Glee s2e5 review: “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”
|REVIEWS - TV|
Aaron's Rocky Horror prejudice can't dent a pretty good outing for New Directions...
"Though I hold a special place in my colon for Rocky Horror, it doesn’t mean I don’t know a lot (more than I’d like) about it or appreciate its status as a cult object"
At the end of the previous recap, I declared my seething hatred for The Rocky Horror Picture Show and I was all set to hate this episode on that basis. Having now seen the episode, I can tell you plainly, the problems with this installment have nothing to do with my general misgivings over the source material. One, these theme episodes do nothing for me as they lose their broader focus on moving plots forward in favor of simple tricks and nonsense; and B: motivation, motivation, motivation (more on that later).
First, a synopsis...
Emma is taken to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Carl, which helps her get over some obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Will becomes jealous, and directs a school production of the musical with members of Nude Erections as the cast members. However, glee club members Finn and Sam deal with some body image issues, leading to Will's replacement of Sam's character. Principal Figgins protests the show and Sue airs an exposé on her local television segment.
Though I hold a special place in my colon for Rocky Horror, it doesn’t mean I don’t know a lot (more than I’d like) about it or appreciate its status as a cult object. Having the movie and its trivia pounded into me via my high school drama club’s fascination with it, a tradition which I suppose gets passed down year-to-year, like herpes, there were some things I got without having to be told.
Surprisingly, most of the musical numbers worked, possibly because of their physical context and almost total lack of thematic tethering. I liked the opening shot of the iconic mouth from the movie’s credits sequence, even though I couldn’t tell if it was Quinn or Santana (they both play Magenta, who sings the song in stage performances and whose lips are featured in the movie). The episode opens on a consciously (as far as the stagecraft goes) high-school-production-quality rehearsal, where we get our first glimpses of some of the character before most of the episode happens in flashback.
Actually, almost all the good in this week’s episode comes from its Rocky Horror elements rather than its particular Glee-ness. Finn as Brad was well done, sort of played as Finn with a stick in his ass and Rachel’s Janet is exactly what you’d expect. Jayma Mays’ audition piece for the show was “Touch,” and though the context of Emma’s performance is troublesome (see below), she acquitted herself very well. Additional kudos to Brittany and Santana as Columbia and Magenta, both in and out of costume, especially in (Quinn was great as Magenta, too - Tina as Columbia, not so much).
I was expecting to be really disappointed with this hour based solely on principal, but came away feeling that way about other things, bringing us to...
Remember when Will was our ostensible protagonist and we sympathized with him through his horrid marriage to his fake-pregnant wife while he pined for Emma, who crushed on him right back? Who is this character that has replaced him with the pettiness, jealousy and knee-jerk decisions? Why is his plot the only one that gets any work this week, even though it ends up more-or-less where it was last time we checked (see above, “Anthology 1, Continuity 0”)?
I don’t think Sue’s been used to any great effect this season. She shows up as a strawman to oppose whatever needs opposition, even if it directly contradicts how the character actually feels, just to give her something to do. They seem to be mishandling an aspect of the show that worked very well last season, but has sort of run out of steam. That isn’t really the problem, though - to have her continue, week after week, to twirl her moustache and curse those meddling glee kids would pull her down past the fun-cartoony level she generally exists on into what we generally mean when we refer a character as “cartoony”: repetitive and poorly motivated.
Motivation is the issue at play, with Will’s being out-of-character and Sue’s muddled and becoming irrelevant. This is why characters have to develop, because sometimes (as in the case of Sue), a character’s schtick is only narratively sustainable to a point. In other words, how long before a primary character trait goes from interesting, insightful and funny to boring, monotonous and grating?
"The music this week was logically presented within the standard progression of concept-blocking-rehearsal-dress rehearsal-performance, which makes total sense so, of course, we’ve never seen it before. This pleased the hell out of me"
It’s blatantly strange how, in the end, what I expected to hate wound up elevating the episode. I guess it goes to show that just because you don’t enjoy something doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable under the right circumstance...
Though how these were the right circumstances still baffles me.
What I Saw Coming:
Much of the casting - Finn and Rachel as Brad and Janet, Brittany and Santana as Columbia and Magenta, Artie as The Criminologist and Sam as Rocky.
Anthology 1, Continuity 0 - The episode could have come at ANY point in the story, since it dodges most of the recent character progress. The Brittany/Santana fallout has blown over with nary a mention, Puck is still missing and isn’t even brought up, no more from Tina/Artie and the Sam/Quinn development is only marginally pertinent in its facilitation of this week’s afterschool-specially-message.
Adult resistance - Rocky Horror is a supposedly a risqué show for a high school to put on, though for years, the movie has been available to rent by teenagers, and that was before the internet brought porn to every room in the house.
What I Didn’t:
Will’s complicity - In fact, the whole thing is his idea; a man who, just weeks earlier, decried the kids’ shoehorny desire to perform songs by Britney Spears on the basis of the show’s inconsistent characterization (he was, after all, ok with them doing “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa).
MESSAGE! - This week, we get to hear author tracts (coming partially from Quinn, as usual) about the evils of objectification and boys-have-body-issues-too. There’s gotta be a way to get this information across without succumbing to dialogue that sounds more like recitation than performance.
Rehearsal - The music this week was logically presented within the standard progression of concept-blocking-rehearsal-dress rehearsal-performance, which makes total sense so, of course, we’ve never seen it before. This pleased the hell out of me.
“Science Fiction/Double Feature” B+
“Over at the Frankenstein Place” B
“Dammit Janet” B-
“Hot Patootie” B-
“Sweet Transvestite” B-
“Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” B
“The Time Warp” B+
(They probably scored so well this week because context was a given, but I knocked them all down half a letter grade because none were that interesting. “Time Warp” was fun, though.)
Nude Erections doing the school musical - Why? Last year, they had nothing to do with it, but this year, they’re doing it? Where’s the drama club in his school? I still think they could be marvelous villains, calling themselves “Doing It Onstage” or some other entendre.
Mike as Frank - Though we get cheated out of it by his parents, I was genuinely curious to see how that would’ve panned out.
Standards and Practices? - So they can say “sweet transvestite” but they can’t say “from transsexual Transylvania”? The joke is that it’s al-lit-er-a-tive! Or is it that since Mercedes is playing Frank, now the character’s supposed to actually be female? I smell a cop-out... should’ve stuck with MikeFrank.
Charging admission to the show - Will says this as though it was a new concept. What the fuck?
Meat Loaf and Barry Bostwick - Though I don’t care, I don’t want anyone to think I missed it.
Statistics - The average person knows the words to hundreds of songs, so Emma being impressed that Carl knows all the words to the roughly dozen songs in Rocky Horror strikes me as odd.
Touch Me - So Will decides to play Rocky so he can get Emma to sing this song to him, but doesn’t think ahead to the next step: later that day, Rachel will be doing so.
Kurt - So what are you going to be for Halloween this year?
Brittany - A peanut allergy.
Mercedes - (to Rachel) I’d like to preserve you... in a jar... in my basement.
Sue - You know Halloween is fast approaching - the day when parents encourage little boys to dress like little girls and little girls to dress like whores.
Carl - You guys have a hole to fill and I’m just trying to fill it.
Santana - Wanky!
Will - Last year, when the Cheerios won the national championship, Santana pantsed Brittany and she was wearing a lot less than her underwear - neither of them were suspended.
Figgins - That was in the middle of a celebration.
Sue - High school’s a dangerous place and it’s our job to guide them through it safely... and we still get to torture them along the way, it’s a fabulous system.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.