Fans of feelgood TV show Glee were left stunned on Thursday when producers aired an episode featuring a school shooting plotline.
The all-singing, all-dancing US comedy-drama follows the lives of a group of students who are members of their college's musical performance troupe.
However, viewers tuning in on Thursday were in for an emotional rollercoaster as the episode featured a terrifying shooting incident just four months after 20 children and six adult staff were gunned down in cold blood at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The episode met with a mixed reaction online, with some fans accusing show bosses of being insensitive - and a father of two sons who survived the Sandy Hook horror insisted it was "too soon" to run such a sensitive plotline.
Andrew Paley wrote, "It's too soon as our kids and our own wounds are still too new."
The controversial episode of Glee, titled 'Shooting Star', showed a music coach, played by Matthew Morrison, abandoning a lesson and helping pupils to hide in a classroom for 10 minutes after two gunshots are heard in a school corridor. Other scenes showed youngsters and teachers hiding out in various rooms in the school before a SWAT team swoops on the building.
Producers aired a disclaimer warning prior to the broadcast, telling viewers, "This episode of Glee addresses the topic of school violence. Viewer discretion is advised."
Some fans took to Twitter.com to tell of their upset at the harrowing scenes. A fan with the username Schmitontwit wrote, "That was a cowards (sic) way out of trying to do something Glee. Have a shooter in school storyline is not your wheelhouse, but that was awful", Lacey Micallef added, "Just when u (you) think it isn't humanly possible Glee keeps getting worse and worse and worse..." and another user wrote, "Emotionally manipulative, obnoxious and totally insulting, the school-shooting episode was Glee at its very worst."
However, the stars of the show seemed pleased with their work - Morrison tweeted, "Really proud of the cast! Great acting on tonight's episode!" and his co-star Lea Michele added, "Such a moving a (sic) powerful episode tonight. Made me so proud to be a part of this show."