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Glee: Season 3 - The First Time (Review)

Glee: The First Time

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE latest ‘themed’ episode from Glee tackled the big issue of losing one’s virginity. It has already caused controversy in America, where the Parents Television Council (PTC) felt that its “celebration of teen sex” constituted “gross recklessness”.

And prior to its US transmission it was being viewed as a potentially ground-breaking episode for the way in which it might explore both gay and heterosexual sex in the 8pm slot.

Now, here’s the rub: the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual couples in Ohio (it varies State by States in the US) is 16. So, the idea of teen characters exploring their sexuality from the age of 16 to 18 (as Glee‘s characters are) is not unreasonable. Sex is a big part of growing up, especially once you hit those High School years.

The bigger issue was how it was handled and whether the material could be deemed appropriate for pre-watershed viewing.

But any fears that Ryan Murphy and co would subject us to the sight of Lea Michele’s exposed breasts on full show or Chris Colfer and Darren Criss in the buff quickly proved unfounded.

Rather, there was a lot of talk, some bickering, huge dollops of contrived scenarios and a soft-lit, Hollywood-esque finale in which both of the couples in question consumated their relationship.

If anything, the issue was so sensitively handled that it went too far the other way so as to offer a rose-tinted view of ‘the first time’ – which, as most non-virgins will tell you – usually isn’t as special as the movies would lead us to believe for any number of reasons (inexperience, being ill-prepared, shyness, etc, etc).

And while the central concept of waiting at least to share the experience with someone special is a noble one indeed (sex is always better when you can be intimate with someone you love) The First Time still felt contrived in making that point.

Both couples – Chris Colfer’s Kurt and Darren Criss’ Blaine and Lea Michele’s Rachel and Cory Monteith’s Finn – went through exactly the same trajectory – build-up, anti-climax as both went about their first attempt for the wrong reasons, reconciliation and then soft-focus symbolic hugging.

In Kurt and Blaine’s case, the need to go wild and experiment (as if ‘coming out’ weren’t already experimentation enough in Ohio) compelled them to go to a gay bar at the request of a potential new suitor to Blaine.

But this felt like a cheap device and an unlikely scenario that Blaine could ever be tempted by someone new, let alone suddenly want to go for a drunken fumble in the back seat of Kurt’s car, prompting their initial bust-up.

Rachel, meanwhile, confessed to Finn that her main motivation for popping her cherry initially was to gain the experience needed to play the leading lady in McKinley High’s current production of West Side Story, thereby compromising their union.

But you knew that it was only a matter of time before both forgave each other and went ahead with the deed (the title of the episode gave that one away)… by which time the whole issue had begun to feel laboured and protracted.

Instead of harping on about sex, the episode would have fared much better by spreading out its themes and doing what Glee once did best by focusing on the fun – the presentation of West Side Story being one such opportunity.

As such, Naya (Santana) Rivera’s rendition of I Like To Be In America was a real show-stopper and one of a couple of musical highlights.

Rather, by focusing on ‘the big issue’ so earnestly, the episode forgot about some of the things that had entertained so much in the run up to staging West Side Story, most notably Mike Harry Shum Jr.) Chang’s big moment on the stage.

All we got to see was him being disowned by his dad and looking nervous in front of his mum rather than any show-stopping personal triumph.

Sometimes, Glee feels like its falling over itself to be self-righteous and worthy (witness the similarly themed religion episode last year) at the expense of the general narrative and, therefore, reality.

And there’s one more unanswered question about the issues raised by this sex-themed episode: namely, parental responsibility and marketing responsibility.

The biggest problem surrounding The First Time was not so much the content and its relatability to the demographic it represents, but rather the fact that so many children of an inappropriate age are being encouraged to see it by both the programming execs who deem it appropriate for an 8pm slot and the parents who see fit to show it to their kids.

And here perhaps lies a bigger question entirely… one of whether kids are being encouraged to grow up and confront such issues too fast.

In the UK at least, Sky 1 has programmed Glee after the 9pm watershed… well, to a point. The re-runs take place at 8pm, so they’re equally as culpable.

Teen sexuality is something we can’t really control especially if the teens in question are above the age of consent… what we make easy for our children to view is.

What do you think?

Next Glee review: Asian F