Showrunner Styles, Part II

Duana Posted by Duana at December 9, 2011 17:57:50 December 9, 2011 17:57:50

Click here for Part I.

I havenΓÇÖt watched Glee since last year, and I feel good about that.   But I also feel great about the Glee Christmas album thatΓÇÖs in my ears right now; they really do have some unadulterated joy, these kids.   Or they did, right? Back in season 1?

What IΓÇÖm about to write is going to have a lot of opinions and a lot of the word ΓÇÿallegedlyΓÇÖ.   I will judiciously add in all ΓÇÿallegedliesΓÇÖ, but if I forget one, stay with me.

Us Weekly has a new story saying Ryan Murphy ΓÇ£wages psychological warΓÇ¥ on his castmembers .  The story seems to deal specifically with Glee, so weΓÇÖll leave American Horror Story aside for a moment.

The story says that the cast are frustrated with the 16 hour days, and that Lea Michele is leading the charge against him.   

Let me deal with this first.   Generally a  ΓÇÿstandardΓÇÖ call is a 12-hour WORK day for cast and crew.   That doesnΓÇÖt include hair and makeup, so if those take two hours, youΓÇÖre already at 14.   In addition, overtime happens all the time.   Apparently on Glee, it happens a LOT of the time, but this is not out of the ordinary.

Anyway, with regard to Michele, you can verify this pretty easily by reading her twitter.   They are up early and there late.   Arguably sheΓÇÖs there the most, because sheΓÇÖs one of the ΓÇÿleadΓÇÖ leads,  but  still.

(Sidebar:   the only name on the record in this story is Harry Shum Jr.  who admits the days get long.   How much do you want to bet he said that on a carpet somewhere, and itΓÇÖs just being repurposed for this?)

Now then.   These are long days.   Admitted.   There is a lot-lot-lot of work involved and IΓÇÖm not just talking about the show.   These guys have gone on a billion multi-city tours and done countless weeks of promotion and extra performances and appearances.

And they are in their 20s.

And they believe they are stars.

Look,  IΓÇÖm not saying theyΓÇÖre NOT stars.   They are utterly in demand.   But ΓǪbut theyΓÇÖre also in their early 20s.   

I have never met someone in their early 20s, in my workplaces or others, who did not think that management was garbage and that they could do it better.   Similarly,  IΓÇÖve never met anyone whoΓÇÖs been working for more than three years who didnΓÇÖt think the ΓÇÿkids todayΓÇÖ are ridiculously entitled and donΓÇÖt know how to work.   (If you are reading this and are under the three-years-in-full-time work mark, trust me, this will happen to you.   But you still get to bitch about your boss, donΓÇÖt worry.)

So you have alleged entitled stars who think that they very recently hung the moon.   Or, failing that, that they should get some say in the admittedly convoluted storylines that are making them different characters every week.

Then you have an allegedly narcissistic showrunner who is an egotist to begin with, and from my understanding, canΓÇÖt bear to be questioned, but who is also running two huge hit shows for the same network and for whom the M.O. is clear: DonΓÇÖt Mess Up, keep everything being a hit.

Yes, I can see how he would get snarky with his ΓÇÿstarsΓÇÖ who suddenly know how to fix everything and let me tell you, it does not take actors long to think they know better than you do what should happen with their characters.   ItΓÇÖs natural.   You put enough of yourself into bringing someone to life, itΓÇÖs bound to happen.  

But then again, the creator/writer also believes (s)he brought those characters to life.    Herein lies the first conflict.

Plus,  from the creator/writerΓÇÖs point of view,  all the star has to do is show up and do the work and be fawned over and have their pictures taken while he types in obscurity in a corner for hours and hours, and yes the money is good but what good is money when you donΓÇÖt have time to spend it or meet anyone to spend it with and gahhhh.

IΓÇÖm not saying itΓÇÖs OK.   IΓÇÖm just saying this is where the mindset comes from.

The most serious accusation is that when Lea Michele told Murphy she didnΓÇÖt want to go on the summer tour last year (which I assume it was in her contract to do), he implied that the consequence would be that heΓÇÖd fire one of her friends.

Gross.  Emotionally manipulative. Unfair.   Probably pretty common.

IΓÇÖm not saying itΓÇÖs okay.  But who among us hasnΓÇÖt had a boss who was manipulative and mean and infuriatingly, still kind of brilliant at what they do?  

I donΓÇÖt imagine it would be a picnic to work for Murphy.   I donΓÇÖt suspect that heΓÇÖs secretly sweet and charming.   But heΓÇÖs got two hits on the air.   That takes a lot out of a person.   And the reason weΓÇÖre focusing on this show is because itΓÇÖs a hit, and it  stars ΓÇ£kidsΓÇ¥.   But remember that theyΓÇÖre not, actually, kids.   TheyΓÇÖre mid-20s performers in their first high-intensity jobs.    IΓÇÖm not saying I donΓÇÖt think that environment is loaded and difficult.   I do.   But I also think that adjusting to a job that demands everything of you is kind of a rite of passage, and that maybe in these high stakes environments, relationships like this are more common than we think.    All the other shows where you donΓÇÖt hear the actors heaping praise on their showrunner isnΓÇÖt because they havenΓÇÖt thought about it  and it isnΓÇÖt because the person is patently evil; itΓÇÖs likely because the relationship is that of boss and employee, and itΓÇÖs natural to feel both happy and annoyed with this person at any given time.

Just like the rest of us do.

Attached - Lea Michele on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno this week promoting New YearΓÇÖs Eve.


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