The Glee Project1

One of the interesting things about TV is that you really never know what’s going to hit – and what’s going to miss!

Take The Glee Project for example, Oxygen’s reality spin off of the smash hit Fox show. As I explained in my Coming Soon piece, Project follows 12 all singing and dancing hopefuls vying for a 7 episode guest starring role on the hot high school musical show.

With a built in audience, plenty of promotion and a sleepy summer TV season I was certain The Glee Project would open to big numbers for the network. But it didn’t. Instead just 455,000 viewers tuned in Sunday night (adding up to a paltry 0.2 18-49 share). That’s not much better than the Paris Hilton flop The World According To Paris, which managed just 409,000 viewers in its premiere (cheers!)

But here’s the thing – The Glee Project is actually pretty good. I found the opening episode very entertaining with experts who actually seemed to know their stuff, memorable contestants and a fun elimination device (I liked that the bottom 3 had to find out if they’d made callbacks via a casting notice)

So what went wrong? Where did the Glee fan-base go? And what can we learn from The Glee Project’s failure to connect? Here’s a few theories…

THERE ARE TOO MANY MUSIC COMPETITION SERIES: Let’s be honest we’re not exactly short of music competition shows at the moment!

American Idol just finished its 10th season – as terrible as it was, The Voice is still riding high for NBC, CMT’s Next Superstar just wrapped and Bravo recently launched their own take on the genre with Platinum Hit.

I don’t think we’ve ever been so over-saturated by music competition shows and I think audiences are starting to tire of the genre. Bravo’s Platinum is anything but a hit and I think ABC are going to have a tough time with their own karaoke themed show this summer.

All of which should be making Simon Cowell and Fox very nervous. After all the hype, money and controversy The X Factor has to deliver for the network this Fall.

OXYGEN WAS THE WRONG NETWORK FOR THE SHOW: Speaking of networks, I honestly have no idea why Fox allowed the reality spin off of one of their flagship shows to air on a network like Oxygen. It would make sense for NBC – as Oxygen is a sister channel to the network – but Fox has no connection with Oxygen, as far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong here!)

The Glee Project would have been a great summer series on Fox and much more promotable. Sure I understand that Fox wouldn’t want ANOTHER music series to compete with Idol and The X Factor, but come on, surely The Glee Project would have fared better than a middling show like Masterchef. Plus with so much of the Glee talent involved in the new series wouldn’t it have made sense to have kept the show within the family?

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THE NETWORK SOLD THE TITLE, NOT THE SHOW: As I wrote in my own Coming Soon piece, I knew the basic premise of The Glee Project from the show’s advertising – but not the execution.

Oxygen promoted the show as little more than a generic music competition series – but the show is actually closer to Making The Band than Platinum Hit. I thought it was very interesting imagining how each of the potential Glee cast members would fit within the show and hearing show creator Ryan Murphy discuss who he’d be excited to write for and how he could see their characters developing. You don’t get that on a show like Idol.

And yet Oxygen told us nothing about the format in advance – I know, because I looked. What they did do was release a music video for the series with the cast performing Katy Perry’s Firework. This was a good start and unusual for the network (who seem to have an insane policy of never releasing clips in advance – insanity in this social media age). But the network should have gone further – teasing the drama, the stories and the challenges of the show. This was a show that should have been number one on every Gleek’s must see list for summer but the Oxygen PR team definitely under-delivered….

GLEE FEVER HAS PEAKED: Here’s perhaps the most worrying aspect of The Glee Project’s poor ratings for Fox – the sense that Glee itself may already be past its prime.

Ratings dropped significantly during the second half of the last season, despite numerous guest appearances and heavily stunted specials. And this is a show that’s only in its second season remember!

Many critics – myself included – have taken potshots at the show’s erratic quality, character inconsistency and general sloppiness. And there’s been a predictable backlash in the press, where Glee just isn’t as cool as it used to be.

In many ways Glee reminds me of instant hits like Ugly Betty and Heroes, which burned bright in their first season and then fell fast. Both shows struggled through little-watched fourth seasons and then were cancelled, an amazingly short run given how hot both series were initially. Will Glee be following suit… I honestly wouldn’t be surprised…

But what do you think? Have you watched The Glee Project – and what did you make of it? Do you agree with my points above – or have any more of your own to add?

Fire away!