And the newest face to happily grace the halls of Glee’s WMHS this fall will be… Blake Jenner!
All that rhyming I just threw at you, by the way, was a salute to Blake’s unprecedented Last Chance Poem that almost surely secured him the win. You know Ali was watching last night and thinking, “Why didn’t I recite my limerick tribute to Brooke Lipton’s fluffy hair?! Ugh, it could have been meeee!”
This week’s season 2 finale of “The Glee Project” should have felt very familiar to any fan of competition reality shows. If you’ve seen one finale of “Project Runway,” “ANTM,” or “Top Chef,” you’ve seen them all.
Here’s the format:
• Brief montage reintroducing you to the finalists and telling you what’s at stake in case you happened upon this show while flipping to a rerun of NCIS.
• Confessional footage of finalists saying they CANNOT BELIEVE they’ve made it to the end and that want victory more than anyone could possibly imagine.
• Last mini-challenge in which the previously eliminated contenders make a “surprise” return to help, and after which no one is declared winner because they’re just all so darn good a decision is impossible.
• More confessional footage reminding us how the finalists have been working toward this win since they were eight weeks old, and oh man do they want it.
• Last major challenge, again featuring previously booted contestants being forced to pretend they’re happy to help someone else win what should have been theirs, in which the finalists perform equally well, according to the judges.
• Last performance/panel in which the judges drool and gush over the finalists whom they have previously picked apart with tireless criticism but who all suddenly seem like fresh, flawless winning material.
• Still more confessional footage in which the finalists look into the camera and claim that they would literally punch their own mothers in the throat for a chance to win this competition.
• Final deliberation in which the judges tearfully declare this is the HARDEST SEASON EVER to pick a winner because everyone is brilliant.
• Announcement of winner.
• Interspersed footage of winner being joyously tackled and hugged by his or her inexplicably ecstatic former competitors, runners-up telling camera they’re really okay while the understandable devastation in their eyes silently betrays them, and the winner dazedly telling the camera how amazing he or she will feel forever.
Catch Up on “The Glee Project”:
The finalists who wanted it so bad in this case were Aylin (layered pop sound, shameless flirt, Turkish Muslim), Ali (musical theater belter, perktastic, wheelchair), and Blake (uh… just some guy).
I’ve repeatedly called Blake dull. He’s never given any performances that were particularly memorable, charismatic, or exciting. The one time with Nellie was good-not-great, and last week his quirky dancing was cute but not star-making, despite the judges’ claims.
So yeah, I thought one of the girls would take it.
Ali started off the strongest by far. She was the only one to make the mouthful of lyrics and runaway pace of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” look fun instead of laborious. But guest mentor Chris Colfer diplomatically praised all three finalists and allowed them to have a joint mentoring session with him.
Said session seemed to consist mainly of Colfer warning them that whatever song they chose for their final performance would haunt them forever, so they better like it. Apparently he can perform “Single Ladies” in his sleep.
The last video with Erik (who looked like he had gotten out of bed approximately 30 seconds before filming started, but in a cute way) was for Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight, Tonight” set at prom and featuring a cameo of Damian McGinty’s signature blend-into-the-background moves.
I hate to sound as cliché as the judges, but everyone was good here, both on set and in the recording booth. Aylin may have edged out the others by making her character fun and seeming slightly more natural than Ali, whose acting was a hair forced and big for camera.
As usual, we were treated to behind-the-scenes chatter from Robert, Zach, and Nikki during the video shoot that would help us know what the main arguments for and against each finalist. This was probably more revealing than the parts of the panel and deliberation we saw later.
Ali was deemed gorgeous and a consummate performer who is eager to get feedback and apply it. Sounds pretty good, right, like someone you’d want to work with?
But Aylin was also praised for being really good when she was “on.” However, the judges questioned her ability to handle the pressure of being a Turkish Muslim role model. Er, tons of Hollywood stars handle backlash against them quite poorly, but people keep casting them, so… why get in this girl’s way?
Blake has the most on-camera experience, and it has helped him throughout the competition. He has been called solid and consistent more times than I care to count, and it seems they consider him more of a blank slate to build from than the others, which is always a good thing for an actor to hear.
So the three headed into a more packed house than usual for their last chance performances. Robert, Nikki, Zach, and Erik were there, plus Zeus and most of the other Glee gods from last week, along with this seasons ousted contenders and a smattering of Glee cast members.
Earlier in the week, Chris Colfer said to the finalists, “This is so much pressure, I don’t know how you guys do this.” The fact that they all three walked into that intimidating auditorium and nailed their numbers proved that they could handle such pressure.
Ali’s choice of “Popular” from “Wicked” was so dead on for her, and showed she could be cheeky in addition to bubbly and belty. Blake showed more versatility (aka funny dancing mixed with earnest and sentimental lyrics) with “I’ll Be.” And Aylin made “Rolling in the Deep” compelling even though we’ve all heard it 9,000 times in the past year.
They were each so different they could have all honestly fit into “Glee” like last year’s four finalists. But Murph had committed to having just one winner.
Which brings us to the poem heard ‘round the world (okay, auditorium). You could already sense the power (that must not translate through TV well) that Blake had over the audience from the way every single person there, especially Michael, was gazing at him like they really, really hoped he would ask them to Homecoming.
So Blake finished singing and Murph asked about whether he’d shown more sides of himself like he wanted, and in response he pulled a poem he’d written the night before out of his pocket.
I’m going to call it “I’m the Guy, and the Guy is Me.” It basically laid out the variety of emotions and experiences Blake has been through and has to offer. It was a lyrical description of his arsenal of heartache, loneliness, perseverance, humor, honor, and white half-Cubanness (who knew??).
Everybody cried. Robert was wiping tears away, Nikki was welling up, Dianna and Amber, Erik, poor adoring Michael…. Everybody.
And then he won.
I don’t want to take away from Blake’s talent. It’s clear from the endless accolades that he is a professional and is versatile and is honestly deserving of winning this kind of competition, with a TV role as a prize.
But I think the talk of his undeniable star quality is a little hyperbolic. If he’s a star, I’m immune to his powers. But that’s okay. I hope he has a career ahead of him, and I really hope this means I won’t be making fun of him for being shoved into the background of his forthcoming “Glee” episodes because he’s not capable of doing much else.
And based on the final required stage of the show format, the one where the losers declare this won’t be the last you see of them, we can look forward to more Aylin and Ali in the future. I, for one, will be keeping an eye out.