Could you imagine if TV exploited things?

All eyes were on Canada earlier this year. Not for a good reason – because an up-and-coming star died of a drug overdose in a Vancouver hotel room. I am referring to Glee star Cory Monteith.

If you watched the Emmys you saw there was a tribute to Monteith and former co-star Jane Lynch presented her thoughts and emotions about what Monteith was like as a person and a colleague. The tribute was fine but it had many TV critics wondering why bigger stars – read that as “TV legends” – were not given the same airtime.

The executive producer of the Emmys chimed in to say that the show was going to recognize a wide cross-section of celebrity. In short, they wanted to reach all demographics in the hopes of landing good ratings.

With a special Glee episode that just aired, it makes you wonder if celebs are being exploited for their untimely deaths or illnesses. Glee’s ratings have been slipping so are producers banking on a revived interest in the show to help drive viewership amid a scandalous drug death?

The same could be said for a terminally ill Valerie Harper who is performing on Dancing with the Stars. Earlier this year doctors told her she only had three months to live and has obviously beat that diagnosis. But are people watching the ABC dancing show because of Harper’s remarkable recovery?

I am not suggesting that Monteith’s co-stars only filmed the episode to get their paycheques and cash in on his death, nor am I saying that Harper isn’t making a good role model for people with a fatal disease. What am I wondering is if when planning storylines or upcoming seasons how much that plays into things.

Said viewers: “Ohmygod, Valerie isn’t dead yet? She’s a miracle. I want to watch her in action on the dancefloor.” Or did they?

It isn’t widely known, but several years ago when ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was still on the air (that’s the show where underprivileged families got their rundown houses demolished only to have a new mansion built in seven days) there was an internal memo leaked that producers had a list of illnesses and diseases they wanted featured on the show.

That’s right. They had a wish list: Well, we should do something with leukemia and then something with brain cancer so the show tugs at people’s heartstrings.

The one positive thing is that Monteith’s tribute episode wasn’t held off until sweeps which starts on Oct. 31. At least producers weren’t that ratings hungry.

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