Not Long After Newtown, ‘Glee’ Depicts a School Shooting

by | April 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Glee, TV News

Jane Lynch in Thursday's episode of "Glee" (Photo: Fox)

Thursday’s episode of “Glee” — featuring a ripped-from-the-headlines school-shooting storyline — drew attention to the show and a boost in the ratings.

But it also resulted in the “firing” of a key cast member, plus some negative reaction for taking on a subject still fresh in the minds of many following last December’s massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn.

In fact, one group that represents the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre issued a warning to its constituents before the episode aired Thursday night that they should avoid watching it “or watch with caution,” according to this Huffington Post story.

As it turned out, the shooting on “Glee” paled in comparison to the real thing. On the Fox show, the “shooting” was a bloodless, accidental discharge of two shots from a handgun that never came close to injuring anyone, although the sound of the shots ringing through the hallways nevertheless induced fear and panic in the choir room at McKinley High, according to this recap on the Us Weekly Web site.

As the Glee Club members hunkered down in their rehearsal space to wait out the drama, they naturally became introspective about their lives. By the end of the episode, though, authorities sounded the all-clear as none other than Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) took responsibility for the accidental discharges. She was then fired — which is quite a significant plot point if it means that one of this show’s most important characters and cast members has been written off the show.

We don’t know yet whether Sylvester will be back, but we did learn this: She was covering up for someone else — Down syndrome student Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter). Apparently, she confided in Sylvester that she brought a gun to school for some sort of protection and it went off.

The episode seen Thursday night at 9/8c on Fox drew 6.799 million viewers, an increase from the last original episode of “Glee” that attracted 5.91 million on March 28, according to Nielsen.

However, along with the ratings increase came a lot of negative attention. ” ‘Glee’s’ school-shooting episode is a harrowing piece of exploitative trash,” thundered one critic on the AV Club Web site here.

CNN also covered the reaction Friday morning with this story headlined “Newtown families slam ‘Glee’ shooting.”

Besides the relative appropriateness of producing a school-shooting episode, the show also drew criticism for placing the blame for the incident on the student who is mentally-challenged.

Among the places you can go to read viewer comments of all kinds on the episode are: here, following a story on the Hollywood Reporter Web site; and here, after the HuffPo story.