By Curt Wagner
1:09 PM CDT, June 12, 2011
Some folks will never get enough of "Glee." I'm no longer one of those people.
Yes, I still enjoy watching the talented "Glee" cast perform, but the storytelling on theFox series has suffered as the show's popularity has skyrocketed. CreatorRyan Murphy and Co. lost their way in Season 2, cramming episodes withTop 40 songs that didn't necessarily advance plots or explain emotions the way they did in Season 1. (Which wasn't perfect by any means, but at least was more consistent.)
Also, many of the characters have become caricatures--Sue Sylvester, I'm talking about you. And the plots became so schizophrenic, with loyalties, attitudes and lovers flip-flopping so often that I half-expected Kurt to be gay one week and straight the next.
Sorry, rant over. Needless to say, I wasn't all that excited about "The Glee Project" (8 p.m. June 12,Oxygen; * out of four), a new reality series in which 12 finalists culled from 40,000 applicants--as we're told several times, apparently to remind viewers why they should care--compete for a seven-episode guest spot on the musical comedy.
Where have we heard this basic idea before? "The Glee Project" might be the 5,000th music reality competition on TV, so yay for the chance to hear more versions of the same five Top 40 songs fromLady Gaga,Katy Perry and others.
Don't get me wrong; I love that Murphy casts such a wide net to find new talent that might never have a chance to be discovered. But "The Glee Project" feels like an exercise in ego for the folks running the show. There's a whole lot of playing to the camera going on amongst the professionals, especially from choreographer Zach Woodlee and Murphy himself. (Really, you're wearing a Rasta tam?) Casting director Robert Ulrich and vocal coach Nikki Anders come off much more grounded and sincere, trying to keep the focus on the kids and not themselves.
And about those 12 kids... Well, you have every stereotype we see on the TV series at play: the hunk, the nerd, the beotch, the loudmouth, the big girl, the sexpot, the gay guy and the cross between Mercedes and Kurt. I'll let you figure them out, because I'm trying to be a nicer person. Let me just say that some are extremely annoying as they, too, play to the camera even when they aren't doing the official auditions. (Ellis, 19 from Grayslake, Ill., wants to be a wittle kid forwever. Ugh.)
As for those auditions, viewers only hear the studio versions of the performances, which makes this seem as real as the fantasy that is "Glee." How can we judge their talents when we hear auto-tuned versions of the songs? It's frustrating, to say the least.
But hey, Gleeks are going to love this, especially when cast members from the series show up to coach, like Darren Criss, who plays lead Warbler Blaine, does in the first episode. By the way, the two-hour debut night begins with a casting special in which the finalists are notified that they are finalists. That leads into the first episode.
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