‘The Glee Project’: Guest Mentor Cory Monteith Brings Solid Advice to Vulnerability Week

by | June 20, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Recap, The Glee Project

Cory Monteith and Robert Ulrich on The Glee Project (Oxygen)

It’s appropriate that Zeus decided to spare all contenders from elimination on this, the Week of Personal Sacrifice on “The Glee Project.”

The contenders seem very familiar with Season 1 of the show and were therefore inexplicably thrilled when Robert announced this week’s theme of vulnerability.

This was the episode that had last year’s contenders walking around in sandwich boards stating the thing they felt most self-conscious about. Ah, good times!

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I could understand the excitement if these were seasoned actors who were eager for a meaty challenge. And if this competition was about acting (which it is decidedly not).

But the majority of these kids lack significant experience in taking a role and doing whatever public OR private soul-searching they need to in order to relate to that character. So the judges and director Erik simply create a shortcut to on-camera vulnerability by attacking the contenders with stuff that makes them cry in real life.

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Yes, there’s a good chance they relish the attention and knew what they were getting into when they signed on, blah blah, insert generalization about reality show contestants.

Still, is it thoughtful creativity or just exploitation to needle out what makes the contenders feel weakest and to then film them while people yell those exact things at them? The audio of the taunting had no place in the video, so really they could have yelled anything and the contender in focus could have relied on certain skills (ahem, acting) to conjure the proper emotion. This way was effective, but was it necessary? Just food for thought.

But enough analyzing! Here’s a breakdown of the week’s events:

The homework song was Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You.” There was more squabbling over who got which part, because you are obviously screwed if you don’t get to sing the seven whole words you find ideal to showcase your many layers of awesome and are stuck with seven different stupid words that mean nothing except the end of your career.

The staging of the song was refreshingly simple, but the performances of the all-important individual lines were almost universally way too emo for a pop anthem. Charlie had a point when he expressed concern about this exact issue in his confessional.

I’m well aware that I’m in the minority with my pesky insistence that guest mentor Cory Monteith was a great fit for this week’s theme and that this is actually one of his acting strengths. But even his critics have to agree that his notes to the contenders were spot on. Abraham? Reaching too hard. Lily? Sexified. Ali? Relax the face! Shanna? Truthful. Nellie? Winning.

I’ll admit that for a hot second the mentoring session slipped into “A Master Class With Joey Tribbiani” territory. But teaching’s not for everyone, okay? Cory 4-Ever.

Erik wanted the video to address the bullying epidemic with a ray of hope at the end, which is apropos given the closing lines of “Everybody Hurts.” Am I the only one who finds video after video to be the opposite of subtle? I don’t mind a potentially powerful message, but I do mind the feeling of my eyeballs being rolled up too far in my head when said message is heavy-handed and over-simplified. And kind of… unhelpful?

Anyway, the video was just all of the kids bullying each other in various and occasionally intense and physical ways and then holding hands onstage at the end.

When narrowing down the Bottom 3, the judges felt that Nellie didn’t commit enough, but they worked it out when she admitted that she hates baring her inner self under a spotlight and they explained that acting is exactly that. She was called back.

Then the judges were like, “Hey Ali! Seriously, relax the face!” She was called back.

That left Lily, Mario, and Charlie to sing for Ryan in what he later referred to as “the most intense Bottom 3 ever.” Lily’s crime was failing to focus and lip sync during the shoot when the background bullies were loudly ridiculing her. Everyone recognized that was hard, but she needed to pull through anyway. She saved herself not by giving a sassy performance of “Mercy” (though she did that), but by going into an ugly-cry afterward in which she revealed her insecurities and strength despite them.

Mario’s pitch suffered in the recording studio, landing him in the bottom. And he proceeded to be defensive and off-putting when being given notes, which did not help matters with the judges or his fellow contenders. But his lovely performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and his sincere vulnerability made him interesting enough to Ryan for a pass to another week.

The final Last Chance Rounder was Charlie, who basically made a Bad Acting Choice during the shoot when he took Mario’s cane. It seemed to be a case of being caught up in a moment of playing a scene and forgetting about real-life danger and consideration. He apologized, I believed him, and then he did this cool version of Coldplay’s “Fix You” where he changed the melody, possibly for the better. I was as enamored as Ryan and glad to see him survive another week.

So all move on to “Sexuality” with Naya Rivera next week. Somehow I suspect this delicious opportunity with get awkward real fast.