'Glee' fans, hearken: 'The Glee Project'

"The Glee Project," Season 1 cast members: From

"The Glee Project," Season 1 cast members: From left, back row, Damian, Bryce, Samuel; third row, Alex, Emily, Lindsay, Hannah, Cameron; second row, McKynleigh, Ellis, Matheus; front, Marissa (Credit: Oxygen Media)

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THE SHOW "The Glee Project"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 9 p.m. on Oxygen

REASON TO WATCH Reality competition, in which the winner stars in a 7-episode arc on "Glee" next season

WHAT IT'S ABOUT As Gleeks know, nothing lasts forever, specifically the high school careers of the current cast of "Glee." One of these days, the members of New Directions will graduate. Then what? "Glee" staged a nationwide reality competition to get a new castmember, the results of that search start Sunday.

The winner may, or may not, be a permanent addition; that is left unsaid. But he or she will get a seven-episode arc, which is a pretty big deal. The premiere episode introduces 12 contestants culled from thousands: Alex, 18, of Lynn, Mass., Damian, 18, of Northern Ireland, McKynleigh, 19, of Paducah, Ky., and so on. They are an eclectic group, and Sunday each is asked to express his or her own brand of eclecticism, in the "individuality" stage of the competition.

"Glee" casting director Robert Ulrich supervises, "Glee" choreographer Zach Woodlee teaches some moves, and vocal coach Nikki Anders works on their sound. "Glee" boss Ryan Murphy turns up at the end to determine who in the bottom three stays . . . and goes. Cast member Darren Criss is on board for this episode as well.

MY SAY Music reality competition? Where have we heard this idea before? "Glee" now joins the ranks of just about the most profuse form of reality TV there is. On the evolutionary scale, this series belongs to the same branch as slightly more showbizzy ventures like "Grease: You're the One that I Want" or "Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods."

What's new here? Certainly Murphy, who turns up wearing a Rasta tam, otherwise looking forbiddingly stern and hard to please. (He is.) Best here are the kids, who bleed talent, personality and raw emotion. Worst here is the sheer and probably unavoidable ennui that comes with all of these shows -- the grind of watching preparation and practice. Someone will win, but after sitting through one iffy rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework" after another, you may not care much who it is.

BOTTOM LINE Gleeks will engage; hard to imagine who else will.

GRADE B-

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