First things first, I HATE the title of this episode, if only because "Never Been Kissed" might be my least-favorite movie of all-time.
OK, now that the frivolity is out of the way, let's get to the episode. For the past week, I kept seeing promotions on FOX about how IMPORTANT this episode was. After awhile, I became concerned that the IMPORTANCE would outweight the ENTERTAINMENT. But that wasn't the case at all. In fact, I'd say that this episode had the perfect balance, with the things liek the boys vs girls singing contest and Puck and Artie's probation-enforced friendship. Puck calling Artie "Professor X" was a laugh-out-loud moment for me (even if it was offensive), and their interactions with Brittana were outstanding.
As for the issue at hand. Bullying has become a major media issue, particularly the bullying of LGBT teens. Now, I'm not gay, and I'm not a teen, but I did go to high school, and when I went to high school (cue old man rant) bullying wasn't limited to the LGBT community. Instead, anyone who was different was bullied. At various times during my school years, I was the target of bullying for being Jewish, for being red-headed, for being fat, and at one point for being a fat, red-headed Jew who wore a Public Enemy T-Shirt and bright red Air Jordans. But I think in today's society, there's still a portion of the population that thinks of being gay as being the "most" different, and treats them more harshly because of it.
For the most part, "Glee" has done an admirable job of treating bullying as a wider issue, with people of multiple backgrounds getting bullied at various times throughout the show's run. However, prior to tonight, that bullying had mostly been played for comedic purposes, whether it be slushees or dumpsters or Sue Sylvester's general cartoonish villainy.
But tonight, this wasn't about slushees or dumpsters. It was a forum for dealing with the increasing bullying Kurt has received for being gay, and it was done without being preachy. Chris Colfer did an excellent job with a delicate subject. I only wish Mike O'Malley, who did great work dealing with sensitive issues during Season 1, could have been involved. As for the big twist with the bullying storyline, well, anyone who watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and remembers the Larry storyline saw that coming, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed that "Glee" went in that direction. I think the message of the episode would have been more effective if the bully was just being an ass because he thought that's what he was supposed to do, rather than compensating for something.
Still, I thought "Glee" did excellent work expanding the issue beyond Kurt to include a storyline with Coach Beiste, who thanks to her name, looks and chosen profession has been treated as an outcast for longer than Kurt's been alive. And while Kurt thought the fact that he'd never been kissed at 17 and gay was a big deal, Beiste's confession to Will that she'd never been kissed at 40 was heartbreaking, and really the high point of the episode.
On to the song reviews, and with all the importance going on in this episode, there wasn't nearly as much room for singing, which is kind of sad:
"One Love/People Get Ready" - A
Mark Salling and Kevin McHale have voices that are just different enough to pull this off as a nice harmony, and they totally did this song justice. This might actually be my new favorite song of the season.
"Teenage Dream" - B+
I hate to admit how much I like this song. It's just so damn catchy. And somehow it totally worked as an a cappella sung my an all-male group. Not quite as good Puck and Artie, but still pretty damn good.
"Livin' on a Prayer/Start Me Up" - C
Truthfully, I think I would have liked this better if it'd just been a straight up performance of "Livin' on a Prayer". It didn't work nearly as well as any of the major mash-ups from last season.
"Stop! In the Name of Love/Free Your Mind" - B
These songs didn't really go together that well either, but the guys really made it work. Also, "Stop! In the Name of Love" was one of those classic songs my parents introduced me to when I was a kid, so I've got a huge soft spot for it.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.