Thursday, November 11, 2010

Glee: "Never Been Kissed"

Glee's most prevalent theme has always been acceptance: we're outsiders, we're different, but we get along and want to be accepted for who we are, not who you want us to be. And the show has, whether its willing to admit it or not, worn its earnestness as a badge of honor. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call Glee the most square show on television, because at its heart, it is, despite the attempts at raciness and edginess and controversy.
This week's episode, "Never Been Kissed," is one of the show's more earnest hours. The guys (and Tina, for whatever reason) all think of Coach Biest when they need to "cool down," which deeply upsets Biest and Will (though to the elation of Sue). Kurt has to deal with a bully who targets him because of his sexuality, and spies on a rival glee club only to find a friend (potential boyfriend?) to help him out. And Puck helps Artie for community service. All of this revolves around another boys vs. girls mash-up face-off.
There were two really big problems with this week's episode. The first was how silly all of this was. The big revelation in Kurt's episode hit a major false note, as did Will and Biest's scene at the end. Neither one of these scenes had a sense of authenticity, but rather felt like contrived plot devices that the writers felt had to happen in order to make the theme of acceptance work. Actually, the entire Biest storyline was ridiculous, from the fact that the guys think of her while making out with their girlfriends to the fact that Biest is a tough, mature adult who acts like a teenager. I understand she's supposed to be an outsider, and a softie at heart, but that doesn't excuse her from acting like a 16 year old girl every time she's upset. It doesn't fit within her character at all. And when it comes to the Will/Biest kiss...the less said about that, the better. And the revelation for Kurt's storyline that the bully is gay too was almost insulting in its cliche. Surely the writers could have come up with a better way of handling that (though, to his credit, Chris Colfer blew the material away). Puck and Artie's subplot, too, was contrived and predictable, not to mention a bit out of the blue (Artie's in love with Brittany now? Really?).
But let's talk about Kurt's kiss for a second. Despite its contrivance, it did provide another instance of one of my favorite things about Glee. This was Kurt's first kiss, and I think its safe to say that it was hardly how he wanted his first kiss to go. It reminded me of when Artie lost his virginity to Brittany a few episodes ago, only to discover it didn't mean anything to her. As I've written before, Glee has a lot of sadness around its edges, and here that come to the forefront, if only briefly, as Kurt was devastated by the kiss. You only get to do your first kiss once, and unfortunately for him, it will always be attached to a terrible memory. As much as Glee promises happiness to its characters, the writers are never afraid to snatch that perfect world away from them whenever they get the chance. Its on this ground alone that I think the kiss was, in a way, an admirable decision on the writer's (in this case, Brad Falchuk) part.
The second problem, which is also the most glaring and the most troubling, was that the episode was...boring. The stories were humdrum and predictable, which isn't necessarily new to Glee, but for the first time in a very long time (ever?) the performances lacked energy. Easily the best was Blaine's choir performing "Teenage Dream" in AutoTuned a Capella, which was a refreshingly original take on the song. But the rest were utterly forgettable and uninteresting, even when they should have been the opposite, such as the girls' mash-up of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" and Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." Glee is a show that prides itself on its performances, and to date they have usually been a bright spot in every episode; its troubling that this one featured so many lackluster, lazy musical numbers.
"Never Been Kissed" could have been a good episode of the show, and coming off "The Rocky Horror Glee Show" (which, apparently, I was the only person in the world who didn't think that one was a complete catastrophic train wreck) it should have been more. Hopefully the next episode will find that energy again.
- I'm kind of hoping Boyz II Men does a cover of "Teenage Dream" someday, after that performance. That's what I thought of after listening to it.
- Wit 'n' Wisdom of Sue Sylvester: "I believe I just said that Annie Sullivan. Do you want me to sign it into your palm?" Good job, Glee, for pulling a subtle Helen Keller joke.

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