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Posted at 7:19 PM ET, 01/13/2011

'Glee' creator Ryan Murphy stays busy with 'The Glee Project'

By Lisa de Moraes

NBC Universal's Oxygen network announced Thursday that "Glee" executive producers Ryan Murphy and Dante Di Loreto have signed on to executive-produce its reality competition series "The Glee Project," in which tens of thousands of "Gleeks" compete for a multi-episode guest arc on the mothership Fox series that is "Glee."

That surprised TV critics because when this reality competition series was first announced for the Fox network, it then seemed to go away because, they were told, Ryan Murphy wanted to focus on the second season of "Glee."

Then, when the reality series resurfaced at Oxygen - which is the designated cable network of "Glee" repeats - they were led to believe Ryan still would not be involved because he was too busy with the scripted series.

Everything and anything relative to "Glee" "is always driven by Ryan," Dante explained.

Casting director on "The Glee Project" is Robert Ulrich - the same guy who casts every guest actor on "Glee." One TV critic asked whether he could break any news about guest casting on "Glee," the Mothership.

"Is Justin Bieber happening or not?" the critic asked.

"I am obsessed with 'Glee' and we're all pretty nuts about it, but this is more about 'The Glee Project.' I don't want to take away from talking about that," Ulrich said.

"And," he added, "I don't really know, to be honest." He was taking no chances after Kara DioGuardi's Q&A session.

About 40,000 wannabe "Glee" guest-stars auditioned for the new show - not to be confused with the original show - and the reality series has culled that crop to about 85 who in the next few days will be winnowed to a cast of about a dozen competitors.

"Will there be any octogenarians [or] ... transgender people?" a critic wondered. Or did Oxygen pressure them to have only "cute guys relatable to young women" compete, the critic said.

Turns out, the show only put through wannabe's who were at least 18 years old and could "play" high school - no humiliating "Idol"-esque auditions here.

One of the semifinalists was born with one arm much shorter than the other, Ulrich volunteered, adding: "Isn't it amazing to have a show where that's a wonderful thing?"

"This is not a singing competition, a dance competition, an acting competition," exec producer Michael Davies added. "It's about, who has that magic spark to inspire the writing team of 'Glee,' " he said.

By Lisa de Moraes  | January 13, 2011; 7:19 PM ET
Categories:  Glee, Winter TV Press Tour 2011  
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