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Glee chief plays down controversy over stars' exit

TV executives have confirmed that three lead characters of high school musical comedy Glee will be "graduating" at the end of the upcoming season, but tried to play down a fan furore over their exit.

Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said the show's Emmy Award-winning creator Ryan Murphy "probably regrets" going public with the news, and the subsequent confusion over a possible spin-off show for some of the departing Glee stars.

Murphy said in an interview in July that actors Lea Michele (Rachel), Cory Monteith (Finn) and Chris Colfer (Kurt) would not be back for a fourth season in a bid to keep the show about a struggling high school choir more credible.

The news stunned fans and some of the actors said they learned of their fate on Twitter. Glee producers then said that plans were under way for the three to appear in a spin-off show, which was later cancelled.

Reilly said last night that the "public nature of it did take everybody by surprise" and had "taken on more heated momentum than it in fact is".

"A spin-off was in the wind. It is still in the wind. We haven't said we are not doing it," Reilly said, saying the idea would be revisited later this year.

Reilly said the upcoming third season, starting on September 20, would be a "back to basics year" for the show.

"There are no big guest star-driven shows, no big tribute numbers. We are focusing on our core characters and relationships.

"There will will be a graduation at the end, we know the characters who will be graduating. How that is going to play out, I am not going to say. There's going to be surprises," he said.

Reilly blamed Murphy's "creativity" for the confusion over how the characters will leave the show and the issue of a spin-off.

"Ryan did talk to all the actors about it...Ryan has said he probably regrets talking about it at that point because in the interim we had decided to focus on this year."

hnews@ herald.ie