The Glee Project Premiere: Will You Give This Show a Callback?

Whether you love or hate Glee, there’s no denying it’s a series that wears its emotions like a slushie on a sweater — loudly, explosively, and in vibrant primary colors. Which is why I was a little flummoxed by the series premiere of its reality spinoff, The Glee Project, which painted the search for the mothership’s next great character in shades of beige, tan, and gray.

Part of the problem might be that Glee truly tries to celebrate specific (if not 100 percent realistic) misfit toys, whereas The Glee Project‘s cast comes off like a merry band of quirkily good-looking “types” sent straight from central casting, directly to a studio, where they’ll be Auto-Tuned, airbrushed, and directed into the background of the next Lea Michele-Cory Monteith duet. And then, of course, there’s the conundrum posted by Glee casting director Robert Ulrich that choosing actors for a TV show is a “completely subjective” process; that could make the judging portion of the show a hard thing to truly appreciate.

Whatever the case, the battle for a seven-episode arc on Glee — “an incredible gift,” said Ulrich, leading me to wonder whether or not the winning actor will get paid for “winning” — kicked off with the 12 contestants being asked to bring “individuality” to their lines on a group performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered.”  The vocals for this challenge felt a way over-produced to me, and only two singers stood out: diminutive Matheus and power-vocalist McKynleigh (who I’m guessing was either cast for her name’s resemblance to Glee‘s McKinley High, or changed her stage name to catch the attention of Team Ryan Murphy). As guest mentor Darren Criss pointed out, Matheus tailored his vocal line to suit his voice, and that added howl at the end was playful and intriguing — much like the contestant himself.

With Matheus scoring extra mentoring time with Criss, the contestants then formed a therapy circle of sorts to discuss what character they wanted to portray if they took home the big prize. Babyfaced Ellis declared herself as “most likely to be a child forever,” and thereby became the contestant most likely to haunt my waking nightmares. I mean, honestly, floppy hat + infant vocalization = Hostel sequel, not Glee breakout, right? Emily, meanwhile, came off as a teensy bit crass declaring her role as “the best swimsuit model I could be,” but at least she cooked up something specific and memorable. Matheus again stood out by declaring himself most likely to become a personal trainer, flashing his abs for “the ladies” and generally trying to dismiss the notion that hunks can’t come in tiny packages and equipped with braces.

The contestants then worked with a vocal coach, a choreographer, and a director as part of the main challenge, a video shoot to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” but it’s hard to get a true read on who’s succeeding and who’s failing when you’re trying to follow 12 new contestants performing two- or three-line song snippets.

I suppose the judges honed in on the right trio as candidates for elimination. Ellis’ creepy baby-doll dress and “Home Alone-face” would have Emma Pillsbury reaching for a slushie; without his accent, Irish lad Damian (a veteran of a Celtic Thunder tour!) might as well have been trapped in a locker for the entire telecast; and poor, handsome Bryce immediately painted himself as a mini-diva by telling the “Firework” director and choreographer how to do their jobs. (Dude had a point, but still…)

The three at-risk contestants then got to perform a song for Ryan Murphy, Ulrich, and choreographer Zach Woodlee. Damian scored copious unintentional laughs by botching a classic Rick Springfield chorus, turning “I wish that I had Jesse’s girl” into “I wish that I was Jesse’s girl.” Ellis wore white stockings, a yellow skirt, and pearls for a rendition of “Big Spender.” And Bryce sang Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” after an actorly moment of confessing his insecurities to vocal coach Nikki Anders — while never looking away from his mirror.

I liked the way the producers revealed the contestants’ fates by posting callbacks on a bulletin board, though perhaps for future episodes, they could go for something a little more spontaneous, and a little less like a dramatic operating-room montage at the end of Grey’s Anatomy. In the end, it was Bryce who paid the price — while Damian and Ellis will live to respectively bore and terrify us another day.

What did you think of The Glee Project? Did it meet your expectations? Will you go back for a second helping next week? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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49 Comments
  1. fan says:

    I really enjoyed watching The Glee Project. I know Ellis was annoying, but she was actually my favorite of the girls.

    • djm says:

      I like Ellis too. I can tell she’s super nervous, but hopefully she’ll settle down a little and find a way to let her personality ome through.

