The Glee Project.
Damien, Sam, Alex and Lindsay of
Damien, Sam, Alex and Lindsay of The Glee Project. Matt Sersion/Oxygen
At first glance, the ending of The Glee Project is a cheat, a cop-out, and a cynical ploy to make the whole thing look like a success, even if it isn't one.
The idea of the show is that it's a competition among young hopefuls for a seven-episode appearance on Glee. Producer Ryan Murphy had four contestants to choose from heading into last night's finale: Lindsay, the pretty brunette striver (sound familiar?), Sam, the dreadlocked guitar player who strongly recalled Jason Castro of American Idol; Damian, the adorable Irish kid who likes standards; and Alex, who likes to perform in drag and is fully capable of doing a fully persuasive Dreamgirls number as a result.
None of them seemed quite right for Glee. Lindsay is too much Rachel, Sam is too much Puck, Damian is shy and perhaps a little bland, and Alex's performance style calls to mind something between Kurt and Mercedes. That's not to say these kids are their predecessors exactly — it's just to say that it's hard to think that these would be the new cast members who would inspire the writers to do something new. As I told someone on Twitter, I liked Damian the best, but it was pretty much just because he was the cast member it seemed like the show didn't already have.
When the final four sang, they were all fine, and Murphy and his team made it clear that they considered it a very tough decision. What would they do?
Well. In the great tradition of Glee and its stubborn insistence that there is always a way that things can turn out more magically than anticipated, Murphy named Sam the winner ... and then he named Damian the co-winner! Two winners instead of the single winner we'd been promised all season! BUT WAIT! In addition to the seven-episode arcs that would be written for both Sam and Damian (with, I'm sure, the option to keep them around if they do well), there will be two-episode guest appearances for Alex and Lindsay!
Everybody won! All four finalists got on Glee! Which is great! If your objective is not disappointing reality show contestants! But which is not so great if your objective is a satisfying ending to your competition!
It was, in a lot of ways, a very Glee plot development, in that it reflects some of the weaknesses that the show's less satisfying episodes have. It kind of came out of nowhere, it seemed to be about creating a single exciting moment rather than protecting the integrity of the story, and it was a big, juicy payoff that didn't feel entirely earned.
Frankly, I'm not persuaded that any of these kids are prepared to contribute significantly to Glee. The focus was almost entirely on musical performances, and I'm not sure what the show needs right now is people who can sing but can't act. I'm also not persuaded that what Glee needs most is more people anyway. I think it could go a long way for them to write better for the people they already have. In addition to the kids who started as the core group, they've picked up Mike Chang and Brittany S. Pierce, Santana, Blaine, Lauren, Dave Karofsky ... and that doesn't even count the adults. How many characters can you do a good job of serving when a significant chunk of every show comes down to musical numbers?
But now we know that of these four finalists, they've got to write seven episodes for Damian, seven episodes for Sam, two episodes for Lindsay, and two episodes for Alex. So much for the frequent reassurances that Glee is all about its core cast.