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Ryan Murphy


The Glee Project – and what’s wrong with it

I was really skeptical when The Glee Project started airing its first season last year, but I ended up getting a little invested in it – much more than I expected to. This year, however, it seems to have lost a lot of its appeal.

While last season there were 12 hopeful young people vying for the seven-episode arc on the popular television show, Glee, this season there are 14 contenders. Generally, each episode is set up so that the group performs together in front of a “mentor,” usually a current member of the Glee cast, then learn choreography, have a vocal session, and then perform in a music video. After that, three of the contenders are placed in the bottom three and will perform for Ryan Murphy (Glee’s creator) before one of them is sent packing.

The Judges

Besides Ryan Murphy, there are three other judges: casting director Robert Ulrich, choreographer Zach Woodlee, and vocal producer Nikki Anders. My biggest issue with the coaches is that they are completely insensitive to the fact that the majority of the contenders are much younger than the current cast of Glee. At this point in the season, the oldest contenders are 24, though most are between 18-21. The youngest member of the Glee cast, Chris Colfer, is 22 – but the rest are mainly between 24 and 30 years old. That, in my opinion, is a major difference. The judges (or coaches) appear to forget that gap between maturity and experience and hold it against many of the contenders.

Murphy and Ulrich, in my opinion, act as the voice of reason among the judges and usually judge fairly and give appropriate and concise advice to the contenders. I’m not sure if it’s the way the show is edited and shown to the public (it is a reality show, after all) but Anders is portrayed as a horrible judge (I don’t know much about vocals, but sometimes a contender will just sound awful and she’ll love it) and an overall mean person. To me, it feels as if she plays favorites throughout the season and very rarely gives helpful advice. Woodlee, while a seemingly great choreographer (according to what the contenders say during the show), looks like he loves every last-chance performance and doesn’t really give substantial or satisfactory advice aside from choreography. Whatever you do, Woodlee, don’t play poker. Ever.

Be More Confident

This season, it’s almost as if the judges decided that the only advice that they’ll give to any of the contenders is to be more confident. The majority of the people trying out for grand prize have gotten this advice repeatedly. The only problem is that the judges just say “be more confident” but refuse to elaborate and give tips on how they can do this. Anders told one contender to spend less time practicing before his vocal session and then got frustrated when he tried his best at the session with little practice. For a recent performance, the judges told the contenders they would be acting as pop music icons – but they didn’t have to act specifically as that icon. Then they were surprised when some of them took their advice to heart and acted as themselves.

Many of the judges can be very insensitive to the insecurities of the contenders as well. Last episode, Anders targeted one of the contenders on his biggest insecurity (one that has been exhausted throughout the season, so it wasn’t a surprise to her) and when confronted about it she shrugged it off and said it shouldn’t have bothered him.

What To Fix

While I don’t believe that the judges should change if the series is renewed for a third season, I think they should spend more time learning how to truly judge in a competition like this. While they may be great at their particular fields, they definitely have room for improvement in judging or coaching a competition – especially one for reality television.

Some have suggested that the viewers should have the ability to vote on who should stay in the competition. While this could work, the entire show would need to be restructured in order to allow for their to be that “live” component. I’m not sure if that’s an option that could be taken into consideration with their budget and schedules, but it’s something that could be interesting.

And last but not least, if the judges take such issue with how little experience and maturity the contenders have in relation to the cast of Glee, they’re going to have to cast contenders who have similar ability and confidence in the next season. This is neither entertaining or interesting.