June 3, 2012

Episode Review: THE GLEE PROJECT, "The Final 14"

Last summer, Oxygen decided to get into the Glee game by airing the reality series, The Glee Project, which aimed at finding the next big gleek. The results are debatable since Samuel Larsen and Damian McGinty, Jr. failed to make much of an impact on the mothership series, but the ratings were good enough to convince the network to bring it back for a second season.

I checked out the show more out of curiosity than anything else, and while season 1 of The Glee Project was extremely flawed, I did find myself getting wrapped up in the entire process, so I decided to come back for another go around. Unfortunately, I missed out on last year's casting special, and I made it my mission to not let that happen again. This time around, Robert Ulrich headed to three cities (New York, Nashville and Chicago) to hold open auditions on top of all of the online submissions.

Now, I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of the reality competition series genre to begin with, and the auditions have always been the least interesting part of these types of shows because they tend to rely too heavily on train-wrecks who just want to get on television. Thankfully, this process was condensed into a few minutes, and we got to see mostly talented people show what they've got, but no one really stood out since we only got a glimpse of so many contestants. Boiling the auditions down to a few soundbites made for easier viewing, but it would have been nice to see more from some of the hopefuls as a way to connect with them. It also became obvious who was moving on based on the amount of time that was paid to certain people, so there was not any reason to invest in anyone at this stage in the game. It also would've been nice to get more from Season 1's winners and Alex Newell.

After the auditions, Robert and his staff whittled the number down to the top eighty who would move on to the Los Angeles round where they would preform for him, Zach Woodlee and Nikki Anders. From there, the three judges would come up with a list of thirty who would then audition for Ryan Murphy, and he along with the others would decide on the final fourteen (which started out as twelve, but we all know Ryan cannot make up his mind). The later audition rounds did allow the viewers to get to know more about some of the contestants, but again we only got to see either the clear favorites or the sob stories, which made sense to an extent but didn't give the entire process its due. Oh well. The top eighty suddenly became the final fourteen, and it was a somewhat surprising crop of finalists because none of them really blew me away with dynamic voices, but they were a pretty diverse group of contestants, which should make for a different kind of season.

What was even more interesting was the fact that the boys were clearly more captivating than the girls. For example, Blake from Miami has the classic leading man look, and he could easily step in to play a Finn-type role. Charlie from Chicago's not traditionally handsome, but he was by far the most musically talented, and he could be the odds on favorite to win it all. Abraham has the most Glee-ready look, and I'd could see him bringing an AZN flair to the show. Maxfield, the country boy from Tennessee, has a unique enough voice for a show that's so pop-heavy, and I can see him be a strong dark horse, but I'm rooting against him since we already have Chord Overstreet and I don't want him to be replaced...again. Even Tyler and Mario have interesting enough backstories that are tailor made for Glee, but I don't know what else they can bring to the table.

On the flip side, none of the ladies really wowed me. I suppose New York's Ali could win it, but part of me wonders how much her wheelchair will play into how far she goes. Dani from Orlando could also have a long run in her, but her Justin Bieber look's just odd to me, but I'm sure I can learn to power past that. Out of all of the females, the one who made the biggest impression on me was Aylin from Chicago, but that had little to do with her talent and more to do with her story and the fact that I'd like to see someone with her background on Glee.

Overall, I was both intrigued and underwhelmed by the finalists, which has me a little indifferent going into the rest of the show, but what was even more disconcerting was the fact that Ryan Murphy once again gave the impression that he's only looking for stories to steal for Glee. From the get go, it felt like he's only interested in contenders whose backstories excite him enough to incorporate them into the show instead of finding a talented individual who he can create a new character for. This was one of the major drawbacks of Season 1 and it looks like nothing's really changed, but Murphy's always looking for creative shortcuts, so we shouldn't be shocked.

While I wasn't immediately impressed with most of the final fourteen, and I can't automatically see any of them adding much to Glee, I'm still going to be checking in on The Glee Project for the same reasons why I watch the original show; I'm a sucker for underdogs striving towards their dreams. Let's just hope Season 2 does a better job of keep itself on track than Season 1 did, but that doesn't look to be in the cards based on this first episode. Then again, it's Glee so it's to be expected.


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