  2. Katie says:

    i recorded this, now i’m even more excited to watch it!
    (had to choose the tony awards over it!)
    why doesn’t damian have his accent?? weird.

    • Amanda says:

      An accent (like his Irish accent) isn’t always overly obvious whilst singing in the same way that someone with a stutter probably won’t stutter while they sing.

  3. HannaBec says:

    I suffered through the show because I know Samuel Larson and want him to win this thing. But I may have to just dvr so I can ff through to his parts only. I found most of the contestants annoying and unpleasant. The director said they’re looking for someone endearing that the audience wants to love. Good luck with that! lol

  4. Corinne says:

    I truly enjoyed the show despite some of the contestants being a little annoying, but that is to be expected of “theatrical” people. I am stumped by how many people sang Hit Me Baby One More Time for the initials auditions. I think it interesting getting to see the people who work with the talent for the show, probably the best part of the Glee Project.

  5. bobeau says:

    I liked how it showed the speed and intensity of creating an hour of musical comedy every week, as Glee does. My hook to that show is primarily the development of the young cast, individually and as a group, as musical theater/dramedy performers. Maturation. This show distills that process. Very enjoyable for me….

    Most musical theater develops over years of refinement and months of rehearsals with polished professional performers. Glee, and this show, are quite different and the presence of mind they are demanding from the cast is very interesting to watch.

    I found myself identifying with the mentors.

    I would not be at all surprised to see Ellis and Damian turn things around for themselves – the most interesting stories are the ones where protagonists have a long way to go…. and this is about finding stories.

  6. Ryan says:

    Was it just me or were most of these kids CRAZY ARROGANT?

    You’re on a TV show. Tone it down a bit.

  7. AnaB says:

    Look, don’t get me wrong here… I’m a really big fan of Glee… but come on, this has to stop!

    The show already has too many characters to keep track of… heck, this past season just proved how much out of control they are when it comes to character development and handling story arcs… And now they wanna add more people?! Seriously???

    Murphy and co. should really rethink what they’re doing to the show and start focusing on on getting it back on track first…
    Stick with the characters they already have. Give all characters decent story arcs and the chance to shine at least once. Let them showcase their personal growth. And for heaven’s sakes, finish all those story arcs for a change! Give us back our show before you start butchering it all over again!

    So, as for this Project thing… I have 3 words for it… DO NOT WANT!
    This is not how you’re gonna get yourselves a new Darren Criss, producers! That guy is one rare gem… and just because you found him, doesn’t mean you can find another that easy – IF you can find another, that is!

    Quality over quantity, people… think about that… =)

    • CJ says:

      Ana — though the winner will have a 7 episode arc, the goal of the Glee Project is really designed to have characters in place once the current one graduate, etc.

      • Stacie says:

        Which I say over and over is so dumb. As Ian Brennan(co-creator) said last night, the kids make the show. Well these 12 or 13 kids are supposed to graduate and we are supposed to have a show that has Sue, Mr. Shue, Emma and maybe one or two kids? What kind of show will this be without Rachel, Kurt, Santana etc., I know they won’t but they really should have these kids graduate and let us follow them to the next level. Never has a show succeeded when 90% of the cast is gone when it’s name wasn’t Law and Order. Even the original 90210 had to have their kids go to college. I just don’t get the sense of having an entirely new cast, this cast made the show, and trying to fill the Glee club back up with a whole other cast is irresponsible, and wrong. I think it will be very costly and I don’t think the show will survive much longer after this kind of move.

        • the girl says:

          You weren’t this attached to the current cast when Glee first started. After Rachel et al graduate, all that is required is for viewers to be open-minded and give the new cast a chance. And, if the producers are smart, they will bring people in throughout the year, people who are clearly “freshmen” and “sophomores” to be groomed by our outgoing “seniors”. So you’ll have a chance to get to know them before saying goodbye to the original cast.

        • AnaB says:

          Thank you, Stacie! That’s exactly my point!
          If I’m not mistaken, the very premise of the show supposed to be about this specific group of kids looking for acceptance and recognition… and not about “the Glee club”. But apparently that is the direction showrunners are going for now…
          As successful as Glee has become, I think it’d be best if they closed it all up, fixing all the loose ends and giving great storylines to the characters, and then ended the show after season 3…
          We all know it is just not gonna be the same without the current cast. And I’d rather have 3 good, solid seasons, with a real and believable ending to characters I love, than having to endure 10 years of an amateur sing-a-long sugarcoated as a teen soap.

