Friday, July 6, 2012

"Adaptability" - Glee Project Recap



The kids from The Glee Project are back, and the theme this week is "Adaptability."  You see, you need to be prepared to deal with some really random crap if you are a member of the Glee cast; your character may change personality, grade, or even sexual preference on a moment's random notice!  You may spend an entire season working towards a specific payoff and have it taken away with a single line at the very end!  You've got to be able to deal with the fact that the folks who run Glee are capricious children who change whims on a moment's notice, and adapt to whatever they want this week!

Charlie has Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD.  These two conditions do not lend themselves well to encouraging adaptability.  Therefore, Aylin is going help him with this by encouraging him to adapt to the idea that he's just been friend-zoned.  That's right.  After Charlie hit the bottom three for flirting with Aylin, she realized that she needed to disassociate herself from the guy who is quickly turning into a thorn in the collective sides of the people in charge.  He can't win this show; she might be able to.  Therefore, there will be no kissing, and no cuddling.  Adapt, Charlie, adapt.

Charlie says he could't be happier that he just got dumped in the Friend Zone.  Yep, the sexiest girl on the show does not want to cuddle anymore.  That's just great.  It's going to make them both better performers.  Yep, Charlie's adapting.  Watch him adapt, as he shares one final hug with Aylin.  Yeah, he's not going to let go, is he?

Robert comes in to give them their theme , and they all cheer like they won the lottery.  Mario brags about how adaptable he is, as a Blind Person.  Robert wants them each to sing "You Ought to Know" by Alanis Morrison.  This is suddenly everybody's new favorite song. There's a cunning twist. They don't get to squabble over who gets each piddling little fraction of a line this week.  Robert's just going to give them lines to sing.  Yep, that's going to be a breathtaking challenge.  Michael is confident that he can do this.   Lily hates not having absolute control.  Charlie thinks that "adaptability" means always saying "yes."

Robert then introduces the guest star from Glee - a kid who really rolls with the punches.  It's Kevin McHale, of course, who gets to use his legs as a change of pace.  Ali's excited.   Kevin explains that every week is "adaptability" week on Glee.  The homework is going to show their ability to adapt.  They must now each perform the song as a solo. Yep, the lesson this week kids, is that these people will lie to you on a regular basis. This does mean that anybody who was actually paying any attention at all to what the others were doing will fare better.  I suspect that since they will each be hearing the song ten times in succession, the ones who go later will have a little more chance to be certain of the words.  It's not an entirely fair challenge, but there's a lot about Glee that isn't fair.  Shanna goes deathly pale.  She does not know the lyrics to the song.

Although these kids probably had to listen to the song ten times, we do not.  We hear each of them sing their little individual lines, just as if it was an ordinary homework assignment.  It's certainly interesting to listen to all the key changes as these kids sing this song in registers intended for ten solo acts, and it's clear they don't all know the words.

Kevin thinks Michael made a weird acting choice.  Aylin performed the hell out of it - it was a very good selection for her.  Charlie changed lyrics to make it appropriate for a guy.  Ali released her bitchy side. Shanna forgot the words.  Aylin is the Homework Winner - clearly the best choice, from what I can see.  Aylin gets a spotlight song in the big group number, but they aren't going to tell these kids what it is, nanny ninny boo boo.  They won't learn the song until they hit the recording studio and they won't learn the choreography until the day of the shoot.  In other words, they are learning how to be horribly prepared for all the work they will  have to do on Glee because the writing staff can't get their s*** together in time to come up with something coherent.  It's all going to be on the fly.  Yes, this explains a lot about the actual show and why it's such a hot mess. 

Lily is ticked off.  She likes things to be planned out.  Lily might like being in the theater more than she likes being on Glee.  Well, anything that makes Lily uncomfortable is a plus as far as I am concerned.

Nikki explains to the kids that Glee cast members routinely arrive at work to find that everything they've been assigned is changed.  The song is "Price Tag" by Jessie J.  Aylin is ecstatic.  This really is her week.  Some of the others look like they've just been asked to sing a Gregorian chant in the original Latin.  Blake now knows the... title of the song.  Shanna is so terrified her drawl has just gotten very, very much more pronounced, but she sings her lines very well.  Michael is on fire; lack of time to overanalyze the assignment appears to agree with him.  Lily is solid.

Kevin tells Aylin to be confident.  She needs to remember what the song is about, and what emotions she wishes to convey.  If she can do that, she will be fine.  Indeed, she is more than fine.  Nikki is very pleased with her singing.  This is really Aylin's week.   Abraham, however, is having trouble: with pitch, with phrasing, with breath control, with timing.  Not his day.  Ali sounds flat. 

