Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Glee,” “The Rocky Horror Glee Show.”
I had been afraid that “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” would fall into the same trap as previous theme episodes such as Britney Spears and, to a lesser extent, Madonna. Fortunately I was proved largely wrong; aside from being a cute tribute to a cult classic, “Glee” furthered one plot that has been moving in fits and starts this season — the romance between Mr. Schue and Emma — and provided a surprisingly nuanced argument about what is and is not appropriate in the arts in schools. They even worked in a taboo topic, much like the original ‘Rocky’ did, this time the important but rarely acknowledged issue of male body image.
The club is putting on ‘Rocky’ because Mr. Schue is trying to get closer to Emma. She admits to him — while eating a sandwich with crusts — that she went to a midnight screening with Carl, in a sticky theater where toast is thrown and squirt bottles squeezed, and Schue grudgingly realizes Carl is “making her better.” She quickly points out that you’d have to edit out pretty much the entire thing to make it appropriate for a high school, and although a great deal of time is spent discussing what is and is not okay for kids, one must suspend one’s disbelief to even allow for the conversation to go beyond a joking wouldn’t-it-be-wacky stage.
We pretty quickly step into the episode’s taboo exploration, male body issues, something that rarely gets time on television. Finn, playing Brad, is nervous about the scene in which he’s in his underwear. Apparently being the star quarterback doesn’t buy you self esteem — although, standing next to the sculpted Sam it becomes understandable. Sam, meanwhile, has no problem with his body, although during dress rehearsal he complains about the skimpy gold shorts he wears (nobody notes, of course, that the original Rocky wore far a skimpier speedo). In fact, if anything, he was too comfortable with his body; Sam underwent a complete 180 from last week, when he was shy and sweet, to this week, when he actually dubbed himself “ab-ulous.” Come on, Ryan Murphy, some character consistency would be nice. I suppose I can let it slide this time. I also loved their weight-room conversation about keeping up a ripped body with Artie in the background chiming in while pumping the tiniest barbells the team owns.
Did anyone really think Finn walking down the hallway in his boxers would actually be traumatizing to anyone? This part stank to high heaven. Even if you found the sight of Finn nearly nude unpleasant, you’ve seen a male body before. This isn’t elementary school; grow up! Plus, did everyone see how quickly the Salt and Pepper bullies showed up? It’s like they smelled shirtless man and came running. They definitely seem to be overcompensating. Who wants to take bets on how long before we find out they’re making out behind the bleachers?
Side note: I thought the Brad Majors look really worked for Finn, or at least the glasses. Thoughts?
Schue decides that Sam is too uncomfortable playing Rocky, so he graciously steps in and asks Emma to rehearse “Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” with him. I remembered reading beforehand that this was the song Jayma Mays auditioned with, and I thought it was correspondingly cute. As you might expect, their latent sexual tension pretty quickly leaps to the surface, and Emma even rips Schue’s shirt off. Kudos for working in Brittany and Santana as the voyeuristic Magenta and Columbia. My only problem with the scene was that, in the actual play, Schue would be doing this with Rachel. Inappropriate much?
Also, Carl the dentist as Eddie? I get it, he’s handsome and dashing and his hair doesn’t get mussed even after riding a motorcycle through a wall; can we cut out the community theater crap? Stop putting adults into the kids’ performances. It’s seriously annoying and increasingly creepy. Mercedes, however, was excellent as Doctor Frank-N-Furter; in an odd way, a woman in that role is pushing boundaries, and I liked it. Mercedes hasn’t gotten too much screen time so far this season, and that should be remedied immediately.
Sue, meanwhile, is out for blood and a local Emmy again this time, convinced by Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf to go undercover and expose the club’s ‘Rocky’ performance as a progressive liberal-fest on the taxpayers’ dime. Would that really up ratings? You bet your bottom tax dollar. When Becky, whose Sue Sylvester Halloween outfit is absolutely precious, shows Schue Sue’s planned expose, he’s pissed. Confronting her he says the arts have often been about pushing boundaries, but Sue (surprisingly, rightly) responds that pushing boundaries merely to push boundaries makes for bad art. Besides, she notes, cutting through Schue’s façade, he’s not doing ‘Rocky’ for the kids, he’s doing it for Emma. Unfortunately, Sue is a little too convincing, and Schue decides to cancel the show — entirely plausible, considering they’ve gone through dress rehearsals and paid for an entire set, including a functional elevator. Through her fingers slips the local Emmy, and Sue is left twirling her moustache and muttering, “Curses, foiled again.” Although Sue’s anti-glee efforts are generally entertaining, the writers need to be careful about turning her into a parody villain.
So where did this theme episode land? Not bad, considering. It would have been easy to simply play into the theme and not have any real issues explored, but we got a nice look at male body issues and what’s appropriate in high school arts, as well as development of the very cute Will-Emma thing, of which I always approve. It’s not going to be remembered for those things, however, and that’s okay. “Rocky Horror Glee Show” was a solid episode in itself; there have been much better episodes, and much worse.