          • Claire says:

            I disagree. I want it to last longer than 3 years, and I think that gradually replacing the cast is exactly the way to go. No, it’s not going to be the same without the current cast. If it were going to go on and on just being the same every year, it would get stale pretty quickly. But reinvigorated with fresh characters with their own unique stories over time, it can reinvigorate itself perpetually so that it can remain new and surprising. “Not the same” doesn’t have to mean “bad.” It can also mean “exciting.”

          • Stephanie says:

            Blaine, Sam, Lauren, April, Jessee, Holly…all characters created and brought in long after the show originally started. Those are new characters you grew to love after a while (even Mr. Tubington, admit it) so the show will survive. These “kids” (uh, most are about 25 IRL) have to graduate. Do you expect this to be Welcome Back, Kotter when all the kids are held back year after year and get married and have kids and still dance to Katy Perry songs?

          • Tara says:

            @AnaB-

            “If I’m not mistaken, the very premise of the show supposed to be about this specific group of kids looking for acceptance and recognition… and not about “the Glee club”. But apparently that is the direction showrunners are going for now…”

            Dude, the show is called “Glee.” You are definitely mistaken, as the show is supposed to be about the GLEE club. How is that even remotely ambiguous?

  8. Larry says:

    An interesting start. Its a little boring and way too many clips of what is happening. I thought Damians rendition was funny, and he actually came out of his shell for the first time so props to him. Did they hook me no, but will watch to see who gets booted off every week.

  9. Chris says:

    I enjoyed about 20 minutes of the first two hours. Ryan Murphy is the gold here – when he comes in (the last ten minutes) the show comes alive.

    There are only two contestants I can see on Glee. Matheus and Hannah. The others come off just wrong for a TV audition show.

  10. Allison P says:

    I’m about to watch the premiere on Hulu. I’ve been a fan of Damian’s voice for years so I’ll be rooting for him to turn his bottom-three slot around and show us what he’s really made of. I saw an intro of Emily and her personality puts me off. But excited to see what the other contestants are like, too!

  11. Bob says:

    The Ellis girl was very creepy (was she really holding stuffed animals during the video shoot!). But I think she was just over-acting her part of “kid forever,” which was a bad idea from the beginning. In her interview snippets she is articulate and seems intelligent. She could play a kid-prodigy genius that has skipped a few grades, and is socially set back, but is smarter than the adults.

    • Janine says:

      This! Great idea!

    • BrazenSongBird says:

      I love this idea! With the exception of the glee kids who in that one episode participated on a quiz show, we have no clue as to their academics. This could be a new and interesting facet of life at McKinley to write to and Ellis is the perfect candidate to play this role. Great singer, articulate, looks like a twelve year old! The character is: brilliant, good at everything, except social situs. Kind of the way she is IRL. I mean, if she thought that that “child forever” thing was going to endear her to Glee viewers, then her ability to read social cues is WAY off.

  12. Bella says:

    I was looking forward to this, but ugh, won’t be back. I wasn’t impressed by anyone and found them all to be annoying and felt as if each and every one of them admired himself or herself so much there wasn’t breathing room for anyone else’s ego. I also thought they were trying way too hard to be weird. Slushies to all!

  13. ell says:

    Glee has been enough of an unfocused mess without this winner’s arc being artifically shoehorned in.

  14. Lauren says:

    Did anyone else feel like they had seen a lot of these kids before? Several of them looked very familiar to me! Have they been on other shows before? Or maybe auditioned for other reality competitions? I can’t figure it out, but every time I saw Bryce, McKynleigh (or however she spells it) and Alex, I kept thinking I had seen them somewhere.

    • Lindsey says:

      I felt the same way!! Bryce especially seemed so familiar to me! I thought he might have been on that show that was on a few years ago called Get in the Picture? It was exactly like this one, but they were casting for a spot in High School Musical instead of Glee. But I did some googling and couldn’t find any of these kids listed on that show. It’s weird… They do seem very familiar!

