Rocky Horror Episode Thrills Gleeks

by Shannon Baldo
Columnist

I hate to say it, but I don’t think “Glee” has been doing particularly well this season. I know, it pains me to say it — even more than it probably pains my fellow “Gleeks” to read it. Of all my current television shows, “Glee” remains one of my absolute favorites, partly because of its phenomenal first season; from its very pilot, “Glee” has shown itself to be one of the most promising new series in years.

Yet now, in the second season, things have not been quite as good as I think we all expected. The overly publicized Britney Spears episode relied a bit too much on its clichéd dream sequences, and the apparently controversial religious episode was simultaneously overwrought and cavalier. (Come on, Kurt’s dad deserved more than one episode!) Plus, the characters have begun surprising and strange developments which have made many of them a bit less likeable. From Tina leaving Artie for Mike Chang to the strange ambivalence of Santana and Brittany’s relationship to the lackluster romance of Finn and Rachel, even the characters, the strongest part of the show, have encountered this second-season awkwardness.

However, this week’s episode has proven that everyone’s favorite high school musical still has the right stuff to pull out a fantastic second season. From its rampant plot twists to its subtle guest stars to its promising character development, the “Rocky Horror Glee Show” echoes all of the greatness of first-season “Glee.”

If you missed it, Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) assigns his students the subversive musical classic as a way to win the heart of Emma (Jayma Mays), who has been attending midnight showings with her new boyfriend Carl (John Stamos). The roles are perfectly cast — Rachel and Finn (Lea Michele and Cory Monteith) are Brad and Janet, Kurt (Chris Colfer) is Riff Raff, Quinn (Dianna Agron) makes a fantastic Magenta, and Sam (Chord Overstreet) is a drool-worthy Rocky. And the club of course twists the roles for its own purposes, casting newcomer Carl as Eddie in Stamos’ first single of the season and even allowing Mercedes (Amber Riley) a starring role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. And yet the show still remains a bit too controversial for a high school setting, earning the ire of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and finally being shut down from public performance.

But not before the audience gets several dazzling musical numbers out of it. Rachel and Finn nail their double characters in “Dammit, Janet”; Carl brings forth his classic charisma in the catchy “Hot Patootie”; and Shue and Emma sing a steamy version of “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.” Equally stunning is Mercedes’s turn as Frank-N-Furter in “Sweet Transvestite,” which she smoothly changes to fit her powerful, diva-esque voice, though it loses some of its subversion in the process. Yet most impressive, by far, is the “Time Warp,” the show’s finale number which features the entire cast and holds all of the characteristics of a classic, heartwarming “Glee” song.

And, yes, the swapping of more controversial lyrics from “Rocky Horror” for television-appropriate material is a bit of a tragedy. (“Seat wetting” for “bad fretting” — really, FCC?) But the spirit of the songs remains primarily intact, thanks to the incredible talent of the actors, who clearly embraced the sexuality of “Rocky Horror” with more than the usual enthusiasm. From Kurt’s growling Riff Raff to Quinn’s shrieking Magenta, from the forced naïvety of Rachel’s Janet to the awkwardness of Finn’s Brad, the cast of “Glee” apparently took to the project with a kind of spirit which has not been seen thus far in the second season.

But, more importantly, this episode nailed all of the trademarks of the first season which made “Glee” the show to watch. The characters became heartwarming again, particularly in the tender insecurity of Finn and Sam; the songs became lively and fun again; and even the writing achieved its past intricacy and cleverness. The show returned to its classic themes of rejection and togetherness, those so powerful concepts which made the show an instant success, and the finale number carried all the warmth and spirit the cast could muster.

Though the second season has gotten off to a rather rocky start (sorry, I couldn’t help myself there), “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” proves that the show still has what made the first season so extraordinary. And, if it keeps using this perfect recipe for success, the show is still set for high school musical greatness.

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