How to Become a Student of Pop Culture

 In Blog

Every “expert” tells PDs and talent that in order to talk to your audience, you have to “Watch Glee.”  You have to “Talk about American Idol.”  We hear shows talk about television because they think they’re supposed to; yet they didn’t see the show, or they don’t enjoy the show nor “get” why anyone else would.
Instead of watching a show, we have to be students of the show and dig deeper.  We need to understand why the show has such ardent fans.   Ask, “What is at the emotional center of this show, this episode, this audition?”  Knowing the answer to that question (Chris Medina’s unconditional love for his wheelchair-ridden fiancé on Idol; Kurt’s coming out to his father on Glee) will help you to pick the right content to talk about.  

Once we understand the show’s heart center, then even a show or a character that hates American Idol knows what hot buttons to choose.  If it is in your character to hate Idol, you can take the emotional heart center of the episode and poke at it, something like, “American Idol finally went too far in exploiting the contestants!!  Did you see that guy with the wife in the wheelchair?!  That is ridiculous.  That show is over!”
You may be the opposite sex or out of the demo of a show that is important to your audience.  Here are things you can do to help understand the show’s appeal so you can talk about it:
1.    Yes, watch the show, at least once, so you have some knowledge about the show’s characters, premise, etc.
2.    Pay attention to your (wife’s) emotional reactions during the show.  When did you (she) laugh?  When did you (ok, her) tear up a little?  Ask people that are huge fans of the show to explain to you its appeal.  You may never get it yourself, but at least you will have a better understanding of why a segment of your audience does.
3.    One easy way to find out which contestants’ stories or performances are connecting is to follow #AmericanIdol or #Glee on Twitter the night the show airs.  The comments will steer you toward the right material.
4.    Pose a question to your fans on Facebook to find out what they thought.  It’s effective to pose in the form of an either/or question.  For example, Cat & Lisa from Virgin/Montreal recently did the topic, “Team Simon or Team Steven?”
The heart of Glee isn’t the musical numbers, although they are fun.  The heart of Glee isn’t Sue Sylvester’s side-splitting insults, as clever as they are.  The heart of the show is its band of misfits.  Everyone feels like an outcast at some point in their life; this show reaches out to the outcast in you and gives it a hug.
The heart of American Idol isn’t the guy who burps when he’s nervous.  Idol at its core is people who are pursuing a dream, people with families from Kosovo, special needs foster siblings, childhood health problems.  We care about the show because we root for their story.

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