June 13, 2011

Episode Review: THE GLEE PROJECT, "Individuality"

Apparently my cable provider does not carry Oxygen, so I had to catch up on The Glee Project via Hulu, and the mixed feelings have already started. For the most part, the premiere had some entertaining moments, but I don't know if the show has the legs to keep me around all summer.

The Set-Up
From the looks of it, each episode will have a theme (shocker!), and the contestants will be given homework assignments. The one who does the best gets to be featured in the big group number of the week, and when it's all said and done, the bottom three will have to impress Ryan Murphy to survive another day. The concept is far from original, and a prime example of why I usually find reality TV so boring, but I'm so invested in the parent show that I'm still drawn to the mundane nature of The Glee Project.

This week, the wannabe Gleeks had to sing a line from Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" while injecting their own individuality (the theme of the premiere episode) into the number, which led to everyone doing the exact same thing. So much for that idea. Then again, themes have never been Murphy's strong suit, so no harm no foul, but the opening number really didn't let anyone stand out, but more on that later. Some little guy won the first assignment, and his prize was some one-on-one time with Darren Criss and a few extra seconds in a music video.

The initial set-up on The Glee Project doesn't feel fresh enough to be engaging for the long-haul, and if it didn't have the Glee brand plastered all over it, this would be just another run-of-the-mill reality show about reaching for dreams and blah blah blah. With such a flimsy concept, the show will probably live and die on the hopefuls, which brings me to...

The Contestants
Sure, it's only been one episode, but so far the 12 contestants are bringing even less than the show's premise, which isn't a good sign. First off, everyone automatically fills a set stereotype, which isn't new to the Glee-verse, but none of them are particularly interesting stereotypes. We have the grungy rocker, the nerd, the flirt, the diva, the foreign exchange student, and so forth and so on. What it comes down to is we've either seen all of theses characters before or the contestants just don't pop off of the screen.

Secondly, there are no clear favorites, which could work in the show's favor. There are some that have an advantage like Lindsay, Marissa, and Alex, but they're not so far ahead of the pack that they're shoe-ins. Also, I cannot see them as part of the Glee world because they may be talented, but I don't see them adding anything to the whole.

If I had to pick an early winner, I think it would come down to Matheus, Cameron, Samuel or maybe Damian because they all bring something a little bit different than the rest. My personal favorite is Cameron because he could do wonders if he embraces his nerdy alter-ego, and he would be the best fit on the show. Damian would be a dark horse since he's already been in the bottom three, but it's hard not to fall for his Irishness. Unfortunatley, I could see either Matheus winning because his height makes him a misfit which is very much a Glee staple, or Samuel since he has the bad boy rocker vibe going and he could be Puck's heir apparent.

As you can see, my early favorites are all guys, and it's not because they're the best of the bunch but because while watching the first episode, I realized that none of the girls are all that likable, which could be a disaster since Glee does not have the best track record when it comes to writing strong female characters. Most of them either annoying (Emily and Ellis), bad attitudes (Lindsay and Marissa), or were just there (McKynleigh and Hannah). After "Individuality", I either hated or just didn't care about any of the girls on the show.

The Elimination
After the first week of homework assignments, music video shooting, and training, the first elimination took place. Apparently, Damian didn't stand out enough, Bryce was too strong-willed, and Ellis was just crazy, so they all found themselves in the Bottom 3. One of the judges gave them songs to perform in front of Ryan Murphy, and the weakest one would be expelled.

Damian completely wiffed on "Jessie's Girl", but Ryan found him charming enough. Bryce was given a tough song in Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are" since his voice was so much lower than the original, but he did an OK job. It was Ellis, singing "Hey Big Spender", that impressed me the most because she had the best voice and actually acted out the part, which was apparently a bad thing in Murphy's eyes.

After deliberations, it was decided that Bryce would be the first one eliminated, which was kind of a bummer since he had a unique look that could have been welcomed on Glee, but I guess the Powers the Glee figured he'd be too much of a handful to work with because he actually had thoughts on who his character was instead of just doing what he was told.

The Verdict
Honestly, a stale approach and a lack of interesting hopefuls doesn't bode well for The Glee Project, but there are some elements that will keep me around for a few weeks. For example, Zach Woodlee (choreographer and producer) may be the best character on the show because he will not put up with any of the kids' crap and will not pull punches. If anything the involvement of Woodlee, Robert Ulrich and other cast/crew members will be the hook because they show the audience some of the day to day operations of a hit TV show.

They're also the voice of the industry, and their critiques of these young people can be gripping stuff as they get a first hand lesson in what it takes to make it in this business. While I didn't automatically care about Damian, Bryce, and Ellis, seeing them succumb to the pressures of performing and in some instances overcoming the challenges was some gripping stuff. Their trials also made me respect the cast of Glee even more because you could see how demanding their job can be.

Again, I don't know if The Glee Project has enough juice to keep me around for the long haul, but getting little glimpses of how the Glee Machine works is interesting enough for now, and I'll be checking out a few more episodes. Although, I'd prefer it if Ryan Murphy would spend his time writing coherent scripts instead of worrying about a minor character, but oh well.


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