Remember Marissa (von Bleicken) and Hannah (Mclalwain) ? They were both eliminated as contestants in THE GLEE PROJECT after placing first in the very same episode's opening challenge. They won the homework assignment (on most competition shows, a win like this confers some level of protection!) but it couldn't have mattered less.
Of course we remember Cameron (Mitchell). In his case, even the contestant himself thought he had lost—but after watching showrunner Ryan Murphy beg him to stay (to no avail), it sure felt like a win.
I think it's time we accept that the details of this particular game never really mattered. All that matters is this: Does Ryan want to put you into the cast of GLEE?
THE GLEE PROJECT isn't JEOPARDY or THE BACHELOR. More than one contestant can win the prize: a meaty, custom-fit role in GLEE. What's more, at this point, there's not much of a connection between winning a challenge and being good on GLEE. Of course, the final survivor of the individual challenges will probably be cast on the show. But there are a bunch of openings available for season three, so why wouldn't they cast another known entity from THE GLEE PROJECT--tried, tested, and with a proven fan base?
We can't expect THE GLEE PROJECT to start suddenly following its own rules next week—it is a competition (“reality”) program about a casting decision, not about a game or a skill. In all competition shows (though the impact varies enormously) producers actively manage the contest results. That's the “real reality” of the show, if you will. They do it in order to maximize audience appeal, or, in other words, they manage it for the ratings.
But usually, they only have to worry about their own ratings. With THE GLEE PROJECT, the ratings of a larger, hugely popular franchise are also at stake. There absolutely must be some pressure to ignore the manufactured “rules of the game” and do what's best for the parent program. It's all about GLEE Season Three.
With this competition series, I think, the fans are on the same side as the producers. We all want a viable GLEE cast member more than we want a GLEE PROJECT challenge-winner. At least, on most shows, the audience keeps everyone honest, but that's not really a concern here. Denying a “winner” a prize, and giving it to someone else, would usually seem totally unfair. We normally just agree to buy into the fact that the contestant who, for example, eats enough worms and such, is the one we will want to be rewarded at the end of that episode. It's all rather arbitrary, but usually, it's just a big game anyway, so we're willing to go ahead, play along and invest in whomever came in first. In other words, by convention, the competition is usually an end in, and of, itself.
Not so with THE GLEE PROJECT. Sunday, with their arbitrary zero-elimination decision, the producers essentially conceded the point that the weekly contests are, in large part, incidental. Literally, in this case, inconsequential. They pretty much admitted that they could take the results or leave 'em—because this week they went ahead and left 'em. Audience outcry was minimal.
The little weekly challenges (homework, sing-offs, videos) don't matter anymore—they never counted for much to begin with—because it's almost time to start shooting season three of GLEE. That's the elephant in the room. Everyone is dying to know: who is who is going to be on GLEE? It won't have much to do with whatever performing-arts-school busywork the remaining four contestants complete this week.
If a contestant fits the show, and brings a little something novel to he table; if he or she has a strong fan base and appeals to Ryan—they'll be put on the show. Two contestants currently meet this criteria. We can deduce who they are, and so we pretty much already know the winners.
Alex (Newall) isn't one of them. He doesn't have the fan base. Current GLEE characters have hundreds of thousands of fans for their own personal pages. Some of the GLEE PROJECT frontrunners are well on their way, with thousands of supporters already, and you can bet they will largely roll-over their fans to their character. At the other extreme is Alex who, sadly, has more than one “fan page” devoted to his defeat. That's a solid indicator that it would be a missed opportunity to put him on the show.
Samuel (Larsen) won't make it either, although he's popular, he's charismatic, and he's a superb artist. But he suffers from being not-Cameron. For now, Ryan is still playing nice, trying to make the most of Samuel's self-proclaimed piety, and agreeing to go along with the process. Yes, Samuel has Christian tattoos, but Cameron is like a living, breathing WWJD bracelet: earnestly dorky-hip and undeniably all-about-Jesus. No point in settling for second best. More than a new car or cash prizes are at stake, here, remember—GLEE is Ryan's baby. Who wouldn't bend the rules for their baby?
The biggest reason to think that Cameron Mitchell is still a frontrunner for a role on GLEE is that Ryan pretty much said so. And I think that trumps the Oxygen network's made-up rules. Ryan stated that he wants to write for Cameron, and he also stated that he still can't stop thinking about him. Even since the theoretical elimination. In the end, isn't that enough for him to win a part in GLEE? After all, that's kind of how everyone else got their part in GLEE. They really impressed Ryan.
Of course, there will have to be at least one participant in THE GLEE PROJECT who wasn't sent home from the competition early. So, we're destined to see either Damian or Lindsay (Pearce) on GLEE, in addition to Cameron.
Probably not Lindsay. Ryan said he found her hard to root for, so she can't be a Lea Michele. She's not as absurdly attractive as the lead cheerleader characters, so that's out. Finally, they seem to be editing the series together in a way that “explains” that Lindsay is unlikable. Even the ebullient Nikki Anders finds her off-putting, and the producers make sure that we're watching Nikki when she takes Lindsay down.
Damian McGinty will be the official winner. He already looks the most like a cast member, and he's affable and easy-going enough to fit in effortlessly. Ryan already has a role in mind for him—he can play the foreign exchange student—that's something new (and he doesn't necessarily have to be an Irish exchange student). Alternatively, he can be also be Baby Jock. Very GLEE. Also, Damian has built upon his European fan base, and now he's an international force to be reckoned with.
Finally, since Damian says Cameron is his best mate, and a guy he thinks of “as a big brother,” it won't be weird when Cameron is resurrected and steals a bit of Damian's Celtic Thunder. It's almost too perfect that Damian would be gone if Cameron hadn't “quit.” In fact, it's almost like they planned it.
In my opinion, after considering the rules and the needs of THE GLEE PROJECT, and accepting that, in the end, it's all about what will work for GLEE--a separate, greater TV juggernaut (with higher stakes than a basic cable summer series)--it's easy to conclude that there will be two winners. The official winner will be Damian, and the unofficial winner will be Cameron.
Of course, I can't be certain. If you have a different point of view, please go ahead and convince me in the comments section below. I don't want to wait until the final episode of THE GLEE PROJECT!
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Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at welovesoaps.com writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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