Nancy Motes, who died by suicide; and Matthew Morrison’s stand-in Mark Watson, who died from a “car fire,” according to Rivera’s stand-in, Jodi Tanaka.

Fans were shocked at the deaths of the crew members, as the press was focused on the string of cast deaths at the time and they were not highly publicized.

 

@dirty_panocha00

#glee #gleecast #gleek #gleeclub #gleevideos #gleetok #leamichele #gleepuck #corymonteith #nayarivera #marksalling #documentary #docuseries #dirtypanocha93 #commentary

♬ original sound – 🤪

Family and Friends

While no members of the cast of Glee were directly involved, several friends, former roommates, and families were involved. Cory Monteith’s first roommate in Los Angeles, his former drama coach from Vancouver, actor Stephen Kramer Glickman (known for his role as Gustavo in Big Time Rush), and Naya Rivera’s father were all featured in the documentary.

Monteith’s friends recounted the actor’s kindness, and expressed that they felt that the environment of Hollywood didn’t help with his sobriety. His roommate also recalled the stress Monteith was under while they lived together, since he was abruptly thrust into the spotlight.

@entertainmenttonight

Cory Monteith’s roommate Justin Neill opens up in ‘The Price of Glee’ on Investigation Discovery about how he just “hated fame.” #glee #thepriceofglee

♬ original sound – Entertainment Tonight – Entertainment Tonight

Some fans were shocked to see Glickman appear in the documentary at all. Big Time Rush was filmed next door, and Glickman and Monteith became fast friends.

@kaytlinannaroynew

♬ original sound – girls

Glee Fan Reactions

Fans of the show were quick to come to the cast’s defense after seeing that they were not involved in production. Many pointed out the docuseries’ borderline exploitative nature.

Others felt that most of the sources’ stories were not corroborated enough, and felt that the journalists involved made a poor ethical judgement to participate.

One of the crew members additionally alluded that a cast member was responsible for Cory’s fall from sobriety, though the cast member was not named. Fans were quick to point out the perceivably flawed storytelling.

While the documentary itself received negative attention as a whole for its credibility, many people Michele worked with in the past have continued to come forward with their negative experiences working with the actress. When Michele’s alleged racist comments towards fellow cast member Samantha Ware came to light in 2020, she issued an apology.

After taking some time off, Michele slowly reemerged into the spotlight, and most recently was cast as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway, where she replaced actress Beanie Feldstein. The scenario mirrored her character Rachel Berry’s storyline on Glee.

The documentary picked at old wounds allegedly caused by Michele. A clip of an extra named Dabier Snell from the docuseries went viral on TikTok. Snell was one of several BIPOC cast members to report having a bad experience with Michele.

@thetvandmoviequeen

Yikes #glee #rachelberry #leamichele #gwynethpaltrow #thepriceofglee #fypシ #foryou #greenscreen

♬ original sound – Andrew DeVitre

Other fans of the show have encouraged people to continue listening to Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale’s podcast instead of viewing the documentary, so as to be respectful of the deceased members of the cast and crew.

Ultimately, it is the viewer’s choice whether to watch the series or not to. But it is important to do so with discernment, and to empathize with the living families of the three deceased actors from the show, and of the crew members who received less press attention.