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Wannabe

What's that terrible noise?" asked my 15-year-old daughter on Wednesday night, her face a frowning portrait of pain. Was someone in the ironworks plant beyond the field at the rear of our house cutting through something with an angle grinder? Had a 747 developed engine trouble and been forced to make an emergency landing on the local garage forecourt?

No, the "terrible noise" was coming from The Glee Project, a new reality talent show tied in to the all-singing, all-dancing and increasingly all-irritating American television series.

The Glee Project is not a singing competition in the sense of American Idol, which runs on the same US network, Fox. It's more of an 11-week audition, overseen by Glee's creator/producer Ryan Murphy, casting director Robert Ulrich and choreographer Zach Woodlee.

In other words, another money-grabbing spin-off to line up with all the other money-grabbing spin-offs the series has generated: the albums, the DVDs, the tours, the clothes, the lunchboxes, the calendars, the posters, the annuals, the pencil cases, the flasks and, in the latest example of how to part young fans from their money, the upcoming series of Glee novels.

I started out quite liking Glee. I found it charming and eccentric. You didn't have to care for the musical element in order to appreciate the quirky scripts and the over-the-top performances. I enjoyed the cleverly subversive tone, too. Despite looking and sounding like a slightly more grown-up version of Disney's High School Musical franchise, Glee was full of sly, adult humour.

With its multicultural cast and sexually inclusive characters, among them the flamboyantly gay Kurt (played by the flamboyantly gay Chris Colfer) and the acid-tongued Sue Sylvester (a straight character played by a lesbian, Jane Lynch), Glee seemed deliberately intended to bait the extreme factions of the American Right.

But liking Glee soon turned to being indifferent to it, and even more rapidly to actively disliking it as the plots grew thin and repetitive, the character development slowed to a halt, and the whole thing turned into a glorified karaoke show designed to do nothing more than shift soulless albums of cover versions.

Whatever small hope there was that it might pick up evaporated with the arrival of The Glee Project, which is utterly atrocious.

It's full of bland, identikit wannabes who, influenced by the excruciating auto-tuning that's become a Glee trademark, seem to think that over-emoting in an ear-splittingly nasal whine constitutes proper singing.

The prize for the winner is a role in seven episodes of Glee, which suggests the whole enterprise is simply a pre-redemptive tactic to ensure ratings don't plummet after three of its current stars -- Colfer, Cory Monteith and Lea Michele -- quit at the end of the next series.

The bright, breezy, anything-goes exuberance of the first series has been replaced by unpleasant cynicism that makes The X Factor look like The Old Grey Whistle Test. By all means, DO stop believing.


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