Oh, for the love of God, “Glee.”
See, I knew this would happen. After the last outing, one I particularly enjoyed, I caught sight of the preview for “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” and felt a pit in my stomach. It was a different pit than the one I felt upon learning about “Britney/Brittany,” but it was there all the same. And lo and behold, this episode fulfilled all my worst fears about what such an episode would entail. But just to add salt to the wound, the show actually bothered to point out the far more interesting way in which they COULD have done this episode, only chose not to do so. I’d like to do the Time Warp back before I actually watched this debacle.
[Full recap of Tuesday's (Oct. 26) "Glee" after the break...]
After the travesty that was most of the episode, Will sits down with New Directions in their rehearsal room and tells them why “Rocky Horror” as a natural extension of both their club and the show as a whole makes a sort of sense: both are concerned at heart with outcasts, those that society deems strange, offensive, frightening, or just plain odd. It’s not hard to imagine Columbia or Magenta getting a Slushie to the face (assuming those characters ever left the “mansion”) by this logic, which would make these characters appealing to a group that throughout this season has learned that their tight-knit group is their only defense against constant humiliation.
So did this episode show that? Of course not! It became about Will’s intermittent obsession to get Emma back. If “Grilled Cheesus” and “Duets” demonstrated anything, it’s that “Glee” is strongest when the teens are in the foreground and the adults dot the background, occasionally stepping into the spotlight at crucial moments lest this turn into “Children of the Glee Corn.” Tonight’s episode threw all of that away in favor of Creepy Will, who showed up in Season 1 a lot (usually while rapping) but has been pretty much absent this season.
Creepy Will tends to do things that would at the very least get him fired, and more than likely end up under house arrest or forced to alert people in his new neighborhood that he’s a sex offender. He plays mind games with his students while emphasizing the hypersexual nature of “Rocky Horror” over its message (both on-stage and off) of individuality. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! At this point, New Directions will win Nationals IN SPITE of Will, not because of him.
Then again, Creepy Will be gone next week, since we have all learned by this point that the show takes place in parallel worlds on a rotating basis. “Grilled Cheesus” took place in a universe in which Finn is possibly the dumbest person to ever possess thumbs. “Duets” took place in a universe with a shockingly mature, shocking put together version of a similar looking character. “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” took place in a universe where Finn has both a Broadway career and a debilitating eating disorder in his future. None of these versions have seemingly anything in common other than they all look like Cory Monteith. (This is also the universe in which Sue Sylvester is the alarming voice of reason. I’m not sure I like any part of this particular parallel world.)
And yes, Cory makes a FANTASTIC Brad, and many will point to the faithful replications of production numbers from the original musical as proof this was in fact a successfully executed episode. To that, I would say that those numbers were an excellent reproduction of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but I didn’t sign up for that when I turned on my television. I signed up for an episode of “Glee,” a show that at its best uses music as inspiration, and not a literal re-creation. I understand that I should have known better, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t expect better.
But at every step, the episode felt as forced as Will’s attempt to produce the musical in-show. Having to double-cast half of the female characters, yet not having enough male ones? Rewriting the show’s scenes and lyrics to tone it down for an audience, in and of itself an admission that the show couldn’t possibly be as scandalous as everyone pretended it would be? There were some potentially interesting nuggets in there (Mercedes’ desire to be in the spotlight by reinventing Frank-N-Furter, the focus on male, not female, body issues due to the show’s need to show male flesh), but they were simply overwhelmed by Creepy Will and his desire to throw his career away because Emma now eats the crusts on her sandwich.
Speaking of Emma, it’s all well and good for the show to tell us that a midnight viewing of “Rocky” shows that she’s on the road to losing some of her worst compulsions. But it’s a big, big leap from going to the movies and going buck wild on Will while singing "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me." Had the show built Emma’s increasing confidence up all season? That would have been a killer moment, one that could have 1) shown just how far she’d come, 2) shown that “Glee” had a plan for her character, and 3) could have actually scared, not titillated, Will with her newfound sexual confidence. But with Carl missing since the aforementioned Britney-centric ep, the show once again dismissed long-term planning for short-term entertainment.
If that’s all the show could do, I don’t think I’d be this harsh on it. But even tonight, the show demonstrated that it does know its own history when it can be bothered to do so. (I was looking forward to Mike as Frank-N-Furter, and was delighted when the show didn’t forget that he kicked all sorts of butt in “Sing.”) “Duets” was primarily about dragging up things from the show’s past that many characters wished were dead and buried, such as Kurt’s advances on Finn or Quinn’s pregnancy. But it was also in many ways “Glee” dragging up its own history in a way it almost never does. Tony Kushner famously wrote that the world only spins forward, but that doesn’t mean we can never look back.
Spinning forward is well and good, so long as there’s a direction towards which one is spinning. Otherwise, you’re not spinning forward, you’re just spinning your wheels. The “Glee” wheels are shiny and fun to look at for a few minutes, but they often only give you the illusion of having gone somewhere. The truly powerful moments on this show take you somewhere, albeit emotionally, and while they might return you to the same physical place when they are over, you yourself don’t return quite the same as when you left. (Not that I’m advocating that New Directions stage a musical adaptation of “The Four Quartets,” mind you.) Having spent an hour trying to put on a musical meant to celebrate being an individual in a conformist society, New Directions played for an audience of one. After all that drama, absolutely nothing changed. Everything ended where it began.
For some, that’s plenty. For yours truly, that’s not nearly enough.
But that’s just me. What did you think of “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”? Sound off below!
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