The drug-related death last month of “Glee” star Cory Monteith will be addressed in the third episode of the Fox musical comedy when it returns next month, although it remains unclear if the circumstances of his passing will be part of the plot of the fictional show.
Speaking to the media at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly initially said the episode in question "will deal directly with the incidents" of Monteith’s passing.
But in subsequent remarks Reilly seemed to backpedal from the suggestion that the character Finn Hudson would meet a fate similar to Monteith's, noting that the show’s creator Ryan Murphy was still working on the episode.
Given that Monteith died only a few weeks ago, there was some surprise that “Glee” didn’t take a long break before returning to production. Reilly said “Glee” star Lea Michele and Ryan wanted to “get back to work.”
Fox will also produce public service announcements featuring cast members talking about the untimely passing of Monteith and the perils of drug addiction.
Reilly spent much of his time in front of critics talking about the need for more accurate television ratings that take in viewing done on all platforms, including online and video-on-demand. While such measurements are available, a one-size-fits-all rating is still lacking.
“Measurement is something we've really got to do a better job of getting our hands around,” Reilly said, noting that these days the ratings that come the day after a show airs are becoming less relevant in determining the popularity of a particular program.
Reilly noted that “The Following,” “Glee” and “New Girl” all see their ratings in the coveted 18-49 demographic increase by more than 50% when viewing from digital video recorders is factored into the mix.
“Sometimes I read stories that nobody is watching network television anymore; well, that's a lot of nobodies,” Reilly said. “The audiences are still enormous across multiple platforms.”
With that in mind, Reilly implored the media to dig deeper than next-day numbers when passing judgment on how a show is performing. Shows on cable and Netflix, he observed, are often called hits even though their audience is smaller than programs on Fox.
“You have to combine 'Louie' and 'Girls' together to get anywhere close to Mindy’s rating,” Reilly said while discussing the ratings for the network’s comedy “The Mindy Project” compared to those two critical darlings.
As for Netflix, Reilly chided the streaming service for not making information about viewership of its shows available.
“Netflix speaks loudly to an unreported mystery audience,” he cracked, adding later that he was jealous that the company doesn’t have to play the ratings game. “Good for them, they get to live in that world,” he said.
While Reilly was trying to make the case broadcast ratings no longer tell the whole story, he didn’t shy away from the fact that Fox is coming off a season in which it saw declines in ratings and had several flops, including “Mob Doctor” and “Ben and Kate.”
“We were down last year and that's the fact. We're going to be up this year," he promised.
One key to turning Fox around will be fixing “American Idol,” which is coming off a very disappointing season. The only judge returning in January will be Keith Urban. Reilly said there was no news on who else would be tapped to succeed Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.
The Fox executive confirmed there have been talks with Jennifer Lopez about her returning to the show, but no deal is on the horizon. He also said too much emphasis has been on the judges, both on the show and in the marketing behind it.
Reilly also took heat from critics about the politically incorrect humor of the network’s new situation comedy “Dads,” which is from Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy” and director of the hit movie “Ted.”
“I really ask you with that show in particular to have the discussion in January,” he said. The critics did not seem willing to play ball on that one.
Fox also announced it was going to make its own version of the hit British drama “Broadchurch,” about the mysterious death of a young boy and how it tears apart his seaside hometown.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times