Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Actability" - Glee Project Recap

We are almost at the end of The Glee Project 2, and after this week's results I can say this with great joy and relief: the winner is not going to be absolutely terrible and I am not going to throw anything at my television. Well, no, I don't say this with great joy - more like mild satisfaction and something slightly more positive than indifference.  Still, we got rid of a bitchy irritant and a block of wood this week, so next week won't suck.  Actually, since the ousted people are all returning next week to meet Chris Colfer, I am really looking forward to it.  But we have to get through this week's amateur acting lessons worthy of Podunk Community Theater, so let's soldier on and put this week's losers in our rear view mirror.  Oh, wait, they will be back next week with Nellie, Dani and Charlie.  Nuts.

The theme this week is "Actability", as opposed to "Acting ability" which has been rejected as a title because it makes sense and isn't impossibly cutesy. The kids are gushing about how the finale is next week, so that we don't forget to watch. How do they feel about being down to five people?  They all say it's amazing.  What were they going to say?  "Well, Robert, I have created four voodoo dolls, I've hidden them in my locker, and I'm not afraid to use them."

Robert tells them all that they have to be a triple threat to be on Glee.  They have to have three skills: singing, dancing, and acting.  By that, he means that the current Glee cast members each have to be really exceptional at one skill and willing to regularly show the world how bad they are at one or both of the other two.  I think the only genuine triple threats on Glee are Naya, Matthew, Lea, and to a lesser extent, Chris.  None of the Glee Project winners from last year, except Lindsey, are triple threats. 

Robert also reminds us that the most important skill on Glee is "Actability." I agree with his assessment, if not with his vocabulary choices; there's a reason why Cory Montieth is a more valuable cast member than Amber Riley, who outsings him, and Heather Morris, who dances rings around him, put together. He's got the skill that keeps the show from falling apart completely.  However, Glee has not been putting a lot of emphasis on acting ability and I wonder if it's too late to start now.

Michael thinks that this is Blake's week.  He's Blake's inferior shadow and he knows it.

The homework assignment this week is "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer.  Michael is the only one who burst out with the contractually required enthusiastic cheer; none of the others have ever heard of this song.  Excuse me... I have to go take my Geritol.  Eep. They each get to pick their parts, and with so many people gone, they all get a verse.  This means the mentors have to come up with new and better ways to make sure the delivery is contrived and unconvincing.

Ali tells us that if you can't act, you should not be on Glee.  I agree with her, but... um... sweetie, have you ever watched scenes that didn't involve Lea, Cory, Chris, or any of the cast members playing adults?  There's a lot of people on Glee who shouldn't be on Glee, and three of them won the Glee Project last year. Just sayin'.

According to Robert, the guest mentor this week is a serious triple threat.  Uhhhhhh.... as Sue Sylvester herself has pointed out, this mentor's got a "weak, forgettable alto" and her acting ranges from almost painful to somewhat capable.  Oh, but she's dazzlingly beautiful and she's able to play a dancing Cheerio.  Does that make her a Triple Threat?  She's one of Glee's "most iconic" characters.  That is true, if by "most iconic" you mean "most royally screwed up."  She's representing acting skills... is she the best person for the job?  Well, Cory's already been here... Lea was first... Jane's been by already...Naya came by to be sexy... Chris is next week... uh... well... I guess she'll do.  There were several worst options.  It's Dianna Agron, carrying baby supplies and looking maternal.

"She's really pretty" drools Blake.

Robert thinks that Dianna has had more changes in her character than anybody else on Glee.  Yes, Quinn's had the most wildly inconsistent writing of all of them.  How kind of you to notice!  They are all going to show off their "actability" with one of the worst exercises I have seen yet on the Glee Project.  He's got a set of flash cards, each of which have an emotion written on them.  There's one emotion per contestant.  When you see the emotion assigned to you, you have to show that emotion - whether it fits in with the song you are singing in any way at all or not. They will not be showing how they interpret words to reveal the inner truth of the scene they are showing us; they will be plastering on fake, over the top emoking with no connection to anything else that's going on.

Great acting exercise, Glee.

Michael gets to frown and set his jaw as he looks Determined.
Lily gets to whimper and look  a little sick instead of Scared.
Blake gives them a stare that could melt rock to show how Angry he is.
Aylin gets to be Anxious, which is really kind of close to Scared for my liking.
Ali! Gets! To be! Excited! Which means she's the Only! Girl! Who Stands Out!

This is not a fair assignment, since some of the emotions were easier to project with this song than others, and none of it's convincing - except Ali, since she's pretty much like that all the time.

Dianna thinks Michael's expression when he saw the card was fantastic.
Lily didn't take it far enough. 
Dianna liked Blake's.... aggression.... grrrrrrrr, tiger....
Aylin was better at being insecure than Lily was.
Ali! Is! Always! Excited! So this worked!

