LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 40,000 people -- some from as far away as Singapore, London and Switzerland -- auditioned for a coveted guest role on TV musical comedy "Glee" in a talent search so popular it has been turned into a reality show of its own.
"The Glee Project", airing in June, tracks the efforts of thousands of hopeful fans known as "Gleeks" -- a combination of "Glee" and geek -- to land a seven-episode guest starring role on "Glee" next season.
But don't expect a show packed full of hopeless wannabees or humiliating trials as the largely amateur contestants make their way to the finals, producers said on Thursday.
"We are not trying to make complex challenges that make fun of people. We are not trying to make them jump through hoops without cause," executive producer Dante Di Loreto told TV journalists.
"The mentoring process is really key. It is about giving them the tools to be better performers," he added.
The idea of finding a new member of cast from the public first came from "Glee's" Emmy-winning director Ryan Murphy more than a year ago to celebrate the diversity of the TV show's misfit group of high school kids in a struggling choir.
Some 34,000 people sent in auditions on social networking website MySpace, and additional casting calls were held in the United States last year.
Murphy and "Glee" casting director Robert Ulrich are closely involved in "The Glee Project," and they hope to find a unique character, able to sing, dance and act, who will inspire the show's writers.
"We were entrusted with trying to make a competition series which is as creative as 'Glee' itself," said executive producer Michael Davies.
The 40,000 hopefuls have already been whittled down to 85, and 12 will be chosen for the finals.
"The Glee Project" is the latest spin-off from the quirky TV show which has taken pop culture by storm since its 2009 debut, spawning four hit music albums and concert tours by the cast.
"The Glee Project" gets it premiere on the young, female oriented cable network Oxygen in June in what Oxygen said was an unprecedented collaboration between rival networks. Oxygen is part of NBC Universal, while "Glee" is broadcast on Fox.
Di Loreto noted that "Glee" is produced by 20th Century Fox television, and the production studio made the choice to partner with Oxygen for "The Glee Project," not the broadcast network.
Oxygen also has secured the cable rights to "Glee" as part of the deal, and will start airing reruns on Feb 5.
Fox and 20th Century Fox are units of News Corp, and Oxygen is a unit of NBC Universal, which is currently owned by the General Electric Co and is expected soon to become part of cable operator Comcast Corp.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte