Monday, July 11, 2011

"TV Time" - The Glee Project

I'm a big tv watcher, and while I enjoy my share of reality tv I have to admit that I've never seen more than an hour or two of American Idol or watched more than one episode of any of the other on-going "talent competition" type of reality shows.  I guess it's because I'm not into judges or people calling in votes to decide someone's fate, but instead am more in favor of a show like The Amazing Race where each individual's strength and knowledge determines their success or failure.  The only talent competion show I watched every episode of was Grease: You're the One that I Want! where the two lead stars of the recent Broadway revival of Grease were picked via phone votes.  So, even though I'm not the biggest fan of these types of competition shows, it would only be natural that since I'm a big fan of Glee that I would be loving the new Glee reality competition show The Glee Project.

The twelve contestants
Airing Sunday nights on Oxygen, this tv series is produced in conjunction with Ryan Murphy, the creator, producer and sometime director and writer of Glee.  Murphy also appears as one of the final judges in each episode.  (Murphy, strangely enough is from Indianapolis, where my parent's live, and graduated, as I did, from Indiana University in Bloomington.  He was two years behind me, which means we were actually on campus at the same time, how about that?)  

The context of this competition are that thousands of kids auditioned either via submission of an on-line video or at several open casting calls, for the chance to appear as a character on Glee in several episodes this coming season.  Twelve kids were picked not only on their singing ability but also on their "under dog" factor as they all have to appear like the geeks and nerds that are in the cast of Glee.  Let's just say that with maybe one exception, I don't think any of these kids would ever end up on American Idol, even though they all can most likely sing just as well as the ones I've seen on that show.  The people who picked the final contestants, who also serve as the other judges on The Glee Project besides Murphy, are Robert Ulrich who is the casting director for Glee and Zach Woodlee who is the principal choreographer for Glee.

Ulrich, Woodlee and Anders
Each week the contestants are given a homework assignment around a "theme" for that week.  Topics like "Individuality" and "Theatricality" are the themes, and these themes and the songs that represent them are usually taken right from an actual episode of Glee where the choir members on the show dealt with a similar theme that they had to find a way to best represent.   The contestants then perform the song for a mystery guest who, so far, have been members of the recurring cast of Glee.   The mystery guest picks who they think best represented the theme of that week and that person gets a one on one coaching session with the mystery guest as well as is featured more prominently in the second competition part of each week's episode, the group music video.  For the music video, each contestant records their part of the song with vocal arranger Nikki Anders, who, like Ulrich and Woodlee, performs that same role on Glee

Based on each contestant's performance in the music video as well as how they acted during the filming of the video, the final call back list is created.  The "Bottom Three" on the Call Back List are then given a "Last chance recital" where they are given a specific song to sing that best represents them and they perform this song in front of Ulrich, Woodlee and Murphy.   Once the judges have made their decision, Ulrich tells the kids that the "list is up" and we watch as each of the "bottom three" walks the long hallway to see if their name is or isn't on the call back list.  

Ulrich, Murphy and Woodlee decide
who won't make the call back list.
Now, I do like how this show is all about the under dog, or outcast, getting a chance to succeed.  And, like I said above, every one in the cast has a great voice but it really ultimately comes down to if Murphy thinks there is a part on Glee that he can write for the finalist's specific type or personality.  So ultimately it doesn't matter how talented the kids are, but is more about the way they look, or act or how well they work with others.  So most week's I've found the person that I thought would have no chance of being cut being the person that gets eliminated, which makes the show that more exciting.

I also like how Ulrich serves as the "father" to the cast while Woodlee is the "older brother" and Anders the "big sister."   Ulrich and Woodlee are usually almost brought to tears or have huge smiles on their faces in the final competition round, they are that proud of the kids and that connected to them.   They also have said over and over again how difficult it is in eliminating someone, as unlike other reality competition type shows where the outcasts are hardly every represented, on this show the contestants are almost all outcasts, so every time one gets eliminated it hurts that much more.

So, check out The Glee Project on Oxygen if you aren't already watching it.

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