Despite those priorities, the series is notably lacking interviews with creator Ryan Murphy, any other major producers, or any members of the cast. The series features interviews with glee‘s former director of photography, hair department head, set decorator, art director, and location manager — roles that, while crucial to the production of a television show, hardly have authority over what happened when the stars went home. The series does include extensive interviews with Rivera’s father, George Rivera, as well as three allegedly close friends of Monteith’s: former roommate Justin Neill, actor Stephen Kramer Glickman, and friend from Vancouver Frederic Robinson. But the closest it gets to cast interviews is a former backup dancer and a few stand-ins.
Cast members Chord Overstreet and Becca Tobin have spoken out against the docuseries, expressing doubts that anyone in the core cast would be involved. In a joint interview with BuzzFeed in November 2022, former cast member Jenna Ushkowitz — who cohosts a podcast called And That’s What You REALLY Missed with fellow glee alum Kevin McHale — expressed her concerns about the documentary: “In terms of the Discovery+ documentary, it feels even more important, to me at least, to do the podcast because we were the ones who were there. And we were the ones experiencing this. And we know what really happened.”
The series’ approach to the misfortunes of the cast is frequently dehumanizing. in The Price of Glee‘s first episode, every interview waxes philosophical on the cast’s disorienting launch to notoriety. They talk about Journey and the audition process. These recollections would be benign, boring even — if it weren’t for the surrealist true crime score dun-dun-dunning in the background. “By 2020, all of [this cast] would be famous,” text on the screen tells viewers, “and three would be dead.”
Unlike in glee itself, these moments of camp offer no hint of irony. A montage of highlighted headlines, tweets, and photos plays as if to illustrate the central thesis that yes, of course this show and its cast are cursed. The montage references former cast member Melissa Benoist’s 2019 accusation of domestic abuse against her ex-husband and former glee co-star Blake Jenner. (In 2020, Jenner released a statement taking “full responsibility” for the hurt he inflicted on Benoist, “emotionally, mentally and yes, physically.”)
But glee is not a true crime story. The Price of Glee tries to carve grand mythology from the lives of over a dozen actors who once shared small talk over craft services. Along the way, it often forgets these people are human.
Benoist met a man at work, he became her husband, and he made the choice to hurt her. It doesn’t really make sense to lump domestic abuse charges with the deaths of former co-workers or to place Rivera’s or Monteith’s names next to that of a man who died during a legal battle over child sexual abuse images. The series’ connections are tenuous at best, voyeuristic and harmful at worst.
glee was camp: gaudy and a bit of an oddity, amusing and with a confusing relationship to self-awareness. That sensibility has long since shaped how the show is discussed. In the public imagination, tales of what went on behind the scenes at glee feel like natural extensions of the show’s own fun-house mirror portrayal of the world.
But the cast of glee were just a group of coworkers. They worked together on a very specific — and specifically intense — TV show. They put in long hours, chatted with gaffers and grips. They fought, they fucked. They faced challenges that most of us can’t relate to (dodging stalking paparazzi) and ones we can (microaggressions from type-A coworkers). Then their job ended. They moved on. Some left the industry. Life happened.
There’s probably a lot that’s interesting about glee’s alumni — experiences we haven’t heard, hilarities and tragedies not yet unearthed. Key to any narrative, though, is that people are what make a story interesting. The Price of Glee isn’t interested in that. The show mines lazy hot takes from tragedy. It’s a slap in the face to human beings it exploits. And to a lesser extent, it’s also an insult to those who watched at home. Those who take an interest in how people navigate the extraordinary setting of Hollywood.
The stories we tell bear weight. No one — at least not yet — has grasped how best to tell the story of what came from glee. ●