'Glee' Cast, Creators Toast 100 Episodes
"Cory Monteith was always front and center at an event like this," 20th Century Fox Television chairman Dana Walden says in kicking off the Monday event, held on the show's set.
The cast, creators and executives behind Fox's musical sensation Glee gathered at the show's Paramount lot in Hollywood on Monday to raise a glass to the show's 100th episode with a ceremony that was as heartfelt as it was humorous.
20th Century Fox Television chairman Dana Walden opened the afternoon gathering on the show's McKinley High School auditorium set, where the cast, massive crew and select members of the press gathered to mark the rare milestone.
Gathering everyone onstage, Walden kicked off the celebration by acknowledging that the show's auditorium set has featured a plethora of festivities -- including the show's 500th song celebration -- and most recently, Glee's tribute to Cory Monteith, who died last year at the age of 31.
"We've celebrated so many milestones on this stage, and most recently we celebrated the life of our good friend and colleague, Cory Monteith. I miss Cory a lot today," Walden said. "He was always front and center at an event like this; he really loved them and was always smiling in the front row. He was so proud of this show. He was blown away by the talent that surrounded him -- and he had very good reason to be proud."
Walden then rattled off some of the show's impressive achievements in its five-season run, which include six Emmy Awards and 39 nominations, two Golden Globes for best comedy or musical, six People's Choice Awards, three Grammy nominations, two AFI Awards and a Peabody. On the music side, the series has seen more than 62 million singles downloaded, with more than 13 million albums sold worldwide. In thanking Columbia Records, which distributes the show's music, Walden also noted that Glee has the most songs ever charted by a single act on the Billboard 100, with 207, topping Elvis Presley, James Brown and the Beatles. Not to mention the show's sold-out tours, for which more than 450,000 tickets have been sold, selling out 40 cities in minutes.
But beyond the numbers, Walden -- and later Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly -- singled out the show's cultural impact and ability to "deeply move" its viewers. Walden read an emotional letter offering a hint at just how much Glee has registered with people across the world.
"Through thousands of letters, emails and postings online, it's clear that everyone involved in this series has changed so many lives for the better," she said.
Reilly, meanwhile, recalled the early days of co-creator Ryan Murphy pitching the show, a process that he called the "definition of a vision."
"You remember the really special ones," Reilly said. "I was literally sitting there while [Ryan] told stories, some from his past, some melded in with the actual show that it was going to become. It was vivid and it was real and it felt alive. I knew he was going to pull it off."
While the plot registered immediately, the network executive recalled the questions about the elaborate music and dancing that would go into the production -- all of which were settled a few weeks later when Murphy played him the show's now iconic cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."
"Two minutes into that song it was clear this was going to be the phenomenon that this became," Reilly said, singling out the dedication of the cast. "It's been such a collaboration and such an undertaking putting on this amazing movie that gets made every week.
"What you guys have pulled off is extraordinary. I don't use that word lightly," he went on. "I've done these ceremonies before, and some shows manage to solidly, in yeoman-like fashion, go step by step to 100 episodes. But very few have gone through crazy high highs and some very challenging lows that this show and you people have had to go through. It is extraordinary. Glee on a good week is an amazing television show; Glee on a great week is something that transcends the medium and has been a cultural phenomenon."
Co-creator Brad Falchuk, who spoke on behalf of the executive producers, praised 20th TV and said they were the only studio that would have taken such a big swing. He also acknowledged Reilly's role in the show's creative direction after the network topper said the series needed to add a bad guy, making him ultimately responsible for the addition of Jane Lynch's snarky Sue Sylvester.
Falchuk credited the cast for their hard work and inspiration. Producers were joined by cast members including Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Naya Rivera and original stars Dianna Agron and Amber Riley -- who are returning for the 100th episode -- as well as the show's next-generation regulars Melissa Benoist, Blake Jenner, Alex Newell and more.
"To the cast, we started with you guys and we all grew up together," an emotional Falchuk said. "What most people don't know about the show is that we [the writers] steal from them -- if they're talking about something on the set, we take it and put it into a script. The most shameful, painful, horrible things that ever happened to you guys -- whether in the past or the present -- we took and put it in the scripts and you guys brought it to life. You brought our shames and our pains to life.
"The best storytelling takes the personal and makes it very global," he added. "You guys took all that personal stuff and gave it to the world in a way where they could really hear it, and I think you let a lot of people take the most painful part of their lives -- which is high school -- and relive it again because of how courageous you were in telling these stories. They could live it again but they can do it right this time. Personally, you changed my life, and I'm really grateful to you and I love you all."
Glee's two-part 100th episode airs March 18 and 25 and will feature remixed performances of some of the show's best performances, as voted on by its fans. For a full track listing, click here.
Stay tuned to The Hollywood Reporter for more Glee scoop. Glee returns Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. on its new night and time.