  15. Tavis says:

    I would really like to watch this, but Oxygen is unavailable in Canada. :-(

  16. T says:

    The kid with the dreads has a great face and seemed humble. The blonde nerd kid also has a great voice. The rest of them either annoyed the crap out of me or weren’t worth remembering. No more Ellis, hairflipper girl, or boy that sounds like a girl please. They are nails on a chalkboard annoying.

    • Lindsey says:

      I agree! Ellis, Emily(hairflipper), and Alex(boy that sounds like a girl) were my least favorites! They need to go!

  17. Amy says:

    I can’t believe no one has mention how unbelievably annoying Emily is! First the flirting with Darren Criss (“you can call me anything you like”) and then the whole flirting with the director dude during the Firework filming. I sincerely hope she doesn’t win, completely unlikeable.

  18. Lexi says:

    I happen to know McKynleigh and yes that is her real name. Some call her Miki for short.

    I haven’t seen this show and don’t really plan to, Glee is getting kinda old.

  19. MusicFan says:

    Slezak, I’m surprised you didn’t like this show more. While I’m not overly impressed with several of their candidate choices, I did find this show to be much more interesting and less combative than other similar types of reality shows. As someone who is interested in singing in general and Glee in particular, I thought it was an enjoyable way to gain insight into the process. I hope ongoing it’s low on melodrama even though the tone seemed to change quickly from fun and supportive to you-better-learn-to-be-a-professional quickly. Overall, I’m a bigger fan of these types of shows when they focus on providing a view into the creative mind rather than petty arguments and extreme personalities.

  20. a viewer says:

    I wasn’t that interested in or invested in the contestants, but I really liked seeing the crew and getting a sense of how Glee itself is created. My sense is that that is really the purpose of the Glee Project–not to cast a new character for a 7 story arc, but to reveal the inner workings of the show and to spotlight the behind-the-scenes people who work just as hard as the cast but don’t get the screen time and recognition. I’ll keep watching for that.

  21. Coral says:

    Mckynleigh is actually my cousin lol. That’s her real name :] I’m glad she stood out to you! Without any bias, I watched the cast of the glee project on the Today show on Friday and thought that out of everyone there, Mckynleigh was the best vocally. I was sad to see Bryce go because of his interesting voice.

  22. marissa says:

    Lindsay (ironically enough, the girl who named herself “Most likely to start a charity”) is pretty and talented, but she is known by those who have worked with her in plays, musicals, etc. to be very fake. She acts like a diva and is demeaning to others. Also, many of the other cast member seem very conceited, but there are a few that seem okay.

  23. Ken The Great says:

    Man, I was certain today was going to be the big Haley day. UGGHH!!!

  24. Bob says:

    I agree that Ellis was creepy (the prop person that handed her stuffed animals should be canned). But, I think she just took the over-acted the “character.” In her interview snippets she seems intelligent and articulate. I could imagine her playing a child-prodigy, who’s skipped a few grades and is socially set-back, but can out-think the adults on the show.

  25. ZoniDuck says:

    I find many of the kids irritating as hell, but I think a few of them have potential. I particularly like Cameron, Ellis, and Samuel.

    For me though, the real draw of this show is getting to see and hear more from Zach Woodlee, Nikki Anders, Robert Ulrich, and Brad Falchuk. I hope we get a lot more of the behind the scenes stuff on how Glee is put together, and I’d love to see the creative process on how the new character is developed. I’ll keep watching for this reason alone.

  26. ZoniDuck says:

    Dangit! I meant to say Ryan Murphy in my previous comment, not Brad Falchuk. Though it would be nice to see Mr. Falchuk on the show too.

  27. Claire says:

    I don’t find Ellis disturbing the way Michael did. It just seemed to me that, based on her past experiences, she was anticipating that–due to her childlike face–the show would be wanting her to play up her young looks by really acting younger than she was. So she was trying to show she could do that. As it turned out, Ryan Murphy wanted just the opposite–i.e., to contrast her baby-doll appearance with a mature attitude. As long as she picks up on that as she goes forward in the future, she should be okay. When I first saw the video before watching the actual show, I actually thought Damian was a stand-out, so not sure why he ended up in the bottom three. The one I’d have a real problem with is Emily. Her approach seems sexualized to a degree that, as one castmate mentioned, it was uncomfortable. If they do cast her, maybe they should make her a secret victim of child sexual abuse or incest, because that kind of behavior is often characteristic of young women who have suffered in that way.

