Every morning we address the important topic of something big, significant, funny, weird, etc. that happened while we were lying on the couch in front of the TV last night. Today we have a "controversial," sex-filled episode of Glee to discuss.
While Glee is certainly not the appointment television it was in its first season, last night's episode became something of a must-watch after the ever priggish Parents Television Council issued a knicker-knotted press release condemning the episode for its filthy depictions of sex. Yes, two teenage couples did it for the first time on the show last night, one of them a gay couple, and for all of the hullabaloo about it, the episode managed to be, like how many people wish their first time had been, sweet and kind and giddily romantic.
The basic gist of the plot: Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss) are playing Maria and Tony in West Side Story and are told by their director that they lack sexual chemistry, likely because they've never Done The Deed before. So this gets their heads in a spin and eventually Rachel decides to dirty dog with her bf Finn (Corey Monteith) and Blaine decides to get up on his boyfriend Kurt (Chris Colfer). Various complications and obstacles get in their way but at the end of the episode, scored to the tune of WSS's "One Hand, One Heart," the couples both implicitly make the beast with two glee club kids' backs. Cue fountains and fireworks and trains going into tunnels and whatever else.
So was the Parents Television Council right? Was this an explicit depiction of teenage children manipulating their genitals in unseemly ways that should have been banished from the airwaves? No, of course not. Unsurprisingly, the PTC has wildly overreacted once more. What was surprising, though, is how well-crafted and gently thoughtful the episode was. In the past season and a half or so, Glee has tended to stray too far into the territory of being a hyperactive yet warmed over pastiche of itself; story serves song instead of the other way around and the threads of plotlines are frayed and hard to follow. But luckily last night they slowed the pace down and mostly (they still took a few narrative wanderings) focused on these two couples making this most important of teenaged (or beyond) decisions. The songs from West Side Story were threaded thematically throughout in a way that was more clever than the show has been in a while and the final grace notes were, even us typically anti-Glee grinches must admit, rather touching. So, way to go Glee.
And seriously, seriously, seriously, way to go Glee for doing the rather revolutionary work of showing a young gay couple's evolution beyond the first meet-cute. Usually, if there at all, the coming together of a gay teen couple is a little sidenote or wink toward the end of the story (think the cheerleader in Bring It On) but here we have a gay teen pair on television doing the evolving that any other teen couple has been allowed to do since they started showing teen couples on TV. Not just the sex part, but the other complicated relationship stuff too -- jealousy (there's a cute new daaangerous gay on the scene) and confusion and anxiety about the future. Even ten years ago that would have been rather shocking to see on TV. Remember when Ricky being maybe-gay on My So-Called Life was considered brave and revolutionary? And he didn't even have a love interest at all! He was standalone, like so many young gay characters after him. Sure he probably would have gotten a love interest if that terrific still-mourned show had gotten a few more seasons, but as it stood, it's not likely that anyone could have imagined him having a sustained relationship, let alone having s-e-x.
Which is what's so heartening about what Glee did last night. Gay teens (well, gay male teens at least for now, hopefully other queer kids will get some representation of themselves soon too) get to experience some of the same excited swirls and swoons that every other kid gets when a couple they like on TV or in movies finally hooks up. This isn't to say that gay kids can't get that from a heterosexual pairing, or the other way around, but seeing something that maybe at least a little bit looks like you being sanctioned by at least some big part of broader society is remarkably important at that age. Two gay teens had implied (they really showed nothing in either case, which is understandable and fine) sex on network television just shy of 9pm last night. It's sad that that's a big deal in 2011, but it's a pretty big deal. So we'll give Ryan Murphy and his crew a pass for this week and won't call them smug or self-satisfied or any of that other stuff one can so often say about this show, and just thank them for sticking to their guns and telling the kind, simple, and wholly normal story they wanted to tell. It's a big, beautiful thing.
Elsewhere on last night's TV landscape, (spoiler alert!) fiery and oft misguided TV legal eagle Nancy Grace was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars. So, the lord giveth and the lord... giveth some more! Sucks to be you, Nancy Grace. Why don't you go back to practically sentencing people to the death penalty before they've even had a trial. Actually, wait. No. Doing that is far worse than being on a dance show. Shoot. Put her back on the dance show please!