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"Glee" school shooting episode tried, but didn't succeed

Published April 12, 2013 12:46 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Glee" did a better job with its school-shooting episode than we might have expected, given the show's extraordinarily uneven history.But as has generally been the case, the "Glee" writers couldn't resolve the episode adequately and ended up with yet another disappointment.If you haven't watched the episode yet and you intend to, STOP READING NOW. What follow is one big SPOILER ALERT.The episode, titled "Shooting Star," bopped along like the usual, silly, song-filled "Glee" - until there were a pair of gunshots, and everything changed. People panicked. People were scared out of their minds.It felt surprisingly real for "Glee," which pretty much left reality behind long ago.By the time the all-clear sounded, characters' lives changed, at least for the short-term, as they realized how precious life is.But the resolution was also a giant cop-out. No one was shot. No one was shot at. There were no real danger at all.This is not to suggest that death was a necessary component of the episode. That serious injury was needed to make it work.But you can't have it both ways. You can't claim, as did executive producer Ryan Murphy, that this was an Important Television Event and, at the same time, take the easy way out.When it turned out that the gun belonged to Becky (Lauren Potter), the cheerleader with Down syndrome; that it went off accidentally; and that cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) took the blame and lost her job as a result, it seemed far too much like more "Glee" foolishness.Not only was it a cop-out, but for the umpteenth time one of the "Glee" teenagers faced no consequences for bad behavior. Becky needs to deal with what happened, not have have it covered up.Maybe that will happen, eventually. It didn't happen on Thursday night.There's plenty to criticize the "Glee" producers about. But some of that criticism seems unwarranted.Were they morally obligated to contact the survivors of the Newtown shooting before Thursday's episode aired? That's what one of the fathers of the young victims suggested.That's a tough question. Certainly, no one wants to cause the survivors more pain.But this was an episode that was written before the Newtown shootings; that didn't resemble the events of the Newtown shootings; that was well-publicized before it aired.Murphy and his team weren't entirely successful, but they were trying to make a statement about the terror guns cause in our schools. And another Newtown parents suggested "Glee" did a good thing by keeping the issue in the public's awareness. Was it too soon after Newtown? It's always going to be too soon for the people who went through that.I can't begin to imagine what the Newtown survivors are going through. I can't imagine how I would be able to carry on if one of my children was murdered.But "Glee" wasn't exploiting what happened in Newtown or Columbine or Aurora. In its flawed way, it was trying to illuminate the problem.