In a market completely crowded with singing competition shows--so much so that even "American Idol" doesn't bring in viewers like it used to, and not even Kelly Clarkson can get many people to tune in for "Duets"--"The Glee Project" is one of the few shows that actually stands out. Last year, when it made its debut on the Oxygen Network (and eventually spawned "Glee" regulars Samuel Larsen, Damian McGinty, Lindsay Pearce, and Alex Newell), I was utterly impressed by how much the series moved the talent-show genre forward. From the slick and classy way it was filmed, to the fascinating mentoring sessions in the recording studio, to especially the compulsively watchable weekly music videos featuring the gifted cast, everything about "The Glee Project" truly signified the future of musical reality shows. The producers of "Idol," "The X Factor," "The Voice," et al should take notes.
I've barely watched the actual "Glee" in recent months, but the real-life gleeks on "The Glee Project" have always made for great television. And this week, the show returns for its much-anticipated second season, featuring a whole new crop of aspiring Kurts, Rachels, Pucks, Finns, and Quinns. The premiere airs Tuesday, but the first music video from Season 2, a remake of Lady Gaga's "Edge Of Glory," is out now to serve as an online introduction to the new cast. It seems like "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy is seriously scouting for Cory Monteith and Mark Salling replacements, since he's frontloaded the video with hunky young boys. But there's a good mix here of all sorts of talented types, including contestants who are blind (Mario) and transgender (Tyler), and also a wheelchair user, Ali, who unlike "Glee" character Artie actually utilizes a wheelchair in real life. (She's also gorgeous.)
And if you look closely, you may recognize Dani Shay from last year's season of "America's Got Talent." She was the androgynous Bieber lookalike who wowed with her wryly humorous revamp of the Biebs' "Baby," but caught flak from the "AGT" judges when she dared to play one of her original tunes or cover an "obscure" David Gray song. Somehow I have a hunch that she'll be more accepted on "The Glee Project" than she ever was on "AGT."
"The Glee Project 2" premieres Tuesday, June 5, on Oxygen.
- Damian McGinty exclusive interview
- Mark Salling exclusive performance
- More "Glee" cast members join "The Glee Project" as mentors
- Stats on all the "Glee Project 2" contestants