The three-part docuseries “The Price of Glee” on Investigation Discovery seems to be motivated by the ancient journalistic adage “Three is a trend” (a.k.a. ID). The project feels substantially more secure while tracking the successes and far less secure when looking into the tragedies related with the smash Fox show.
The tone is set early on as chyrons announce that the musical series was an instant hit when it premiered in 2009, turning its youthful and brilliant ensemble into household names. In the year 2020, “all of them would be famous,” the script promises. Indeed, three lives would be lost.
However, the endeavour to connect them is particularly shaky due to the various circumstances surrounding each of those occurrences. Some members of the cast and crew, as well as reporters, have hinted at a “Glee” curse throughout the series, while more level-headed observers have pointed out that horrible things may and do happen for no apparent reason.
The narrative of “The Price of Glee,” which describes the show’s meteoric rise to stardom and the pressures its young stars experienced upon their arrival, is mostly cogent for a while. The studio behind the show wanted to capitalise on its success, which led to a concert tour that didn’t leave much time for rest and relaxation.
In this regard, “Glee” is representative of many Hollywood success stories, including the highs, the lows, the feuds and the hurt emotions that typically follow the rise and fall of fame.
The first example of a “price” linked with “Glee” is Cory Monteith, who had battled substance abuse before the show and saw those struggles return as he grappled with the attention and money that came his way, ultimately leading to his death by drug overdose in 2013.
Claims that Lea Michele was arrogant and difficult to work with in the second part are recycled. The documentary, which relies on archival footage and new interviews with crew workers, reporters, the required psychologist, and acquaintances of various key individuals to give it a tabloid air, has none of the principal cast.
Mark Salling’s suicide in 2018 following his arrest for possession of child pornography is addressed fairly briefly in the third chapter, whereas Rivera’s sad accident and death in 2020, when she and her son drowned in California’s Lake Piru, is discussed at greater length.
In the final hour, her father, George Rivera, is interviewed and discusses how he learned to keep his emotions in check so that he could deal with the situation and talk openly about what happened. It’s awkward and pointless that the filmmakers had him revisit the scene of his daughter’s death.
HBO’s “Showbiz Kids,” “Phoenix Rising,” Evan Rachel Wood’s coming-of-age story, and “Kid 90,” Soleil Moon Frye’s record of being young and famous in Hollywood, are just a few of the superb documentaries released in recent years on the cost of popularity at a young age.
In the end, though, “The Price of Glee” is hemmed in by its own title, and it feels like it’s working to fill in blanks where there aren’t even any. It could be the price of fame, but it would be disastrous for the project’s credibility.