The Glee Project is the newest cog in the wheel known as Glee, the insanely successful FOX series that has taken over the globe. Oxygen’s newest reality show was one that sought to give average teenagers the chance to star in a seven episode arc on Glee, a dream for any aspiring singer/actor/dancer. While the series give audiences a group of fun and dynamic kids to root for, the show’s finale pulled a major cop-out that leaves audiences and this writer in particular, to question the motives of show creator Ryan Murphy in several ways.
I’m an avid Glee follower, and much like the majority of the shows fans I was sad that the series’ stars: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, and Chris Colfer were graduating from the fictional McKinley High and going to greener pastures. To prepare for this the Oxygen Network, in conjunction with series creator Ryan Murphy, came up with a reality competition show to find a new member of the McKinley Glee Club. The winner would be given a seven episode arc on Glee and the possibility of filling the shoes of the departing cast members.
As the series went on it eventually came down to the final four: Irish cutie Damian, indie rocker Sam, diva Alex, and Broadway belter Lindsay. They each came a long way throughout the competition and had their faults. I personally found Lindsay cold and fake, but loved Damian’s sweetness and Irish brogue. The finale say Murphy declare both Sam and Damian the winners of the seven episode arc, leaving Lindsay and Alex in the cold. All seemed fine until Murphy decided to give Lindsay and Alex a 2-episode arc as well. As Lindsay succinctly put it at the end of the episode, “Did everyone just win?”
The Glee Project’s is a cop-out. Through ten episodes, eight contenders were eliminated. Christian sweetie Cameron even quit, saving Damian from being cut (I’m sure Cameron wishes he’d just kissed the damn girl now). Having four winners shouldn’t bother me so much if not for the fact that the final four spent three episodes mentioning the show as a “competition,” where they were expected to do whatever to win.
I’m not a fan of the “everyone’s a winner” mentality in reality shows. They’re competitions for a reason! It’s a similar problem I have with The Voice and the judges desire not to be bad guys and giving “tie” votes. It’s a competition make up your mind! If you like someone, fight for them and vice versa! Don’t try to make yourself look like a saint by saying “It was hard and I couldn’t decide,” because it’s fake.
Four winners open the door to a slew of eventual story problems in the upcoming season of Glee. Murphy himself took a beating in the press for the show’s second season story problems including too many tribute episodes, guest appearances, and pointless subplots that went nowhere. Recently the show creators mentioned their desire to go “back to basics” with season three and eliminated tribute episodes and guest stars for the season. With 22 episodes in the last season, it’s expected that that will be the same amount of episodes in season three. Sam and Damian won a seven-episode arc (and there’s no talk of having them appear together so I’m going to assume they each get seven episodes), and Lindsay/Alex got 2. That comes out to 18 episodes with a Glee Project winner, hypothetically leaving only 4 episodes with the core cast. Add in the fact that each winner will need to have some type of fleshed out storyline, I just don’t see how all the stories are going to gel.
Damian and Sam have easy characters to write, in theory: Sam as some type of tortured Puck-like character and Damian as a sweet, foreign exchange student. But how can any type of genuine storyline be given to Lindsay and Alex in 2 episodes. Alex broke Murphy’s heart as a young man not afraid to dress in drag, leaving one to assume that his character would do the same. To give him two episodes to explore that seems like short shrift. The biggest outlier is Lindsay. I didn’t see any character in her aside from a Rachel Berry wannabe with a good voice.
There’s a few reasons I believe Murphy went this route. Glee is about taking in the underdogs. The entire audition process for this show saw a slew of disabled contenders who wouldn’t get past American Idol I’m sure. In the spirit of the show it would make sense for Murphy to give the final four a chance to live their dream. It also makes him look like a fantastic boss who couldn’t stand to see these two talented kids go home and wanted to make everyone happy. Murphy has had his detractors, people saying he’s a jerk, and this sates everyone because he let everyone go home a winner. But what about the eight eliminated contestants, they’re underdogs to? Or what about the last eliminated contender, lovable Hannah who fit right into Glee’s mold? She must really be sad considering she was the last eliminated! Ryan Murphy may look like a great guy to the fans of the final four, but it also looks like a great PR move. Considering in an Oxygen poll of fan favorites where Damian won by a landslide and the other three had the same amount of votes, did anyone even want the other three to win?
The easiest explanation is probably to serve the big picture of the series. As mentioned above three of the series’ top stars are planning on graduating. Murphy has said they won’t be leaving the show (whatever that means) but they will be leaving McKinley High. As the series continues it’s a safe bet that the other stars will eventually leave. Four winners will allow four new members to seamlessly enter into the show without any need for set-up. I doubt Alex and Lindsay will be disappearing, I personally expect Murphy to announce their runs extended based on audience reaction. And since The Glee Project is slated for a second season, the four winners will already have had exposure on the show. Keeping all four winners handy will negate the need to dump four new faces on the shows audience because they’ve had plenty of face-time on Glee and The Glee Project. This should also do wonders for The Glee Project’s ratings since Glee’s audiences will turn to that channel to establish the potential new characters for the next season.
It also gives creator Ryan Murphy a less expensive way of finding an actor. It’s easier to find a no name teen from Anywhere, USA who hasn’t been tainted by Hollywood as opposed to a name actor. Bringing the reality show back every season would also allow for a continuous revolving door of new talent to replace departing cast members.
There might be no foundation behind it but I’m going to be so bold as to say the final four all winning was pre-planned. Not from the outset but once the final four was assembled I believe it was decided to let them all win. I’m no conspiracy nut, I have evidence I swear! For one, each contender filled a specific niche in the show. Sam was the rocker so fans of Puck will love him, Damian has the easiest storyline, Lindsay is the perfect Rachel Berry, and Alex was the perfect Chris Colfer replacement with a stronger interest in drag and his sexuality. Each fills a niche and demographic that establishes and furthers the world of Glee. No one audience demographic would truly lose out when the core cast graduates as there’s a handy replacement already set.
In all I’m happy Damian won. He was my favorite and the most dynamic (anyone who can sing Bobby Darin is tops in my book) but I didn’t care for the other three winners so I won’t really care about their appearance on Glee. The Glee Project gave all the winners fan base a chance to see them on the show, but if you didn’t like them…screw you!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.