Watching Glee Until It Gets Bad S1E17: Bad Reputation

by thethreepennyguignol

Bad Reputation feels like a holding ground for a bunch of cut content the show couldn’t find a place for anywhere else in the season. And, in some ways, that’s a good thing. And in others…

Look, Bad Reputation is not a terrible episode, by any stretch. There’s some enormously fun performances in this episode, not least Run Joey Run, which taps in to just the right amount of campy, cheesy, tongue-in-cheek daftness I crave in my life. Seeing Lea Michele look telenovela-y down the lens of the camera lip-syncing to these lyrics while Cory Monteith fumbles around in the background is never not funny to me, and I feel like this was made for Johnathan Groff to give it his full fuckboy energy. It’s enormously stupid, probably a little too long, maybe slightly too indulgent, and I thank Sue each every day that we got so much of it. Glee can get a little too self-aware sometimes, a little too keen to lampshade it’s own tropes, but this is exactly the right amount of tongue in exactly the right kind of cheek for me.

I know people have mixed feelings on Ice Ice Baby, and I assume you all look to me for guidance, so – I am here to put the record straight. And say that I think Glee is the only place this song has ever been done true justice – by which I mean, given the level of idiotic entertainment value it deserves. This is Ice Ice Baby in it’s purest form, which is to say, the one that least makes me want to jump into a dank lake and never come out. It’s still not good, but the show at least can acknowledge that and have a little fun with it in the meantime, which is more than I can say for the rest of it’s miserable existence as a piece of music.

But anyway. Aside from the performances, Bad Reputation is kind of a weird episode. It kicks off with the creation of a Hot list for the Glee club, which sends several members into a tailspin to try and prove their hotness. It’s a fun episode premise, but ultimately one that feels very much like a throwaway, more like the easiest way to connect a collection of off-shoot bits than anything else. With a whole, significant subplot dedicated to Sue collaborating with Olivia Newton-John, it’s hard not to see this as an episode structured to fit in some pieces left on the cutting room floor from previous weeks. and, with Power of Madonna and the incredible Vogue just a few weeks old at this point, having Sue do another full recreation with Physical feels like an attempt to cash in on previous success, to….less than stellar results.

I, of course, love and respect Olivia Newton-John, but I also don’t enjoy her as a performer at all – of all the celebrity cameos in the show’s run, she’s one of my least favourite, a little too mannered and wooden to sell the fun diva role she’s trying to play. She’s not a particularly good foil for Sue, and rather than a celebration of her music or career, this feels like a bit of grovelling fanservice in the worst way possible. Probably because I truly, truly hate the song Physical, so any attempt to pretend it’s good grates on me.

I do quite enjoy the Emma and Will storyline here (for fucking once), probably because seeing Jayma Mays actually try to shout at someone has the same energy as when my tiny cat bites my leg for turning over too quickly in bed – like, okay, honey, yes, I’m terrified. Now will you come here and let me pet your adorable little head? There’s also a part of me – the part representing my other parts in that lawsuit against him – that really enjoys seeing Will get told off, especially after his flirtation with April the previous week. In terms of people getting their asses handed to them, though, nothing is going to top Lea Michele belting some Jim Steinman after she gets dumped by Jesse – Rachel’s drama queenery can be grating, but when it’s used to justify a performance like this, it works beautifully.

It’s all just so…random? Which is a strange choice as we reach the third act of this first season. Episodes at this point in the show’s run should be feeding more directly into the actual main thread of the plot, but this is just a collection of Bits – some moderately good, some really not so much. There’s enough here to cobble together a passable episode, but only just. And, with the season-worst Laryngitis looming over us next week, things are only going to go downhill from here…

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(header image via YouTube)