It's time for the video shoot.  Abraham is terrified that he will not be able to learn the choreography.  Eric comes in and explains the concept:  Rich snobby kids observe poor, nice kids having fun.  One by one, the rich kids join the poor kids to have fun, leaving only one rich snob - Aylin - to ponder whether to join the others or sit alone.  While I ponder the unfortunate mind-numbing implications of class warfare in this storyline, the cast begins to shoot.  Charlie's got to make something up on the spot, without anybody to give him any guidance; therefore, of course, he's about to get in trouble again without a clue as to what he's done wrong.

 He envisions his character, Scott Campbell, as a terrible human being - a terrible, materialistic snob, and soon Robert and Nikki are deciding he's made bizarre choices.  He's not going to be able to be part of a group.  No, Robert and Nikki.  Without direction, he's going to go astray.  He's got ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome, you idiots.  If you tell him what you want him to do, he'll do it.  This is really beginning to piss me off.  Robert feels like the video is about Charlie, and he's not fitting into the group.  The thing that really bothers me is that they aren't really showing us what Charlie has done that is so wrong.  They are just telling us.  On the other hand, Mario's just sitting there like a bump.  He says he's pretending to be all about girls and money, but he does not know how to act that. Interestingly enough, while we never seen anybody tell Charlie to tone down his weird acting decisions, Eric begs Mario to "act" for the camera.  This just makes Mario whine in confessional, because he's truly a really good actor and he's just so, so, so stunned that they don't recognize that. 

Yee gads. The arrogance is annoying.  I will say this, though; I think it might be harder for a blind person to do this assignment without more precise, pre-planned blocking.  If he's got to expend a lot of energy just learning where to move without tripping and which way to face, he may have difficulty emoting.

Zach tells the kids they've got to learn their choreography fast because they are already losing light.  This part scares Blake, with good reason; this method is actually a very poor way to get good work out of these kids, and they look like zombies.  Blake just can't learn it that fast.  Nellie is having trouble standing out in the group - gee, a minute ago they were upset at Charlie for standing out too much.  Zach mutters something about how if you can't be part of New Directions and make a statement in the group then you are... well, actually, you are Tina.  Robert thinks the Bottom Three is going to be interesting.

We get to see the finished video.  I don't like it.  It's very disturbing, if you think about it for long.   A bunch of nicely dressed kids with obnoxioius sneers on their faces are eating in ritzy outside diner.  They see more modestly dressed kids on the other side of the street, and one by one, each of them has some kind of mysterious, unexplained change of heart and sheds his or her designer outer clothing to run around in a uniform white t-shirts.  They aren't doing anything particularly compelling or important on the other side of that street.  Somehow, I think this would have been more effective and less disturbing if they shed those designer jackets to play a game of charity volleyball, run a soup kitchen, or to clean up litter.   Personally, if I were one of those rich kids, I might counter the beckoning calls of the poor ones by offering everybody sandwiches from the cafe. No, no, I do not want to wear a white t-shirt!  Can I offer you lunch instead?  Must I give up who I am to be friends with you? 

 The only thing about this whole video that is at all convincing is Aylin.  She is the last rich kid to cave.  She seems genuinely upset as her well-heeled friends all desert her to join the great unwashed White T-Shirt Wearers, and then she's just pissed off at the peer pressure to cross the street and wear that identical white t-shirt.  Is she really a materialistic snob, or just disinclined to follow the herd?    I don't get a strong sense that these kids are asking Aylin to choose friendship over money, or to correct social injustice.  They really only seem to be asking her to shed her individual identity. Eventually, of course, she does, and we can see her surrender in her face as she crosses over and joins all the other Moonies.  Five points if you get that reference. 

Oh, and I can't see how the "bizarre" characterization choices Charlie made caused any problems or hampered the video's message at all.

 The Reveal of the Bottom Three:  Robert begins by revealing that Aylin gave the standout performance.  She really was the only thing about that whole video that worked at all.  To a large extent, she actually saved it.  Aylin, Shanna, Michael and Lily are all called back.  That leaves six people on the bubble. 

