Glee: A New Low for TV and Advertising

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Ben Cohen
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Glee - glee photo

Every major publication has something to say about the new dance/dramady TV show 'Glee', most heralding it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I sat through an episode of it, and while it was quite entertaining, I felt like I had downed a liter of diet coke afterwards, and couldn't get that bitter aftertaste out of my mouth.

The show was well produced, brilliantly shot and the actors were generally pretty good (although I'm not a fan of the overly dramatic teen style 'angst' required in young actors these days). The script didn't make much sense to me - lots of drama, quirky jokes, bizzare overly sexed musical performances interspersed with random product placements. It was all a bit confusing and I couldn't really understand what was going on half the time.

But that seemed to be the point.

The show wasn't really a show at all, but a pumped up commercial designed to sell teenagers whichever musician happened to be featured and whichever company paid umpteen million dollars to have their product featured (the one I saw had a teacher completely randomly obsessing over a Corvette). The actors were also part of the actual commercials making it even harder to draw the line between what was storyline and what was advertising.

I couldn't help but feel the creators of 'Glee' sat in a room and decided to come up with a show that hit the highly desirable young demographic from every conceivable angle making their product as valuable to advertisers as humanly possible. Don't get me wrong, they've created a highly watchable show which is no easy task, but there is something depressing about watching a show you know has a rather blatant ulterior motive.

I guess it's a chicken and the egg type question: Do shows attract advertisers or do advertisers attract shows?

There are certainly brilliant, original dramas that attract millions of viewers without compromising their integrity for advertisers. But these days, they seem to be the exception, not the norm.

Unfortunately, 'Glee' seems to be the model for the future - a highly sophisticated television program that is an advertisers wet dream. What does this say for the television industry? Probably that it is as nakedly greedy as the banks and every other ruthless capitalist industry out there.

At least it's fun, I guess.