Americas Best Dance Crew
We chose an episode of “Americas Best Dance Crew” (short for ABDC) as our example of a reality TV show which entails a team of people working together. More specifically, we chose to look into episode 11, season 5, the final. The team we chose to focus on within the show was that consisting of the judges. The purpose behind this television show is to uncover the best American dance crew by letting groups of talented dancers compete against one another. The competing dance crews are evaluated by three judges based on the crew’s performance and then voted on by the audience via a phone call. The team made up of the three judges is sitting next to one other before the stage, facing the performing dance crews. The audience is situated directly behind them. The three judges are called Lil Mama, JC Chasez and Omarion. All three have a professional background in the music and show business. We identified them as having two main goals. Firstly, they advise the crews and give them constructive criticism based on their performance. Secondly, they provide the audience with an influential and subjective view on the crews’ performances and therefore “help” the audience decide who to vote for.
Having observed the judges, our first impression was that they were enjoying themselves. They seemed to truly take pleasure in what they were doing. Offering their opinions in a predefined manner, a hierarchy seemed to have formed within the team. Lil Mama appeared to take the lead most often. This led to a discussion within our group on whether the judges act in a biased way or not, especially in the case of Lil Mama. After discussing the incentives behind the words and actions of the members of the team, we came to an agreement that they were mostly motivated on an extrinsic level. This is because of all the money and fame they acquire from being a judge on the widely watched show. On the other hand, some of us claimed that the motivation could be argued to be formed on an intrinsic basis too. We based this argument on the fact that the judges are involved in the show business. They are musicians, actors and dancers themselves. This means that they take pride in giving advice to the young endowed dancers and they just simply love their profession.
We found the team to have similarities as well as differences. The most obvious similarity was their profound knowledge of the music business in addition to their job specification which is to offer constructive criticism to the various competing dance crews. In the final, they all used a similar way of motivating the dancers by giving rather positive feedback on their performances. In the flashbacks entailed within the course of the show, we also saw similarities in their goal setting strategy. They told the dance crews specifically what to do and what not to do.
Regarding flashbacks of earlier episodes, we also observed that the judges were not as critical anymore in the 11th episode, which was the final show of the season. We believed them not to criticize the teams as much anymore because of the essence of the final. They cannot emphasize on the mistakes that the new “America’s Best Dance Crew” made in their final performance. This would defeat the purpose of the show. Also, negative feedback in the finale could lead to them being fired. This led us to believe that the decisions they made were greatly influenced by the environment and circumstances they were operating in.
Another point worth mentioning is that of personality. It seemed quite clear to us that the personality of the three persons affected decision-making. We found their opinions to be influenced by their profession. The minimal feedback they gave was from a professional point of view. They know what goes into the magic of constructing dance and music and were thus able to judge well (which is of course their role in the show). In addition intuition, personal likes and where the dancers came from (east vs. west coast, north vs. south) influenced the nature of their decisions. The dance crews were divided according to regional origin. Each region seemed to have one judge as an advocate. Interestingly the advocate always came from the same area. For example, Lil Mama who comes from the East supported the East-based crew.
We also found some interesting examples of how the judges put the information they got by watching the performances into patterns. Because of the little time they have during the show, they need to use their sense of perception in order to give quick feedback. Most often the three team members just took one or two examples of the entire performance and based their opinion on them.
We also found evidence of stereotypes being used. In this case, one of the finalist groups came from Canada. This was unusual since the performers in the past had always come from the United States. One of the judges even pointed out that: “Canadians can play hockey and dance”. They seemed to use stereotypes to enhance the recognition and differences of the groups.
The judges have certain common strengths. As mentioned earlier, they all have an in-depth view on how the show business works and what the teams’ performances ought to look like. They are a group of experts which entitles them to actually giving advice to both the crews and the spectators. They can be seen as a kind of ‘authority’. A rather important strength of the team is the ability to motivate well. The judges have been through casting shows at the beginning of their careers and obviously know how to deal with the young dancers. They used goal setting strategy thoroughly from one show to the next in order to make the dancers seriously try their best. Another strength we agreed on was the communication amongst the group members. They didn’t argue. Instead, they listened to each other and paid close attention to the others’ opinions by sometimes even referring to them when giving their own.
The group of judges encountered some problems as well. The setup of the show keeps them from being entirely free on their votes. As we said, in the final show where you define the best dance crew, you cannot tell the spectators that the dancers did not perform well. It would discredit the entire show. The prevalent weakness of the little group was that of not being independent. They cannot, for example, reach an objective call on the crew’s performance. They always have to keep in mind that the show comes first. They have to think about what’s good for the ‘image’ of the show. Conclusively, we found them to be biased when it came to giving their opinion.
In order to reduce or completely eliminate the aforementioned weaknesses, the judges would have to limit the obvious regional bias. We would advise the judges to try and do their work fairly by working with a crew from a different geographical region. Also if they aren’t allowed to criticize in the final, they could still attempt to add positive feedback regarding what they found could have been better. No group is perfect. Not even if they win the title “Americas Best Dance Crew”. We think that the best strategy to implement these changes would be done by motivating the judges. The constraints we encounter don’t leave much choice as to how to change the behavior of the judges. The only thing we could think of was to get their manager to demand them to be more critical. They could also set specific goals and reward them with money. However, the producers of the show are unlikely to act in a way that will, in our opinion, hurt the show.