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TV Review: Glee – “Bad Reputation”

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Season one’s “Bad Reputation” finds the characters on FOX’s Glee either wanting to attract or shed their bad reputations. Sue’s (Jane Lynch) mojo is hit hard when Kurt (Chris Colfer) steals and uploads a self-made music video of her singing “Physical,” which quickly goes viral. To get even, when no kids steps forward to take the blame, Sue tells Emma (Jayma Mays) about Will’s (Matthew Morrison) trysts with Shelby (Idina Menzel) and April (Kristin Chenoweth), and encourages her to stage a public confrontation. Rachel (Lea Michele) is so desperate to get some cred that she drives away all three of the guys that care about her in the process.

This episode of Glee perpetuates the “high school never ends” theory, as the adults act just as catty as the kids when insulting each other. Between Sue, Emma, Will, Ken (Patrick Gallagher), Figgins (Iqbal Theba), and new teacher Brenda Castle (Molly Shannon, Saturday Night Live, Kath & Kim), they snip at each other in a way that normally only children do. It makes them look downright foolish. Perhaps their behavior can be blamed on being around actual teenagers all day, but it’s not becoming on a single one of them.

Will really is kind of a man slut, though, and Emma has every right to be angry at him. While he is still one of the main characters of the series, and thus beloved, his behavior hasn’t exactly been loyal to the girl he says he cares about. As such, it’s nice to see him called out on his bad behavior, even if done in a juvenile way.

That Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes (Amber Riley), Artie (Kevin McHale), and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) all seek to destroy their own good image, is a crying shame. Realistic for someone their age, yes, but regrettably so. Sure, by the end of the episode Rachel learns her lesson. Sort of. But the others don’t, as they continually fail in their schemes to look bad. What kind of example is this to set for the kids that tune into Glee? Example setting aside, it’s frustrating to watch. A “Bad Reputation” is not something one should seek out. The only place it serves any positive purpose is in high school, but many adults eventually regret those past mistakes. You get more flies with honey than vinegar, every time. I guess in that metaphor, attracting flies is a good thing.

Everyone struggles with who they are in high school. Quinn (Dianna Agron) is exposed as the maker of the dreadful “glist” without being hated for it, by Will and viewers, because it allows her to show a really vulnerable part of herself. Similarly, Puck (Mark Salling) complains about how people think he’s behind anything bad that happens, even though he’s got lines that he doesn’t cross. As such, while sometimes it is hard to like these characters, a little insight makes them much more sympathetic.

I guess Glee‘s attempt to teach a lesson comes when Sue, the victim for once, gets good fortune, instead of bad. Olivia Newton John (herself) is so impressed with Sue’s homemade video that she asks Sue to help her re-shoot a new version of “Physical.” This brings Sue much positive attention and fame, turning around an embarrassing situation. While most times fans will root for Sue to fail, this time only, she deserves a little success. As the popular saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and what Kurt and his friends do to Sue is not right.

It’s worth wondering if the “Physical” video isn’t a direct result of the heaps of positive attention piled on Sue’s previous video effort, “Vogue,” in “The Power of Madonna.” This second one is not nearly as fresh and entertaining, at least to a straight man. But it feels very much in the same vein. Obviously, “Physical” did not attract as much internet attention as “Vogue,” and the two are not followed up by more Sue videos in the near future. A shame, as the first one is really something special.

Or perhaps this video is done because Olivia Newton John, as she says in “Bad Reputation,” just really wants to remake a terrible video, as her original version is. Glee provides a good platform to do so.

Besides “Physical,” production value is up in other performances in “Bad Reputation,” too. Rachel’s “Run Joey Run,” whatever message it sends, it a great piece of artistry. Casting this love song with three guys, Jesse (Jonathan Groff), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Puck, changes the meaning of the lyrics, and makes fans consider the piece a whole new way. It also looks fantastic, with its elaborate sets and alternating picture qualities. Trouble, it may be, but it’s a wonderful bit for Glee as a series.

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” is nice. The image of everyone walking away from Rachel at the end works well. The segments of her and Jesse dancing ballet fit in really nicely, too, with the melody. While not particularly stand out, it is well executed, and appreciated. Also, a toned down piece is kind of a nice ending for an episode so filled with high energy performances.

“Ice Ice Baby” is lots of fun! It’s great that the New Directions split up into three small dance groups. Will is right; even a song whose reputation has been trashed can most definitely be good again.

“Can’t Touch This” is entertaining, as well, but not as good as “Ice Ice Baby.” Perhaps this is because of the small number of performers. It could also be because the Ancient Librarian (Jean Sincere, The Incredibles) calls it “cute,” which ruins it for the audience, as much as it does the kids performing it.

Random Notes:

  • I don’t know if it’s necessary to have Rachel break character at the end of “Run Joey Run” with her signature smile, but it feels incredibly fitting for the character.
  • What a cute touch to Rachel’s video in “Bad Reputation” to use Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris) as angels! Is it just a visual nicety, or is Rachel attempting to look as slutty as they are know to be when she eventually joins them?
  • Also in “Run Joey Run,” look for the cameo by Sandy Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky)! It doesn’t make much sense that Rachel would ask him to take part in her project, but Tobolowsky is always a fun addition.
  • Mercedes, when speaking about her reputation as an angry girl, asserts that she’s “not angry,” but instead, “sassy.” Gotta love it! And it’s accurate.
  • While most of Olivia Newton John’s brief appearance is mostly a positive image of her, it’s kind of fun that Glee goes over the top with mentioning all of the charities she works with. It actually starts to backfire for her image when she is portrayed as THAT good.
  • Watch closely in the library and choir room for curly-haired ginger Jesse Heiman. He does not have any lines, and is only in one episode of Glee, but serves a similar purpose on other shows, often uncredited, most notably recurring on Chuck. America’s favorite extra of the past decade?
  • “Bad Reputation” introduces Brenda Castle. Sadly, like many guest stars passing through the halls of Glee, Brenda is only in two episodes, and then disappears. Too bad. Shannon is a fine actress.
  • Ancient Librarian, as she is credited, will also appear in two more Glee episodes in season two, played by the same actress: “Duets” and “Silly Love Songs.”

Check back soon for another season one Glee review!

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com