I’m not a fan of the TV show Glee – made it through a few episodes of the first season before bowing out – but I’m totally hooked on The Glee Project, the meta-show. In The Glee Project they’re doing a reality show about an auditioning process for a guest-starring role on the next season of Glee. So its a show about young peppy people who can sing and dance and act (all in theory, of course, for some of them) as they strive to be the one picked to be on Glee. As reality shows go, it’s already a pretty cool premise, since it actually references something real in the world unlike, say, America’s Next Top Model, the lyingest titled show in the history of the world.
The actual process of watching the competitors sing and do stuff is kind of great simply because they’re more or less talented and watching talented people doing their thing is a lot of fun. But what absolutely makes the experience is the judging process. Each week, three (or more) contestants have to “sing for their life” and the judge is Ryan Murphy, one of the creators of Glee. So already we have a heavy-hitter involved (though André Leon Talley is a judge on ANTM and that doesn’t seem to make much difference).
Crucially, in the very first episode, Murphy (or perhaps one of the other people in charge) makes it clear that the judging process is ultimately subjective. Music to my ears! It’s so often the case that reality TV shows put forward the notion that they’re objectively selecting the best X – the best chef, the best singer, the model. Hilariously, of course, you always see that little “small print” announcement fly by at the end of these shows along the lines of “production had input into the decisions of the judging panel”.
In embracing subjectivity, The Glee Project frees the viewer from the insane frustration associated with the judges making the wrong damn decisions. How infuriating is it to watch Masterchef or Top Model, with their pretensions toward objective truth, kicking off contestants for no obvious reason whatsoever? In The Glee Project you come to accept that the show is Murphy’s world, and you just observe it – it becomes a process of trying to understand what he is looking for, not what the best singer, dancer, or actor looks like. And this is not to mention that Ryan Murphy is a particularly hilarious judge, such that each episode ends up feeling like you’re watching John Malkovich judge a talent competition.
I wonder if The Glee Project has the “production had input” message at the end of their show? That would be some superior postmodernism – the production of a show about a show having input into the judgment of the producer of the second show…?