So… I universally loathe “Glee’s” theme episodes. Madonna, Britney, no thanks. The Rocky Horror Glee Show is no exception. This episode was pretty much pointless.
It’s ostensibly a “Halloween episode,” but honestly? This episode exists for the cast to perform Rocky Horror numbers. With limited success. I enjoyed “Science Fiction Double Feature” (was that Quinn or Santana?) and “Dammit Janet.” Finn and Rachel as Brad and Janet are amusing. But the other numbers are cringe-worthy. “Sweet Transvestite” was okay.
The writers try to shoehorn some plot in. Finn is self-conscious about his body image, especially compared to Sam’s abs — er, that is, to Sam. I thought Finn, Sam and Artie’s conversation in the workout room was entertaining. Also, Will is still trying to win Emma back (the reason the glee club will do this performance at all). The performance of “Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” was ridiculous, save for Santana and Brittany being fabulous as usual. And seriously, the phrase “heavy petting” had to be changed to “heavy sweating?” Please. The return of Sue’s Corner was entertaining, but her supposed expose? Completely random.
I find there’s not much to say about this episode. There’s no substantive plot development or character development, and mostly I’m left wondering if this show can bring even a shred of reality to the proceeding anymore. Is Puck still in juvie? How did they get a working elevator on the stage, or the money to finance the musical at all? How in god’s name would a high school ever be allowed to put on a performance of ‘Rocky Horror?’
Why did this episode fail to make me laugh out loud even once?
Although there was lots for a “Rocky Horror Picture” fan to smile at in last night’s serving of “Glee,” on the whole the episode was very hit or miss. It had more than its fair share of comedy and the special glee club brand of drama, but the episode “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” also exposed some of the show’s more glaring faults, particularly the weakness of its style of musically themed episodes.
The episode was not intended to be a recreation of “Rocky Horror” (although it certainly started out that way with a shot of Santana’s bright-red lips singing the opening “Science Fiction/Double Feature”), but rather, to show the glee club’s attempt to put on the show as the McKinley High School musical. The problem is, “Glee” is itself a musical program, and when a single episode pulls all of its songs from the same musical while attempting to use those songs to tell its own story, many of the numbers are simply not going to work out. This was the case in last night’s “Glee.” Most of the songs were motivated solely by their occurrence in the group’s rehearsal, which frankly wasn’t that exciting to watch. “Glee” is at its strongest when it provides some new interpretation or deeper meaning to its musical numbers, and for the most part, the songs last night failed to do so. While I love the cast’s singing voices as much as the next Gleek out there, a “Glee” musical segment that doesn’t go beyond the original song it covers is something of a bore.
And there were some songs last night that excelled. The overwhelming highlight of the night was Emma’s solo of “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me,” sung smolderingly in an empty classroom to her not-boyfriend Will Schuester. This song did what a number should in any musical: it advanced the plot. We had already been shown in this episode that Schue is awkwardly not over Emma – and that she, happily dating her dentist, is all too aware of this awkwardness – but their dance together in the classroom revealed that Emma still has feelings for the glee coach as well. The song was also the culmination of Will’s attempts to use ‘Rocky Horror’ to get closer to Emma, and although that was a low thing for him to do, I have to admit that it was nice to see him start to triumph. And cheerleaders Brittany and Santana creepily watching through the classroom window, making fun of the teachers inside in an echo of Magenta and Columbia’s roles in the original movie? Perfect.
Two more moments deserve special mention from this episode. First, Carl’s rendition of “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul,” while doing little to advance the episode’s plot, featured some truly lovely choreography in the form of his swing dancing with Emma and Mike Chang’s impromptu dance moves. It was also great of the show writers to feature a cameo by Barry Bostwick, who played the role of Brad Majors in the iconic ’70s Rocky Horror film. Such moments, unfortunately, were hardly the norm.
Plotwise, this show was a hot mess. In order to showcase as much of the club and its supporting cast as possible, the episode had characters switching their Rocky Horror roles practically every number, making the already hard-to-believe notion of a school group throwing together a musical in a single week nothing short of an absurdity. The episode’s plot of Will trying to get back with Emma was fairly well-handled, but its other main storyline, of Finn’s nervousness about showing off his body to others, felt very heavy-handed and out of place. I was also surprised to not see Puck again – has his actor actually left the show? If not, his barely mentioned stint in juvie is a rather odd move for the show to make. Then again, this past episode was already drowning in characters, so perhaps we should look on Puckerman’s absence as a good thing.
Overall, I was less than impressed with the latest offering from “Glee” – and that’s coming from a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fan. For people who don’t like the musical, or who have never seen it, I’m sure the reaction would be even worse.