Farewell to The Glee Project, The Secret Best Talent Show on TV


For months now, rumors of cancellation have surrounded The Glee Project, the Oxygen reality show in which young actor/singers competed for a seven episode arc on Glee. Some Glee Project winners have taken to scripted television better than others — season two winner Blake Jenner has since become a series regular, while fellow past winners Damian McGinty and Samuel Larsen were either written off the show or written so far into the background that you forgot they were there — but that hardly matters because, on it’s own, The Glee Project was a very good and engaging series.

Today, Oxygen announced that it has officially been cancelled. Too bad because the Glee Project was actually better than Glee.

In the wake of the death of Cory Monteith, it seems pretty gauche to trash the show that the late actor put so much work into, but fear not — this isn’t about shit-talking Glee. It’s about praising The Glee Project. (Monteith was even a guest mentor on The Glee Project and came off as nothing but an affable and kind-hearted person.) The Glee Project presented you a diverse group of kids (past contestants have been transgender, from various religious and cultural backgrounds, differently abled, etc.). You either root for them or you don’t, but either way, their success on the show always comes down to two things — talent and “it” factor (emphasis on the former).

Of course, the show has had some major missteps. Glee EP Ryan Murphy and the other judges often pushed the contestants (most of whom were barely in their 20s) to be themselves all while haranguing them to fit into one of the show’s easily organized types. Aylin, a 19-year-old from season 2 who could sing Rihanna better than Rihanna, was constantly expected to exploit her Muslim background in irritating and stereotypical ways (“Aylin, in this scene, you play a Muslim girl whose traditional Muslim parents force her to wear a burka!” “Aylin, in this video, you play a Muslim girl whose traditional Muslim parents pull her out of school because she falls in love with a white boy!”), but the show managed to subvert some norms as well. Contestant Ali, who was in a wheelchair, deservedly made it to finals and had a small arc on Glee despite not winning and Alex Newell — like Jenner — has become a series regular as one of the first openly transgender teens to appear on scripted, network television.

Then there were the show’s other joys. Judge (and Glee‘s lead choreographer) Zach Woodlee was a goddamn delight who would cry tears of joy and pride at the drop of a hat and seemed to love and root for the kids as if they were his own children. We got to see Blake Jenner win after viewing what a hard worker and nice person he was. We were introduced to this face. Best of all, we got to watch two seasons of truly talented individuals compete for something that they wanted with all their hearts. It’s rare to find that kind of earnestness and sincerity on TV and it’s disappointing (for me and the three other people who watched it) that it’s gone now.

Goodbye, Glee Project! You were good while you were here!

Image via Getty.

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