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Helen Mirren joins Neil Patrick Harris and Chewbacca on list of Glee guest stars

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The knee-jerk response to Glee's heavy stream of guest stars would be to consider such moves an attempt to pull the show out of its current, incoherent nosedive, but the truth is that the comedy so many people love to hate has always relied on a evolving door of big (or big-ish? medium-tall?) names. (Some also might say that the truth is that the show was always in a nosedive as well, but I disagree with those people.)

And as the iTunes sales remain lackluster, Ryan Murphy and co. decided to really go all out for the show's return on January 17. And they're not taking any chances, hitting two disparate demographics: for those who can still watch the cocktail party of despair that is Bravo, NeNe Leakes (of Real Housewives "fame") will appear as a synchronized swimming couch (anything to get Chord Overstreet's shirt off!). And for those who are… not those people, Helen fucking Mirren. Ever the smart one, however, Mirren won't actually be showing her face:

Mirren provides the “inner voice” of a character who shall remain nameless. (For now at least.)

“Helen came in and secretly recorded several long and hilarious monologues two weeks ago,” says the source. “Then she visited the kids on set, and they had no idea she was coming; they were stunned.”

Oddly, it was sometimes Glee director Eric Stoltz who convinced the Oscar winner to take the part, though a source claims that Mirren was already a fan of the show and "the message it sends out about arts education." (Uh, that arts education makes everyone insufferable and the money would be better spent on mood stabilizers slipped into the cafeteria food?)