Glee, Reality, and the Dark Side of Fandom


You ever hate-watch a show? Like, find yourself totally DESPISING it, but unable to look away, like a car accident or forest fire?

I'm there with The Glee Project.

Let's back up three years; when Glee first aired, it was this compact, mean, subversive little show about big dreams in a small town, like Friday Night Lights but with more singing and dancing.

Somewhere we went off the rails, and ended up with 22 episodes a year built around bizarre plot twists, advancement of writers' liberal agendas, and successful attempts to shill iTunes singles (the Glee kids currently have more hit singles than the Beatles. What. The. Crap.). 

Long story short, here we are with the second season of The Glee Project, in which 14 fresh-faced young hopefuls compete every week for a seven-episode stint on Glee proper in season three.

The first season of the competition show actually yielded four (!) winners, with multi-episode arcs on the show that may or may not result in series-regular status for some of them going into the fourth season of the mothership show.

Now, the thing about The Glee Project  is that it's TERRIBLE. Not only is it ridiculous, byzantine, and sort of bereft of a point, it's also badly shot and edited, and somehow, one of these terribly anticharismatic waifs is going to end up further dismantling the ticking timebomb mess that is Glee. (Yes, that's a mixed metaphor, and I don't care.)

This got me thinking: reality TV—even reality TV as unreal as this—is a really dangerous thing to mix with scripted TV.

As scripted shows continue to dwindle on mainstream networks, and good writers and their teams run screaming for cable (there's a future piece about writers' room firings on The Walking Dead and The Newsroom that's still stewing), why do we feel the need to mess with how these stories are told?

I suppose the answer to this question also must include things like fan response and outcry influencing creative choices. In the past, television programming was based soley on whether or not the ratings were there to back it up. I'm trying to figure out when message boards, chat rooms, and fan campaigns began to take a turn. I think it had something to do with Keri Russell's hair on Felicity...

So my question, dear reader: have you ever had a show ruined by fan response, or "meddling" from an outside source like a reality show? And what the heck is wrong with The Glee Project? Why do I hate this show so much?

This week's Flix-worthy pick: I'm going to advise that you watch the first thirteen episodes of Glee,and marvel at how good it was before it went so very wrong. Oh, and maybe watch some Friday Night Lights. But that's a story for another time...

Jonathan Elliott is a writer, arts futurist, pop omnivore, journalist, marketer, and troublemaker. He’s worked in arts marketing and management for the past twelve years, for organizations including Grounds for Sculpture, Princeton Summer Theater at Princeton University, Washington National Opera, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, Sycamore Rouge, McCarter Theatre Center, and ArtPride NJ.

Jonathan writes pop culture and TV pieces for Cinema Blend and Pop Break. His play, Forward Motion, is published via Playscripts, Inc., and he is the co-creator of the made-for-web series NeverLanding.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Laura Madsen August 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Production companies and media outlets always have to do something new. It's like Madonna reinventing herself and her look every year or two. Even if everyone isn't on board with the idea, many are fascinated. Scripted shows have been around for decades, reality shows came next, now I suppose it's time for a blend. Makes you wonder what will come next. (For what it's worth, I'm a Glee fan.) Interesting blog!


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