  28. JASON S. says:

    THEY SHOULD PUT RACHEL ZEVITA AND BRETT LOWENSTERN ON GLEE. THEY NEED A WHOLE NEW CAST RIGHT?

  29. jayem says:

    I did some googling and found out Bryce is the son of Tracey Ross (not to be confused with Tracee Ellis Ross, Diana Ross’s daughter). That’s probably not why I thought he looked (and sounded) SO familiar, but for some reason, I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere too.

    So far, I like Samuel, Damien and Cameron and Lindsay (that’s the redhead, right?). Although this is just another American Idol/X Factor/The Voice-type show, I will probably tune in to see who wins. And I’m still watching Glee, so I guess it’ll be interesting to see what they do with the new person.

    Truthfully, I think they should be looking for a whole new cast and this should have been more “boot camp” for the newcomers than an elimination type show. I mean, there’s already a Zizes (Hannah), a Santana (Emily), and a Kurt (Alex). And Ellis could be the new type A Rachel-type, and all the cute boys could be all the cute boys.

    I am finding the mentors kinda harsh and irritating (that whole Bryce thing was bull$hit) so we’ll see if I can tolerate them.

  30. pj says:

    I think Emily could be the best one. When I watch this episode I can see in her all the emotion: she was flirting, smiling, crying, worried… And her voice is incredible. Also the nerd one could be such a great glee guy, voice+emotional presence (and I find him so hansome, ihhii ;)). They are my first two fav contenders….then Samuel and Mckynleigh too!
    I don’t know about Alex, but he’s good. I don’t like Damian’s attitude…Maybe I need more time to see how the competition will go

  31. Tara says:

    Bryce was utterly arrogant and unlikeable, and his voice was horrible, so he was the right pick to go. I’m liking Cameron, Ellis, and McKynleigh right now, but that could change. I don’t understand how they chose the “low” group, ie: Hannah, Marissa, and McKynleigh. I thought that Marissa and McKynleigh were two of the stronger performers in all areas, so I have no idea how they were in that Bottom 6 “low” group. While Ellis does occasionally give a creepy “baby doll” vibe, I’m kind of creeped out by Matheus. The guy is ridiculously short but is apparently not a “little person,” is overpraised despite not being a very good singer, and arrogantly shows off his abs, which to me looked like . . . well, not abs. Don’t get him at all. Cameron is my #1 pick based on personality and likeability, while Ellis and McKynleigh are thus far my picks based on voice and likeability. All three could be great Glee characters, although McKynleigh seems too sweet and reserved to be over-the-top like most of the others and probably will be cut because the writers will say they are not inspired to write a character for her, or something like that.

  32. Tara says:

    Oh, and Cameron looks like the lovechild of John Krasinski and Chord Overstreet. Just sayin.

  33. Alex says:

    Cameron is cute

  34. samantha says:

    SPOILERS: DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF YOU DONT WANT TO KNOW WHO GOES HOME IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS!!

    Damien and Hannah are the next two contestants to be kicked off of the Glee Project. Damien will go home on Sunday and hannah will go home on the following sunday. I’m glad about Hannah but im sad about Damien. He was my favoirte, but at least he will go back on tour with celtic thunder in the fall.

  35. A says:

    I do like this show and feel they have a pretty talented bunch for the most part aside from a select few. Bryce was the right choice to be sent home first, they kept talking about his voice being so different, I just thought it wasn’t that great quite honestly – it was okay at best. Very disappointed that Ellis was sent packing the second week. Sure, she has some personality issues and can be negative, but her voice is incredible and I think she could have worked on trying to be more positive. I feel Matheus should have been sent home. Not only did I think his performance wasn’t so hot, but everything about that kid is off putting in my opinion. Has nothing to do with his diminutive stature and everything to do with his attitude and how he carries himself. As much as I like this show I would actually stop watching if he continues to move on because I find him that annoying. If they’re looking for someone to add to the cast that the audience will find likable, he would be a poor choice.

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