Glee Project Recap: Individuality Part One
Here's what you need to know about the Glee Project. Ryan Murphy, you know, the guy who is already bored with Glee, decided he needed to replace all cast members the audience has come to know and love with new people we don't know who can probably sing but mostly can't act well enough to star in a kindergarten pageant. So he created the Glee Project, a competition much like American Idol meets Big Brother, but Ryan gets the only vote. The prize is a multi-episode role on Glee, where you will be a very big deal for one episode until they go back to writing for the cast members who can act and they mostly forget about you. Last season he liked the two cute boys so much he decided to have two winners, both of whom are dull, and he gave two more people smaller roles on Glee. Yes, he had two big winners and two small winners, when what he really should have done was hire just Lindsay. Yes, , you won Lindsay, a little bit. I wish you had won more, because unfortunately, I feel like the audience lost. Things haven't really gone all that well and none of these kids can carry season four, so it's going to be kind of a mess. However, Ryan wants to do it all over again, and I am going to recap it because I am beginning get withdrawal symptoms. My - fingers - must - write - snarky - Glee - recaps.
So Glee's casting director Robert Ulrich got to work. He spent four months sifting through a bajillion video submissions and saw another kajillion kids before he realized that yeah, randomly finding Chris Colfer really WAS a freak occurrence and the Glee Project is not going to unearth a lapful of genuinely gifted kids who create landmark characters every single time, especially when you do find somebody that good and reject her in favor of cute boys. But still, they had open calls in Nashville, Chicago, and New York. In the end, fourteen marginally talented contenders:
were chosen to come to the Glee Project campus.
Each week there will be a theme, a homework assignment, and a chance to fawn over one of the original cast members that Ryan seems so hell-bent to replace. The contenders will go through the same process they would on Glee. They'll record in a professional studio as if they were Lea, Darren, Naya or Amber, the only people still allowed to actually sing on Glee. And learn to dance from Glee's choreographer Zach Woodley, all in preparation for their big group number, a music video directed by Eric White and inspired by the performances from the real Glee cast, whom Ryan apparently wants to replace. Each week the mentors will pick the three contenders who either suck the most or "inspire" Ryan the least, to do frantic last-chance performances, and Ryan will decide who gets to tickle his imagination for another week and who will be sent home. This time, only one contender will win the life-changing grand prize, a seven episode role on Glee! Unless Ryan is lying again. He does that a lot. A whole lot. And that's all you need to know so far on... The Glee Project.
It opens as Dani, who is likeable and cute as a button, entering the Glee Project campus and thinking it's all so awesome. Confessional: Dani really wants to win. Then Charlie comes in, and they greet each other like long-lost siblings. Confessional: Charlie thinks the Glee Project is going to be the experience of a lifetime. Abraham enters. More hugs. Confessional: Abraham thinks it would suck to lose in the first week. These confessionals are all about stating the obvious, apparently. In wheels Allie. More hugs. There's a lot of hugging for people who are basically in a talent show version of the Hunger Games. Are you all really that fond of each other?
Confessional: Allie thinks that if she wins The Glee Project, she will be known as the girl who sings and does shows, rather than as the girl who is in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, as we all know, what Glee really does is establish Artie as the guy in a wheelchair who sings and does shows. As I recall, that wheelchair was the thing that made Shue and Rachel decide that they needed to recruit Finn as a male lead singer for the group. Artie couldn't be what Rachel wanted.
When Lily arrives, she offers a refreshingly honest confessional: She wants to beat somebody! The kids begin to chatter amongst themselves... who else got in? They seem to be quite sure that Mario has gotten in, so I will be interested in seeing Mario. And now the kids are flooding in so fast they aren't all getting an individual entrance anymore, and as I watch, I figure it out.... Boy, most of these kids are tokens, aren't they? One for each demographic under the sun. There's Arabic Girl and Big Girl and Transgender Boy and Black Girl and... ah, there's Mario. Blind Boy. Mario says in his confessional that he wants to be know as the talented cute guy that just happens to be blind, and that sounds pretty good to me.... except that every other word that comes out of Mario's mouth about himself will be "blind", no matter what he is talking about, and it bugs after awhile.
Shanna sees that there are fourteen people, when she was expecting twelve. She does the math. Twelve plus two is fourteen is two more people to beat ... OK, I think I saw her fingers retract into claws. Dani leads Mario around and describes the physical plant of the building to him, and I put on my Ryan Murphy hat. I could see some stories here. I can just envision Mario's first day at school... what if the person to lead him around was snarky Santana? Oh... wait. Santana has graduated. Ok, how about... Kurt? Nope, he's gone, too. Yeah, the person leading him around is going to be Rory. Oh, my god. Shoot me now.
Confessional: Allie notes that usually she's the person in a given social situation who has a story. Here, everybody does... because everybody is a token, including Allie, unfortunately. Oh, and there's Maxfield, who just started singing six months ago and has no idea what he's doing.
