September 18, 2013.

Cory Monteith has died, which means, ipso facto (as the Harvard boys say) that the character he plays, “Finn,” is also dead. For a while, it seemed that because Cory Monteith had died of a drug overdose, the same type of death would be Finn’s fate, although Finn was not a drug addict, and Monteith was. It was to be a teachable moment.

The plan has changed and Finn will not die of drugs, but he will still die. Why does the death of a TV actor necessarily means the death of his character? Could Finn not receive a terrific offer over the summer to sing and dance on a variety show in the Czech republic?

The death of a beloved TV actor who plays an unlikable TV character is even more awkward. While Phil Hartman, of Newsradio, was indeed beloved by the cast, his character was not equally beloved by his office co-workers – hence, you see, comedy ensued. Yet when the actor died, the character was eulogized with tears. It may be heartless to say, but when a disliked office colleague dies, a representative might be chosen to attend the funeral (or not), but life goes on without tears.

When Freddie Prinze died, his Chico and the Man character was away for a while (“I can’t wait till Chico gets back,” was uttered at least once), and then after a while we learned that his character had died, but not how. We lost Freddie Prinze; I am not sure why I could not have been allowed to believe that Chico, the character, was still alive somewhere, which would have been more in keeping with the show’s message of hope and redemption. Even today, more than 35 years later, I think that would still make me feel better. Why did Chico have to die too?

I wonder whether the death of an actor from a cancelled TV show means that the character, off in his fictitious universe, has also died. When Amanda Blake died of AIDS, years after Gunsmoke went off the air, did Miss Kitty die of syphilis? Is Lord Bowler still riding with Brisco, in spite of the death of the great Julius Carry, some years after the show went off the air? Happily, Horace Rumpole is still solving mysteries with his typical gusto in a series of novels, blithely unaware of Leo McKern’s infirmity and death.

These are things I think about ….