Tonight on Fox’s hit musical show Glee, Ricky Martin will guest star as “The Spanish Teacher.” The largely anticipated episode is the latest major network television nod to the growing influence of Hispanic culture on mainstream television. As we discussed two weeks ago in a post on CBS’ new Rob Schneider sit-com Rob, the time is ripe for Hispanics to enter the network television world in a way that goes beyond the clichéd roles of maids and gardeners—and advertisers are taking note. Case in point: though ABC’s break out hit Modern Family is an ensemble comedy, it’s only Sofia Vergara, who plays hilarious Colombian beauty Gloria, that has been signed to not one, but four major commercial endorsements since the show’s launch in 2009.
Then there’s the extra-emphasis the NFL has put on Latino fans for the past six years, leading to the past two Super Bowls becoming the most watched TV shows by Latinos in American history.
It would follow suit that Glee creator Ryan Murphy, whose show was the fifth most watched English-language TV show amongst Latino viewers in 2011, would want to get in on a piece of that action.
To cultivate that audience in an authentic way, Murphy invited Martin to help him write the episode.
“It’s amazing that Ryan is giving the Latin community an opportunity to tell the world—because Glee is a world phenomenon,” Ricky Martin said in an online interview promoting the episode, “To tell the world what we’re made of, what we like and what we don’t like, what we fear, what we are proud of… and it’s beautiful.”
One way the episode accomplishes this, Martin says, is through a Madonna cover he performs with Glee regular Naya Rivera.
“‘La Isla Bonita’ is about simplicity, yet reviving this song with a very modern approach without jumping into stereotypes and being cliché about a sound. Actually it’s more of a dance approach, what we created musically.”
Another scene in the episode features the young men of the cast wearing outrageous, Mexican, pointy-toe boots popular with immigrant fans of a musical style called Tribal. Such authentic and insidery detail should be a Latino viewer favorite—not to mention a real eye-catcher for anyone who gets a gander at those crazy things.
The trend bodes well for advertisers who are looking for more creative ways to court Hispanic shoppers. The barrier has been broken and networks are primed for a love affair with the Latino audience.