Confessional: Taryn is really sheltered. Confessional: Tyler is transgender; he used to have a female body. Confessional: Aylin likes hot guys. Oh, and she's a Turkish moslem.
Robert Ulrich walks in, and Nellie gives a confessional. She's amazed that he picked her, probably because she does not tick off any really obvious token box that I can see at first glance. Ulrich tells this very large group of people that their theme for the first week is "Individuality", which means that their objective will be to do everything in their power to steal individual focus while pretending to work as a team. Michael, who, like Nellie, does not tick off an obvious token box except for "Hot Guy", makes a wise statement: He does not know for sure who he is yet.
The kids will be singing "Born This Way". Maxfield is not happy: this song is not suited to him. He's the country singer. He's not gaga for Gaga. Then Robert says that these kids will be working out who sings individual lines for Born This Way. OK, folks. Let the knives come out; they are competing for lines to show their individuality with their necks on the chopping block. They will also be choreographing themselves. That's why this musical number is a hot mess.
Lilly suggests Rock Paper Scissors as a way to end disputes about who gets to sing what line. Aylin thinks that the nice strategy is going to go the way of the dodo before too long. Charlie informs us that he's ADHD with a low-level autism spectrum disorder, so I appreciate knowing your box, buddy. Well, if he wins, at least Sugar might drop the Aspergers jokes since we'll have a kid who shows us what that actually looks like.
Abraham figures that the guest mentor has to be somebody very impressive because... hey, it's season two. You've got to go big. Whereas, in season three, you can just pull in an extra. And they do go big. First Ryan comes in to say hi, and to remind them that There Can Be Only One. Unless he changed his mind again. Then they reveal the actual mentor: It's Lea Michele, and after being in the same room with these kids for a few seconds, I realize why this show is a dicey idea. Lea's presence swallows all of them whole. These kids are theoretically replacing her and the other graduating seniors, but they are all very ordinary standing beside Lea Michele, and her current cast mates can go toe to toe with her.
Ryan Murphy points out that The Glee Project is not a talent contest. It's an inspiration contest. You are supposed to inspire Ryan to write for you, like Chris Colfer did. Well, Chris Colfer could probably win a talent competition, Ryan. Let's keep the priorities straight. I'd much rather this was judged as a talent competition, myself - especially an acting competition. Ryan encourages them to reveal their flaws in hopes that it might make them more interesting characters to write for, and I am a little stunned. God, this man really is a hack, isn't he?
With that, the kids begin to sing Born This Way, and it's a showboating, chaotic mess. Each kid has about five seconds to seize attention for themselves and it's almost distracting to see them all basically singing, "See ME! See ME! Look at ME!" The choreography is very messy.
Lea praises a few individuals: striking Dani, Shanna, Mario. Lea thinks Mario went for it with gusto, and I agree quite whole-heartedly. However, he's pleased that she said that, because he, as a blind person... Mario, honey, what does blind have to do with being enthusiastic? Blind does not define you, buddy. Let's not get into that.
Lilly gets very emotional because Lea calls her beautiful, even though she's overweight. However, the winner of the Showboating In the Group Number contest is Shanna, who is literally on Cloud Nine, except that she's not. She's still literally sitting in her chair. Lily is bitter, bitter that she did not get to talk alone to Lea Michele. Shanna will get to chat with Lea, and then she gets the Rachel Berry Spotlight in the big group number, "Here I Go Again." Taryn's thinking... "uh, I can't sing that".
The assignment: The kids are all members of the Glee Club. They've even kicked out Artie, Tina and the other Season Three seniors. They perform in the choir room, and then on a rock concert stage in their heads. At the end of the week, three of them will sing and Be Themselves for their lives, and then one will go home for not being inspiring enough to Ryan. OK, this is like American Idol meets The Apprentice.
Choreography session begins, and Zach immediately learns that these kids are... terrible. Keystone cops bad. Of course, the fact that they have to do group choreography while giving a "See ME! See ME! Look at ME!" performance makes this harder. We do have an interesting sequence in which Mario explains how he learns choreography without being able to see it, and then he ruins it. "I'm hella talented." (OK.) "I will sing and dance my BLIND WAY into Glee..." Mario, can't you just sing and dance your way in? Does it have to be your blind way? Are you hella blind talented? If they go with Tyler, will he have sung and danced his transgender way into Glee. Would Lilly have sung and danced her obese way in?
Well, maybe Tyler is defined by being transgender. He's certainly using it as an excuse for being a klutz. Sweetie, lots of people are klutzes without being transgender... like most of your castmates. He's a high strung wreck. The assistant choreographer just flat out tells them that they need to practice. A lot. A whole lot. They are not doing well.
Up tomorrow: Singing in the studio, and shooting the video.