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GLEEKONOMICS By Jerome Wetzel
Oxygen has now premiered The Glee Project, a reality competition show where twelve singers compete for a seven episode arc on FOX’s Glee. The first hour narrows the field from around 40,000 contestants to twelve. Unlike American Idol, which stretches out this stage for at least a month, all viewers get are brief snippets of the many, many auditions, and a quick overview of the process, including their own “Hollywood Week,” squeezed in among the rest of the episode. The second hour and eight minutes, “Individuality,” tasks the twelve finalists with demonstrating their own special characteristic, an essential element of any Glee character.
Reality competition shows are mostly all of a similar breed, and The Glee Project does not break the mold. Though there is the kitschy humor of Glee at work, it still feels like a far inferior project to the series it is casting for. Sometimes it is nice to take a look behind the scenes at how things are done, and The Glee Project aims to mimic actual Glee auditions by bringing in the real casting director, choreographer, creator, stars, and others. However, by the format’s nature, watching twelve performers getting whittled down one by one every week follows a far different path. It’s not reality. It’s semi-scripted television, and generally a waste of time to watch.
Of the twelve, none are polished and ready for a Glee closeup yet. McKynleigh may be the closest, though she surely changes her name to grab attention. It’s a stupid stunt, but her voice and attitude may overcome that mistake. She has vocal power, and isn’t like any already established Glee character, something that cannot be said for several of the contestants. Alex may also be an early favorite, with some genuine personality. But though he is unique, Glee may have filled its quota of homosexuals for now. Damian is great with the accent, but needs to find a way to stand out while singing without it. He deserves to be in the bottom this week, but hopefully he can climb out of it. Mixing up lyrics in a charming way certainly helps.
Sadly, several of the young people competing are simply annoying, and a lot of work must be done before they’d make a decent Glee character. Even one that is two dimensional and in just for a joke. Among the contestants that are barely tolerable are the very short Matheus, despite Darren Criss taking a liking to him in episode one, child-like Ellis, and overly flirty Emily. Mostly, the biggest screw up all three commit is laying it on way too thick. We get it. You are playing up something about yourself. You don’t need to do it with every single line. They are more one note characters than fully fleshed out individuals.
While a chariacture may work for seven episodes, with many of the main cast leaving, it seems a more appropriate goal would be to find someone who will stay on longer than that. Seven episodes are a lot of time to grow attached. Only a few of the kids even have the potential to eventually be series regulars. Is this seriously the best they can do out of 40,000 auditions?
Bryce is absolutely the right choice to send home. There is no room for diva-like attitude on Glee behind the scenes, especially from a newbie.
Also, if there is any doubt about what a nice guy series creator Ryan Murphy is, his focus on the positive during the final cuts will dispel that. This man is one positive dude.
It remains to be seen whether this series is even worth watching. If you choose to, The Glee Project airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Oxygen.
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Article first published as TV Review: The Glee Project – “Casting Special” and “Individuality” on Blogcritics.