‘The Glee Project‘ is one of those fresh reality competition shows that most people aren’t watching but should be. It brings the same excitement to this genre that ‘The Voice‘ did, but being put on Oxygen doesn’t do it any favors.
I’m sure some ‘Glee’ fans will be shooting over some nastygrams for me saying this, but I definitely found this season of the Fox hit show to be a little tired with way too man ‘special episodes’ dedicated to one artist. Whereas the first season was such a hit because the songs integrated with the plot smoothly, most of this season felt a little how the movie ‘Dreamgirls’ did in someone talking and suddenly a song which felt a little forced was hoisted upon us.
Show creator, Ryan Murphy, is playing in smart knowing that graduation will be coming soon for many of the lead characters so it’s time to start filling in slots to take over as they move along or are forced to suddenly begin failing to stay in high school. So Murphy created ‘The Glee Project’, which is quite different from many of the other reality show that are looking for someone to be the new lead in an Andrew Lloyd Webber (yeah, he’s still alive and putting out treacle) musical or for ‘Legally Blonde’ (the now shuttered Broadway musical). The latter one wound up making me feel like the ears would wind up bleeding if I had to sit through an entire episode.
Thankfully, ‘The Glee Project’ is a joy to watch, but the real tragedy is that the marketing for it sucks so many have no idea that this is even on. Forty thousand people, we’re told, tried out for one of a dozen slots on The Glee Project,’ which promises the winner a role in a seven-episode story arc on “Glee’s” next season. It’s a pretty smart idea, but the wonder of it is that it gives us a backend look of what goes on in making a hit show. It also gives many wannabe actors and actresses a birds eye view of what to expect (the highs and the just as quick lows) in this field. Rather than promising fame and fortune like ‘American Idol‘ or the upcoming ‘X-Factor’, ‘The Glee Project’ is an opportunity for one of the contestants to get a shot at some notice on a primetime hit show, even if it’s only for seven weeks. This could wind up lasting longer as now regular Darren Criss found out after only being slated for a few episodes at first. John Stamos on the other hand was hoping for more longevity so that’s another example of one career taking off while another moves on to another show.
While the competition formula is pretty standard in ‘The Glee Project’, what stands out is that the people who actually do make the decisions on who to cast for the show are actually involved in the process. Glee’s casting director Robert Ulrich, choreographer Zach Woodlee and vocal coach, arranger and songwriter Nikki Anders serve as mentors and really give some great critiques unlike many of Jimmy Iovine’s on American Idol. These mentors give it to the 18-22 contestants pretty harshly, but that’s how they actually give them in the real world. Finally, there’s some realness in a reality show! Character means everything to “Glee”; Murphy and the show’s writers emphasize the need for big, broadly rendered school archetypes around which to build new stories. “Show us who you are,” says Murphy, “Not who you think we want you to be.”
The challenges are tailormade to ‘Glee’ episodes and this past week’s was very touching as each contestant had to wear a sandwich board on LA’s Citywalk which stated what they most felt vulnerable about themselves. They were then to sing Gary Jules version of ‘Mad World’ to make a video (see below). This challenge was the judges/mentors way of finding out who could bring this to the screen the most and which three would wind up singing for their life. (Yeah, I kept thinking of RuPaul’s ‘lip synch for your life‘).
The toughest part it seems of this show is that while these contestants are vying for a role on ‘Glee’, they’re also being put into the classic reality show stereotypes. You know, ‘the bitch’, the whiner’, the melancholy one, the annoying one, the passive aggressive one, etc. Matheus, a Brazilian immigrant who stands 4 feet 9 inches tall, is an Artie-like misfit, minus the wheelchair. Ellis is a cherub-faced college dropout who worries that she will always look like a 10-year-old. Damian is the awkwardly handsome exchange student from Northern Ireland who has been performing in a Celtic roadshow. There’s also a worried fat girl, a gay kid who is 99 percent diva and the girl who thinks she’s already Rachel. These are the exact types of characters which has made ‘Glee’ such a hit.
Right off the bat, you know that everyone has watched ‘Glee’ loyally and some begin acting like a few of the characters off the bat which actually hurts them since Murphy and company are looking for more unique voices to write for. So along with being a singing competition along with acting one, ‘The Glee Project’ is also who can wow the judges the most. One of the contestants was described by Glee casting director as very normal without any self worth issues and found that to be a problem. While the show ‘Glee’ is all about inclusion and accepting all people as they are, this reality show brings in a true does or reality when it comes to these aspects. It’s a show about the freak within us all, and we need more freaks to get more seasons.
Overall, this is a show to watch and it actually does deliver many surprises in who gets cut. In most shows like ‘American Idol’, the mediocre usually win, not so in Ryan Murphy’s world of ‘Glee’.
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‘The Glee Project’ is a great summer reality show that provides a wonderful alternative to the dreck of CBS’s ‘Big Brother’. Ryan Murphy proves his showbiz savvy with this show to replace the quickly aging cast of ‘Glee’ with fresh new blood. Very worth checking out, even if it’s stuck on Oxygen.