Dianna tells us that she thinks the Homework Winner should be either Michael or Ali.  Yeah, well, Ali's won before, Michael hasn't, you know the drill.  Too predictable. Michael tells us that this is the first time he's won.  Yes, Michael, you were the very last one to win the Homework assignment.  There's a reason.  Michael gets to gaze at Dianna one on one for awhile, and everybody will be rehearsing ways to misuse "Perfect" so badly Pink's going to storm the set and demand that Glee never touch any of her songs again.

The premise is excruciating.  They will be turning "Perfect" into a movie trailer for the most over-the-top bundle of angst-ridden contrived shlock I've seen in awhile.  I hope they don't fall in love with this storyline it and make it part of the show next year.  They are all high school kids growing up in a small town.... playing the roles that I suspect Ryan Murphy means to give them if they win.  This is basically their screen tests.  

Aylin is a Turkish girl from a conservative family... yeah, no kidding.  Never saw that one coming.  Oh, wait, she's pregnant.  Gee, that's new and different, huh?

Blake's the quarterback who knocked her up.  He's also a douchebag.  Of course, he has to be, because Michael's been chosen to be the nice guy who loves Aylin and worships Blake.  Oh, look.  Love triangle.  More narrative innovation.

Ali doesn't get to be in the love triangle.  Sniff.  No, she gets to mourn the loss of her Olympic dreams along with the loss of her legs, and it's all Lily's fault.  They will be improvising short scenes on the shoot.  Nope, they don't get any scripts.  No words on the page to memorize. Will this be any real test of their "actability?"

Nikki wears so much mascara I can barely see her eyes.  That has always bothered me.  She expects them to delve into the truth of their characters... while singing lyrics that have nothing to do with the scenarios they are playing out.  She wants to hear the story! Aylin, you are singing it! Don't do that! Blake concentrates on the emotional truth and goes off-key.  Ali approaches it like an actor.  Lily is fairly convincing, especially when she says, "Why do I do that?"  She's tied it in to her feelings about being overweight, apparently.

On the day of the actual shoot, Erik gives out instructions. Lily and Ali have the awful assignment of trying to work through the idea that Lily has caused Ali's career ending injury with no specific dialogue except the word "perfect." The result is stilted, inane, and boring until Erik orders them to get to the point... and then the result is melodramatic and phony and all about Lily's guilt, and not about the word "perfect."  Gee, guys, maybe she'd do better if she had a script to work with?  Cast members don't usually have to improvise the dialogue on Glee. She is practicing a skill set she will not use.

Robert's excited because they want to see pleasant, good-natured Blake play a bad guy, and soon we see why.  Unlike Lily and Ali, Blake is actually really convincing as he screams at Aylin in a jealous rage, and I am... holy cow, am I actually impressed by one of these kids?  What a cool thing.  Yes, really good, Blake.

We saw Blake fight with Aylin; now he's going to fight with Michael.  Michael contemplates the idea that he has to prove he deserves to be here, and hopes that his sessions with Dianna will help.  She helps him work through his character's backstory; interestingly, we learn that some of Michael's friends are a bit backstabbing, and he's able to channel that for this story.

Blake's still a lot more believable and effective as he grabs Michael (who is blurting, "Ah love her! Ah love her!") by the collar and hurls him into bales of hay that are randomly lying around. 

Robert's commentary basically is, "Blake is SO present, and wonderful, and Michael, he was... uh... sure, he was good, I guess."

Aylin tells us that her fictional conservative Muslim parents are going to react to the fact that she's pregnant by making her put on traditional Muslim dress and "go back to the conservative life", whatever that means.  Given that her character is a pregnant unwed teenager, it is probably best not to think about that very hard, because in some families having to wear head covering would be the least of her troubles. As Aylin puts on the hijab, however, she begins to cry. It's not the character crying - it's her. Aylin says she's fought this her whole life and it was hard to put the headdress on. That's kind of thoughtful and affecting - certainly much more so than the cheesy scene that follows, in which she steps into a car, weeping in her modest dress, as Michael begs her not to go.  Uh, buddy, she does not have a choice.  That's... kind of the point.  And as the car pulls the way, he screams out a frantic, gutteral "STEEEEEEELLLLLLAAAA", oh, no, sorry, "AAAAAAAYLIIIIIIIIINNNNN!"

Robert thinks this video is going to be fantastic.  Or fantastically cheesy.  Picking the bottom three is going to be so difficult...who deserves to go straight to the finale?  Besides Blake, I mean. So, of course, they go for the cop-out.

The trailer itself is really a disorganized mess.  We've got one fairly well defined story of two close friends fighting over the same girl, and then suddenly Lily's crying over Ali and Ali's throwing a gold medal in the lake, and then just as soon as we decide Lily's story is somehow about Ali, it's suddenly about her putting on a blue and white dress she found in the attic. "In love's eyes, we are all perfect" the trailer tells us, and I decide I really am not interested in this movie and would not pay nine dollars to see it in a theater.  Please do not make it a Glee episode.  I'm begging, here.

