Glee Project cheats its way to a happy ending

Summer’s best new reality competition series, The Glee Project, concluded its season last night, staying strong until the very end, when the winner was announced, but another person won, too–and then the other two were told they’d receive roles on Glee, too. Everybody wins!

Samuel Larsen and Damian McGinty each won the show and its prize of a seven-week guest star role, while Lindsay Pearce and Alex Newell will each receive a two-episode arc. Of course, this is Glee, which doesn’t do character development or narrative, so they’re basically just going to be on the show.

Ryan Murphy eliminated Alex first, then Lyndsey, telling them, “You’re not the winner of The Glee Project.” He announced Sam as the winner–but then told Damian, “You have also won The Glee Project.” Then he told the runners-up they’d get two-episode arcs: “You get something, too. I think you’re both such good actors.” In an interview, Lindsay asked, “Did we all just win a little bit?”

That feel-good ending did reward the contestants, who really made the series: they were genuine, real, and talented, and a win by any one of them would have been great. That’s pretty unusual for a reality competition.

But as great as they are, it still seems weird that Ryan Murphy and the show’s writers are going to create characters based on real people, which has been a recurring theme: who will fit in, who the writers can write for/to. Nikki Anders, the worst of the three mentors, told Damian, “Out of the final four competitors here, you are not the best singer, dancer, or actor–but that’s okay because ultimately this is about finding the person that Ryan and the other writers want to create a role for.” Ryan Murphy told the final four, “It’s not about any of your indvidual talents; it’s about the needs of the show.”

That just strikes me as really odd; in a scripted drama with singing and dancing, you do need someone who can sing, dance, and act, and who has the right physical appearance. Who they are beyond that shouldn’t matter; that’s why they’re actors, after all.

But I’m less interested in what happens on Glee, a show that lost me long ago, and more interested in seeing a second season of The Glee Project, so whatever Ryan Murphy wants to do with them on his show is fine, especially if that leads to long and successful careers for this great group of people.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.