The Emmys’ Hollow Cory Monteith Tribute

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

EmmysBlog Editor’s Update 10/16/13: We were disappointed once again following last week’s Glee. The tribute episode, which honored Monteith’s tragic passing with kind words and great music from Glee’s talented cast, missed an incredibly important opportunity. Instead of using this tragedy as a teachable moment to increase awareness about addiction and its devastation, the Glee writers and producers made a pointed and unfortunate decision to disregard the cause of Monteith’s death entirely. It was upsetting to see this show, which has so successfully addressed big issues like sex and tolerance in the past, take the easy way out by steering clear of the addiction discussion. We hope that in the future, shows like Glee will set a better example for their young fans by keeping conversations open and spreading the message that addiction is a disease–one that no one need suffer in silence.

At the Emmy Awards, we saw in the space of a few minutes the confusing way that our culture treats addiction—first by making jokes and then by a tribute that fell tragically short.

The joke last night: a satirical PSA in which the cast of How I Met Your Mother stages an intervention for Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris, who suffers from “Excessive Hosting Disorder.” Neil’s friends describe, in mock-sorrowful tones, Neil’s addiction before they do an intervention—in a bar, with a huge INTERVENTION banner—that riffs on the sadness of staging an intervention for a loved one. “I know what you’re going through,” Neil is reassured. “The shakes, the cold sweats, telling your family you’re going out drinking when really you’re going to host a bake sale at a church. You don’t believe this but you can have a rich and fulfilling life without hosting.”

On a different night it might have been funny, but the skit came right before Jane Lynch’s tribute to her Glee co-star, Cory Monteith, the 31-year-old actor who died of a tragic drug overdose in July. I can only imagine that the cast members of Glee didn’t find the intervention joke so funny since they staged their own intervention for Cory just before he died. Would the Emmy producers have reconsidered the skit if they’d stopped to think about Glee showrunner Ryan Murphy, who booked Cory’s rehab and told him to take the time he needed for recovery? Murphy remembered Cory’s last words to him: “I want to get better.”

Even without the clumsy intervention joke preceding it, the tribute missed an opportunity to raise awareness of the seriousness of addiction and, most importantly, urge people in need to get help. Lynch gave a heartfelt tribute to Cory’s “beautiful soul” and “genuine sweetness,” but made only one vague reference to the disease that killed him: “His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction.”

This was an opportunity to raise awareness about a disease that is stigmatized, misunderstood, and affects 24 million Americans; but if you switched the word “addiction” for “cancer” or “car accident,” the meaning would have barely changed. I wished we had heard something more—an acknowledgement that while addiction is rapacious and destructive, recovery is possible.

Other commentators, like the Washington Post, felt the moment fell flat: “That was supposed to be one of the evening’s most moving moments, and it only sort of was.” The decision to pay tribute to Cory was not a popular one. The son of Jack Klugman, a TV legend who was left out of the tributes, called the Cory tribute “criminal” and said, “I don’t mean to say anything disparaging about Cory, but he was a kid who had won no Emmys and it was a self-induced tragedy.”

It’s too bad the producers didn’t seize the opportunity to make the moment about more than Cory. With so many in Hollywood watching, including another young star who just finished rehab, we could have heard some serious words about the pressures of celebrity or a call to the entertainment community to supports its members in recovery. With so many young fans watching, the tribute should have urged people in need to get help.

Ironically, the fake PSA ended with a clearer call to action than the tribute: “There is hope. It’s time to take off the bow tie and pick up the phone.” Listen up, Hollywood. There is hope for anyone struggling with addiction, but don’t wait until it’s too late.

Karen Sodomick
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Phoenix House Foundation

If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse issue, Phoenix House is here for you. Email us or call today at 1 888 671 9392.


Share this page: Print this page:
Back to Index


  • Karen Palmiero

  • Janet lynn

    Had not the lesson about the dangers of addiction already been taught during the huge amount of interest following Mr. Monteith’s death? What could a mere television program convey to the public, without ringing false, that had not already been conveyed ad nauseum by the press? Would it not have been out of character for the fictional Finn Hudson to die from addiction? Was not an exploration of grief worthwhile, particularly since the press hadn’t written about it except in a superficial manner?