When I first heard that there was going to be a reality show in search of the next cast member on Glee, the first thought that popped into my head was the genius behind the idea. Producers of the show found a ploy to get more money out of the highly successful franchise all the while sustaining momentum for the show in its off season. And since they are auditioning people to join the cast before each season anyway, why not film the entire process, endear the cast member to the audience and get them excited about said cast member’s 7 episode character arc in the series (the main prize), thereby ensuring a stronger following for McKinley’s New Directions (possibly their last) in their third try for the nationals crown? Not that they need it, but still, its genius. And for the next 12 weeks, the Top 12 battle it out in a series of challenges that seek to develop them and test their skills in a variety of categories to make sure that they are Glee material.
I was at first skeptical about the show, to be quite honest. I saw it as Ryan Murphy’s attempt to pull the strings of the audience once again, make these auditioners go through hoops, make them cry and profess how much the chance to star in Glee means to them. But Ryan didn’t appear until the last chance sing off and casting director Robert Ulrich pretty much took charge of the project. So, I guess I may be wrong about my initial suspicions.
So, the process started with the show opening an invitation on their myspace account to send audition pieces. After screening over 40,000 hopefuls, Ulrich and his posse narrows down the search to over 200 auditioners who camped out of the venue (even one flying from Singapore) to wait for their chance to perform for Robert and Darren Criss (who plays Blaine on the show). What I liked about the audition process was that it was so different from other auditions. Regular people, and even those who are a bit different, felt comfortable auditioning in front of Robert because he always had that encouraging smile on his face, and even before showtime, Darren even took the time to give a pep talk to the hopefuls saying that the team is on “their” (auditioners) side. There was a general air of positivity, even from those who were cut and the audience could sense from them that each and every one was grateful for the chance to genuinely be considered for the part despite being relatively ordinary. Sometimes, people just forget what a great motivation it is to be encouraging and nice as opposed to mean and surly and its a refreshing to see so many smiling faces during an audition process for a change.
Like Glee, the show inspires confidence among regular folk with extraordinary talents to just let it all hang loose and go for it. And I think that this is where the strength of the show lies. Even when the contestants screw up, the Glee team doesn’t make a big deal out of it, don’t make fun of the offender but are still able to emphasize the importance of setting one’s heart to the task that one needs to accomplish. During the first episode, a lot of great people were cut whom I thought had great potential. But the Top 12 that the producers chose to get through to the show proper was quite alright.
The atmosphere changes slightly in the second episode when the Top 12 are selected. While they are still friends, viewers could almost see the wheels turning the contestants’ heads. You immediately see who has his eye on the prize and who is just coasting along. The show is about personality and the contestants have them by the bucketful. Some are charming, some are angsty, some are just plain annoying but putting them in one house and training them at the same time admittedly makes for good television. How will they get ahead? How will they outshine the other? Because in the end, only one of them will land the role. It is a competition after all. Through it all, Glee choreographer Zach Woodlee, and the show’s musical directors do their best to guide them through the process and push them to their limits. At the end of the challenge, three of the weakest performers perform for creator Ryan Murphy, who ultimately decides who gets the boot.
On the weaker side, I could tell that the contestants are, this early, trying too hard to establish what character they think they can play on the show, and I think that some are too consumed by the common cliches of the show to realize that they need to step out of the box and show their versatility instead of feeding the stereotype. They try to fit into the mold of Lauren, Kurt, Artie, and the existing cast that they are adding nothing new to their characters. First and foremost, they must bear in mind that they are auditioning to be actors. If they continue with their one track approach, they might be packing their bags soon in my opinion.
The show is off to a great start I already have several favorites but I will not name them now for I have a great tendency to jinx my bets. And its still early yet and I think I’ll check out what will happen in the following weeks.