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Everyone Wins On ‘The Glee Project’ Finale! Literally!

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Um, does Ryan Murphy have a master plan to entirely recast "Glee" with "Glee Project" contestants? Well, that may be a bit speculative. But in light of the "Glee" creator's constant controversial talk of post-graduation cast changes and his decision this week on "The Glee Project's" season finale to give all four final contestants--Samuel, Damien, Lindsay, and Alex--recurring roles on "Glee," it doesn't seem so far-fetched. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if Ryan gave sixth-place fan favorite Cameron Mitchell (who quit "The Glee Project" despite Ryan's protests) a call and begged to cast him too.

"Did we all just win a little bit?" gasped Lindsay at the end of "The Glee Project's" shocker finale on Sunday. And yes, they all really did. Resident heartthrobs Samuel Larsen and Damian McGinty tied for first place (I imagine this might have been a three-way tie with Cameron, if he'd stayed in the game), which meant they each won a seven-episode story arc on "Glee." Meanwhile, Ryan surprised Lindsay Pearce and Alex Newell with their own two-episode storylines. I think this was a fine decision--considering how far downhill "Glee" has careened lately (anyone see the "Glee" movie's box-office figures? ouch), it seems like the franchise could use some fresh faces and voices. And all four of these gifted "Project" kids could bring something of real value to the show.

That being said, I do wonder why Ryan gave arguably the final four's two weakest actors, Samuel and Damian, the bigger roles here. Samuel is a born star, musically talented and undeniably gorgeous (the camera loves that kid, as do undoubtedly many smitten female viewers), but he never seemed to bring much depth to his one-note acting performances on "The Glee Project." Whenever he wanted to convey any emotion--sadness, passion, anger, longing, vulnerability/tenacity/pairability/believability/whatever--all he did was narrow his eyes and flare his nostrils. His whole squinty shtick got old fast. Much like Cameron, for whom I had this same criticism, Samuel always seemed like a musician first and an actor second. A very distant second. (Really, the show he should have won was "American Idol" Season 9; how on earth did Sam not make it past Hollywood Week last year?)

Damian also wasn't the most skilled actor--he got called out for relying too much on his wriggly eyebrows to express emotion, and on Sunday's finale, mentor Nikki Anders told him he was not the best singer, actor, OR dancer on "The Glee Project." But the scrappy Irish transplant's growth on the show was a marvel to behold all season long, and his underdog appeal ultimately made him very appropriate for "Glee." (Damian was such an underdog, in fact, that he would have been eliminated weeks ago, if Cameron had not forfeited.) In this regard, Damian is a more deserving winner--let's face it, there is nothing very underdoggish about a model-handsome rock god with smoldering eyes and a perfect head of dreads, like Samuel. But I imagine Ryan Murphy will just write roles that play to both boys' strengths and don't require them to stretch too much: Damian as the shy Irish exchange student, Samuel as the sexy bad boy with a good-Christian-boy softer side (note his Jesus neck tattoo).

Actually, I frequently suspected during "The Glee Project's" season that the winner would not be the actual best singer or actor or dancer among the 12 contestants, but the one who would most inspire Ryan and his "Glee" crew to craft a compelling character. Ryan confirmed this on the finale Sunday night, when he told the top four, "It's not about any of your individual talents, it's about the needs of the show." So I wouldn't be surprised to learn that drafts of the "Christian Rocker," "Irish Exchange Student," and (for Lindsay) "New Cheerio" scripts are already lying on Ryan's desk, ready to shoot. But in that case, I am pretty surprised that Alex didn't win "The Glee Project." Come on, Ryan excitedly described Alex as "the lovechild of Kurt and Mercedes"--and if THAT'S not a compelling character that would inspire the "Glee" writers, I don't know what is. Additionally, Ryan always seemed fascinated by Alex's tendency to perform (and perform excellently) in drag, and Alex's finale performance of the Dreamgirls anthem "I Am Changing" in a dress and wig was so stunning, it truly should have earned him the grand prize. I'm just hoping that that last performance will inspire the "Glee" scriptwriters to create similar cross-dressing scenes for Alex, and will inspire Ryan to extend Alex's "Glee" run to longer than just two episodes.

All in all, though, no one can really argue with "The Glee Project" finale's results--who can be mad about four very talented unknowns getting four very big breaks? So congratulations to Ryan Murphy for making a wise decision here, and congratulations to all four "Glee Project" finalists. I look forward to seeing them walk, and rock, the halls of McKinley High with Rachel Berry and the rest of the Gleeks very soon. I raise my glass to them all!

[photos courtesy of Oxygen]

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