Zach tells Nellie, basically, that she doesn't have any charisma.  He tells her that she needs to pop inside the group, but that's not something she can really work on.  Blake is thinking too much. No, actually, Blake just doesn't pick up choreography on the fly all that fast, and he will probably never have a problem again, because this was a contrived obstacle.  Abraham and Ali sang badly in the studio.  Mario was tired and flat during the video shoot.  Mario whines and says he didn't understand the direction.  (That may actually be a valid point.)  The mentors feel that Mario needs to make bolder choices.  However, Charlie is in trouble for making bolder choices.  He had a different energy from everybody else.  We, the audience, didn't really see that, and we sure didn't see anybody actually giving Charlie any instruction, but there it is.  The kid with Asperger's Syndrome had a different vibe from the others, and he didn't know.  Gee, imagine that. 

It's Adaptability Week, also known as "Cruelly mess with people's minds week."  Therefore, there is no Bottom Three.  There is a Bottom Six.  They will be performing duets.  Yes, more than half the remaining cast is going to be in danger this week.  That's pretty brutal and cold.  After they sing, King Ryan will choose his Bottom Three, and then give his imperial thumbs up or thumbs down.   Ali sings "Last Friday Night" with Abraham, Nellie sings "Waiting for a Girl" with Blake, and Charlie sings "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" with Mario.

Charlie and Mario. The irresistible force meets the immovable object.  It's going to be ugly.  Charlie knows it, too.

Blake takes this as a wake-up call.  Charlie and Mario argue about how to listen to the song during the first run-through.  Mario does not know the song at all, and he does not want Charlie's unconventional approach to melody to affect his own progress.  Ali is so nervous she makes mistakes.

Ryan gets a recap of why more than half the cast is in trouble.  Nellie fades into the background, and Blake needs to rehearse dance moves before he performs them.  Nellie and Blake sing passionately with a lot of heat and sensuality.  Their duet looks like a real love scene.  It's obvious they are going to be fine; they've performed very well and neither really did anything wrong to deserve getting in trouble this week.

Ryan greets Abraham and Ali with "Look how cute you are!" and Ali thanks him too quickly, before Abraham reminds her that Ryan looks at the boys as well.  I don't like their arrangement and I don't think they sound that good together, but Ali is certainly trying really, really hard to show how much fun she's having.  Abraham forgot the lyrics.  Ryan compares Ali to Dolly Parton, and I think this is all pretty much underlining how Ali goes over the top.  However, they will both be safe this week.  The Problem Children are in Group Number Three.

Mario is here because he had no strong persona on the screen, and Charlie's here, basically, because he did.  They never explain well how the video was all about Charlie.  I have seen debates in forums that suggest they were still basically mad at him for his behavior last week, and are now looking for any provocation to get down on him.  I think this may be true.  Charlie begins the song by improvising again, and drops a line in the middle.  Mario almost cries during the song.  It's all kind of melodramatic and over the top.

King Ryan brings everybody back and says they are all talented, inspirational special snowflakes that would all get into NYADA for sure, but he's got to make some tough choices now.  Ali, Nellie and Blake get to run off to safety.   Ryan then tells Abraham that he didn't sing well during his Last Chance, and Ali stole the number.  Yep, she went over the top.  She does that.  Now, is this something to punish her for or reward her for?  I am getting confused here.  Mario is a bad actor.  Ryan is afraid that Charlie can't be professional.  I am going to have to take a minute here.  Ryan Murphy is scolding a 22 year old kids with Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD for not being professional.  Given some of Ryan's really embarrassing public antics in the past, this is just turning my stomach.  I'm actually getting closer and closer to tuning out of Glee for good, watching this show that reveals the people behind Glee.  I do not like what I am seeing.  C'mon, Colfer, may these other projects of yours succeed, so you can fly out of this mess.

Ryan thinks Mario is a lovely person, but he's not a very good actor.  Charlie's difficult to work with because he has specific disabilities that this production crew clearly do not understand in the slightest.  They like to make jokes about Asperger's Syndrome, but they don't want to accommodate it.  They don't even want to acknowledge it or mention it; I only know that Charlie has this problem because he mentioned it at the very beginning of the season.  Abraham wasn't very good on this particular evening. 

So who is out?  I've noticed one thing about the Glee Project that really bothers me.  They have no real acting challenges, other than the videos.  The most effective characters on Glee are all played by really strong actors - Lea Michele, Cory Montieth, and the award-winning scene-stealer, Chris Colfer.  Yet Glee Project regards that skill as almost entirely unimportant - until this week.

We see Charlie grin with relief, and Abraham weep, but the one going home is Mario.  He hopes that they see in him a fearless, talented, inspirational young man who happens to be blind, and not a blind person that they let on the Glee Project.  I personally will always see an arrogant, boastful and overly entitled young man who reminded us that he was blind every fifteen seconds - but boy, he sure sang well.

Next week:  Jane Lynch scares the living tar out of everybody.

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