Friday, May 11, 2012

Our New World's Oldest Living Teenager

Today, Cory Monteith turns 30.  Apart from his relatives, friends, and some hard-core Gleeks this date will not be of any interest to anyone.  It isn't to me: I think Glee is one of the worst things to happen on television.  It is a corruption of musicals: rather than have the songs grow naturally out of the scene, current pop songs are rammed into the story, and I have never warmed to the show (as I've always said, it's a combination of The O.C. and Cop Rock). 

It should be pointed out that Matthew Morrison, who plays the "beloved" Mr. Shuester or Mr. Shue on Glee, is only four years older than his 'student'.  Think on that: when Morrison was graduating from high school, Monteith was about to enter high school.

Truth be told, I have no interest in Cory Monteith as a performer.  What I am fascinated with is in how his career will go post-Glee.  Certainly the idea of a thirty-year-old playing an eighteen year old is something he can't do (or at least much longer or believably). 

I can't help focus on his age given another teen-geared program.  On Teen Wolf, the lead (Tyler Posey) is 20 playing a 16-year-old.  On the whole, four years is not a big age difference.  On Glee, one of the leads (Monteith) is 30 playing an 18-year-old.  That, in case you were counting, is a 12 year gap. 

How exactly does a now 30-year-old continue to play a teenager with any degree of sincerity? 

Moreover, once Glee finally fades from the collective conscience (does anyone really watch this show?), where will Monteith's career take him?  He can't continue playing teens (because it will start looking silly).  Will the public accept him as anything other than the dim-witted Finn?

His voice is pleasant enough, but despite the popular series of covers the Glee cast has released (none of which I would say match any of the originals), Glee has had no breakout star.  Welcome Back, Kotter had John Travolta, Full House had the Olsen twins,  Square Pegs had Sarah Jessica Parker, Doogie Howser, M.D. had Neil Patrick Harris, Dawson's Creek had Michelle Williams.  It isn't impossible to gain success after being seen as a kid on television, but all the above had the talent to have us see them as adults, not teens (well, the Olsen twins are open to debate).

Even on other teen programs the various cast members did manage some success once their programs were over, albeit with some struggle.  Both Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Ricky Schroeder went beyond their Saved By the Bell/Silver Spoons days to play successfully in the gritty NYPD Blue (with Gosselaar doing a variation on Zack Morris on Franklin & Bash).  Dawson's Creek alum Joshua Jackson has gained a new following with Fringe.  Again, perhaps not the real big-time, but big enough to allow them a career that doesn't involve sex tapes (sorry, Screech). 

The best example of how I think Monteith's career could go is from Dawson himself.  James Van Der Beek is perhaps condemned by the wimpy character he played on Dawson's Creek.  For years he was unable to get anything, until he began to spoof his Dawson persona, most notably playing a fictionalized version of himself in Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 (hey, I'm not going to pretend I don't know what the "B" stands for).  It might have reinvigorated his career, I don't know.  However, I wonder if too much self-parody will be just as injurious to a career as typecasting.  It's one thing to be in on the joke, another to be the joke. 

What does all this have to do with Cory Monteith?  Well, he should know he can't play a teenager forever.  His one foray into film during/post-Glee (Monte Carlo) didn't exactly set the world on fire.  Matthew Morrison's solo album didn't burn up the charts, so what makes anyone think a solo concert by Monteith will fare any better?  He could try to spoof himself a la Van Der Beek, but I think it is a dangerous route.  Dawson's Creek always veered to the point of being parody during its run and was not to be taken seriously; Glee on the other hand, is determined to be some sort of cultural touchstone and sometimes thinks too highly of itself. 

My advice is to ease into playing someone your age.  Granted, this may come as a bit of a shock to people who may be used to seeing you as a teenager, so I won't begrudge him playing a college student.  No one expects him to go from Finn to Henry Higgins in one day. 

One thing I would say is to not get it into your head that you are a big star.  You're not even a big fish in a small pond.  You're a fully-adult man playing at being a teenager on a once-wildly popular now struggling show.   Small parts in ensemble pictures, then a featured role in adult fare (not some slasher film).  Allow the public to rediscover you, to forget Finn, or at the very least put him behind them.

Anyone can have a career after a television show, either on another television show or film (we should always remember George Clooney had his first big break on The Facts of Life).  Monteith can likewise have a career after the last song is sung.  He may not reach Clooney-levels of fame or respect (perhaps he never will).  However, on this important date for him personally, Cory Monteith should ask himself, "Do I want a career or do I want fame?"  The two are not always one and the same.

As Monteith now enters an age where some people are parents with jobs, responsibilities, and one high school reunion under their belt, I figure he can celebrate having survived his own youthful foolishness.  However, it is also a time for him to reflect on how he will go both personally or professionally.

With that, I wish a Happy 30th Birthday to Cory Monteith.

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