June 6, 2012

Episode Review: THE GLEE PROJECT, "Individuality"

Season 2 of Oxygen's The Glee Project officially kicked off with "Individuality," and from the looks of it Ryan Murphy and Co. did not learn anything from last summer which could be both a good and bad thing. Good because we know what we're in for, and bad because Season 1 had so many flaws that some tweaks would've been appreciated, but oh well. It's Ryan Murphy after all.

Homework Assignment
After the fourteen new contestants ran and jumped into each others' arms, Robert showed up to break down how everything works and assigned them their first theme and homework assignment, which were "individuality" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." Everything started off fairly civil, but we all know that's not going to last. The hopefuls divvied out the lyrics, put together some simple choreography and performed for this week's guest mentors: Lea Michele and Ryan Murphy.

The number itself was decent enough, and I thought that they all sounded fairly well for a first go, but not many stood out and showed their "individuality" like the assignment dictated. I suppose I can forgive them since the homework assignments are nothing more than gimmicks put in place to pick an arbitrary winner, but I was hoping for more. Speaking of arbitrary winners, Lea picked Shanna as the first to take center stage in the music video and to get some one-on-one time with Rachel Berry herself.

Now, I'll be upfront and honest; I'm not a fan of Shanna's based solely on what I learned about her during the casting special. Sure, she had a rough upbringing, but I didn't see what Lea saw in her because she comes off as rather bland. Regardless, we got a brief glimpse of Lea coaching Shanna which turned into a mini-history lesson on how she learned how to sing "Defying Gravity," so we didn't get anything substantial from the session, but at least Glee Project's pulling out the big guns instead of C-listers like Idina Menzel.

Video Shoot
The highlights from Season 1 were the video shoot segments because they were a little peek behind the curtain and gave the audience an idea of what goes into making an episode of Glee. Much like last year, we got to see the newbies try to dance with Zach Woodlee and record their lyrics with Nikki Anders in the studio before shooting the week's music video. This week, they were going to be singing Gaga's ode to being one's self as a glee club that morphs into a bunch or rockstars.

I liked the video's set-up and it didn't feel as strained as some of last season's, but once again Zach proved to be the star of the show because I got more entertainment from his honest feedback than anything that took place during the music video.

The Last Chance Performance
The first week was pretty rough, and Robert, Nikki and Zach let them know just that. Once again, no one really stood out with the exception of Shanna, but that was because she was featured during the video. Based on they saw throughout the week, the mentors decided that Aylin, Maxfield and Tyler were the weakest of the bunch and were going to be doing their Last Chance Performances for Ryan.

Aylin was put into the bottom three because she didn't bring the same spunk that she did during her auditions. Maxfield was relegated to the bottom because he had such a rough time in the studio, and Tyler was there because he was in his head too much which had a negative impact on his performance.

As for the Last Chance Performances themselves, Aylin did a fine enough job with "Without You" and Maxfield knocked "Always On My Mind" out of the park. Tyler was the only one who didn't have a great outing, but he made it sound like it was because of his transition instead of a lack of talent. In the end, Ryan was more moved by Tyler's story than Max's so the country boy from Tennessee was the first eliminated.

Now, I was a little relieved that Maxfield was kicked out because he could've been a threat to Chord Overstreet if he won, but I still think he should've stuck around a little bit longer because he sounded far better than Tyler. It's just too bad that he was too ordinary for Ryan's tastes.

Final Thoughts
Maxfield's elimination was an example of what's wrong with The Glee Project. At the end of the day, Ryan doesn't care about who's the most talented or has the most upside. All he cares about is who has the most interesting stories for him to steal for Glee. It was very apparent that's the only reason why Tyler got a pass and Maxfield didn't, and that's a problem for me as a viewer because it boils the message of Glee down to overcoming obstacles instead of an appreciation of art. I'm not saying that inspiration's bad, but it's not the only thing that makes the show work.

I can't say that I was too encouraged by the first episode back. So far Season 2's not bringing anything new to the table, and it some aspects it has even taken a step back (last year the contestants had the chance to explore the week's theme instead of just jumping into rehersals). I'm still somewhat impressed by the talent level of the wanna-glees, but no one's ready for primetime just yet, and unfortunately neither is The Glee Project.


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