You’ll likely get different answers if you ask people whether the first season of The Glee Project on Oxygen was successful. Ryan Murphy would say it was a raving hit, because it produced four performers who made it to his hit FOX show Glee. Others would say it kind of missed the mark, because it didn’t produce the next Lea Michele or Cory Monteith. Truth be told, both statements would be accurate.
The Glee Project — season 2 kicks off tonight at 10pm ET — essentially serves as a developmental league for Murphy. He puts 18 wannabe-stars through the ringer to see who can sing, dance and act their way to the Major Leagues. Last year we thought there would only be one winner, but the ever-unpredictable Murphy threw viewers and competitors a curveball when he named Damian McGinty and Samuel Larsen the co-winners and awarded each a seven-episode arc on Glee. Adding even more of a twist, he threw in two episodes each for runner-ups Lindsay Pearce and Alex Newell.
As you would expect with so many new people joining an already established cast, there were mixed results. Pearce was solid yet forgettable in her short stint, and Samuel’s character never quite meshed as the very religious suitor to Dianna Agron’s Quinn Fabray. Actually, to be blunt, there was no chemistry whatsoever. McGinty had some tender moments as an Irish exchange student, but his heavy accent and below-average acting skills undermined his respectable crooning ability.
That left us with Alex Newell, who absolutely has the star power and inner diva to break out down the road. We got a taste of that in a few episodes and songs this past season on Glee, and I’d be shocked if we don’t see more of him in the future. The challenge for Murphy should he decide to keep Newell is finding a way to incorporate a cross-dressing man from a different high school as a main character.
Unfortunately for Murphy and his crew, that is the least of his problems. With many of his characters graduating from high school (including the characters played by Michele, Agron and Montheith), the direction of Glee will be changing dramatically. He has said that show will still follow the lives of the glee club alumni, but it’s safe to say we will see bigger roles for returning characters and even some fresh faces. That’s why The Glee Project is so important to the franchise.
In tonight’s season premiere, the contenders are mentored by none other than Lea Michele, and they are challenged to discover themselves through the theme of individuality. With help from casting director Robert Ulrich, choreographer Zach Woodlee and vocal producer Nikki Anders, they are then tasked with performing White Snake’s “Here I Go Again.” Viewers are encouraged to talk about the new batch of contestants on Twitter using @TheGleeProject and post their thoughts on the guest mentors, homework assignments and music videos using #TheGleeProject.
In a matter of months, a couple of these performers will be getting a slushy to the face. And in the world of Glee, that’s the official sign that you have arrived.
Photo: Tyler Golden/Oxygen