And then, one last time, they are in the auditorium awaiting their executions. The mentors are all feeling very emotional.  They are truly, truly verklempt - so much so that they have decided to give each of these kids a very, very special last gift.  There will be no Bottom Three this week.  Everybody gets the same shot.  There will be a Bottom Five instead.  They are ALL on the chopping block, and they ALL have to perform a Last Chance performance for Ryan and the gaggle of writers he's bringing in to look them over and see if they inspire any creative impulses.

The reason that this is actually a gift, of course, is because the whole Bottom Three conceit of the Glee Project is deeply flawed at the core.  The winner will be chosen based on who inspires Ryan Murphy to write them a character.  In order for them to inspire Ryan, he must see them and talk to them.  In order for him to see them and talk to them, they must be in the Bottom Three and in danger of going home.  It is actually a distinct disadvantage to be so consistently good that you are never in danger.  That is actually the real inequality these mentors are quite effectively fixing by making them all sing.

Lily gets to sing "Son of a Preacher Man."

Michael gets "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." This was awful even when Cory did it.  It is the exact moment that I decide they've had just about enough of Michael and want him gone three weeks ago.

Ali is singing "Here's to Us".

Blake will be channeling his best Elton John with "I'm Still Standing."  He is flummoxed; he does not know the song. 

Aylin is going with "Fighter" by Christine Aguilera.  She knows it - and at least she won't have to sing it in the shower.

The kids all discuss how they feel about this situation.  The most interesting comments: Lily thinks this week is more important than the, probably not.  Michael, one hour into his rehearsal on this song, realizes he's screwed. The other three offer various versions of "Oh, the pressure!" and "I want to win!"

Ryan shuffles six of the writers who haven't deserted him yet into the auditiorium.  They are looking at these final five kids to determine - not who is the most talented or the most skilled, but who inspires them to write a story.  What if the answer is, "None of them, Ryan.  Chris Colfer was an unusual situation.  We can't force the magic, and last year, we failed miserably when we tried"?

Michael is up first.  Robert says Michael has grown a lot over the competition.  Funny, he does not look any taller to me. He's got to sing Cyndi Lauper's anthem to female independence as if it were a dirge, and it makes even less sense than it did when Cory sang it.

Lily is next. Robert thinks she's become a more natural actress.  She belts it out as if she's really met and been romanced by this son of a preacher man, and it's lively and fun and she sounds great.  Ian thinks she might be a good person to write for, but thinks she might be hard to direct.  Yes, she might, Ian.  Nikki turns the knife, pointing out that Lily cannot take constructive criticism.

Robert thinks Ali is a very good actress, but Ryan didn't see her do well in the video.  Of course, it's because Lily wasn't giving her her cues, but all Ryan cares about is that he was not inspired. Ali bubbles out and belts out her song in a manner both enthusiastic and nasal, and her vibrant personality appeals to everybody.  Ian has decided her character should be a promiscuous bitch, since we don't have any of those on Glee, and Ryan informs us that when creating disabled characters, he feels their impairments should be the least prominent thing about them. That sounds like a refreshing new perspective for him that differs greatly from what he's done before with Artie and Becky, and it might be interesting to see if he means it.  He probably doesn't.

Robert tells them, point blank, that Blake is the best actor.  He is the best actor during "Actability" week, on a show where they suddenly feel that acting chops are the most important skill to have.  Think he's going on?  His version is playful and entertaining, and one of the writers agrees that he's a star.  Ali Adler doesn't think he's a big enough loser to be on Glee.  The characters are all misfits; therefore, the actors must be misfits, as well, except for those who aren't, which is most of them. That's why it's called ACTING, Ali.

Aylin is (all together now!) a Turkish Muslim from a Very Conservative Family. In case you haven't heard, by now. She comes out and tries to be very aggressive as she mumbles her way through "Fighter", performing so poorly, and specifically, so much more poorly than Lily did, that I think there's a shot she's not making this finale.  Silly me.  This process is not about talent, or about them singing their Last Chance Performance well.  It's about inspiring the laziest set of TV writers I've ever seen into writing for her. Michael Hitchcock pipes up that America is interested in Muslim culture, and Roberto Aguirre - Sacasa thinks she's something new and different. Ryan agrees, and we suddenly know Aylin's headed for the finale, and probably for Glee.  Ali Adler wants to write for Aylin. Ian wants to write for Blake, Lily, and Michael - he did not get the memo that only one can win this year. The writers have good things to say about all of them, but it all comes down to this question: Should they try to do something on the show that they have not done before, with these new characters that inspire them so, or... should they pick a star, a genuinely engaging and interesting talent?

They need to pick a star. 

And how many of these people actually inspires any of these writers, who so obviously lack creativity to come up with the ideas themselves, to write something?  Ryan is ready to cut more than one.  So they do.

So long, Lily Mae.  Adios, Michael.  Ryan's muse does not awaken when you stand in front of him; you should have brought an alarm clock.  Next week... somebody wins this mess, and we get to see all the ousted cast members one more time.

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