Glee blog review Episode 5 ‘The Rocky Horror Glee Show’: Settling for sensation?

Like many Gleeks, I’ve loved Gleeloved it — from the start. When I first heard its spunky little misfit show choir sing Don’t Stop Believing, I was there. I was on board. I believed. And when the show became a sensation — an Emmy-winning ratings hit — I still believed, even though in a strange way it had become less precious — less in need of my embrace, when so many millions had come along for the ride.

Yet I loved Glee then, and still do now. I’m just not in love with Glee, as I once was. And I blame that not on familiarity breeding contempt, or the warped logic of not caring as much when a pet show or artist becomes widely popular. I blame it on Glee itself, which in five shows — 20 per cent of its second season — has consistently skirted the character development, plot twists, meaningful moments and emotional punches that Glee’s first season generated so marvelously and so consistently.

The only exception, of course, has been Grilled Cheesus, this fall’s heavy yet heartening episode assessing spirituality and religion and the difference between the two. In it, things actually happened. Events occurred. People changed. And the music served that story, rather than the other way around.

But in every other hour so far this second season — including this week’s much-anticipated The Rocky Horror Glee Show Glee, for me, hasn’t come close to that kind of engaging and meaningful artfulness — of storytelling that mattered. Rather, it’s seemed to settle for sensation — for stunts and gimmicks — offering slight stories at the service of showy songs in search of a connection to characters whom we have to remind ourselves why we care about.

Even Britney Spears’ mundane music generated more passion in McKinley’s glee kids than The Rocky Horror Show, a 35-year-old warhorse which was really just a baldly calculating ploy by Will to break his promise to Carl not to interfere and to shamelessly court Emma’s affections — one more time — by exploiting their connection to the cult film. That’s a story — a plot? Not to me. That’s a tired excuse to parade Rocky Horror songs and costumes (but not much in the way of atmospheric sets) across the screen at Halloween, in a muddled mishmash which actually merited the original film’s closing line: “Lost in time, and lost in space, and meaning.”

I mean, I wish it weren’t so. No show has stirred me — ever — like Glee in its first season, and I believe Glee can still do so. But so far it seems to be settling for sensation rather than sense — for commotion rather than emotion. And I miss the Glee I knew — a show which felt like, if it could change TV this much, could change the world — could open hearts and make it a better place.

I miss Mercedes singing Beautiful to a gym-full of kids who may not have understood her pain, but who heard it anyway in a song of brave defiance. I miss Rachel singing U2’s exquisite One with a paralyzed boy whose travails she could barely beging to grasp, but was trying. I miss Kurt purposely botching Defying Gravity in a sing-off  to spare his dear dad embarassment. I miss Finn achingly reaching out to an unborn child in a sonogram by singing I’ll Stand By You. I miss April showing the show must go on even when it’s time to move on with Last Name, Alone and Fire.  I miss Burt Hummel declare his love for Kurt, and for Finn’s equally lonely Mom, as only a grease monkey with a heart of gold can do — no song needed. I miss Artie dreaming what it would be like to walk in a crowded mall with The Safety Dance. I miss the glee kids joining a deaf choir to perform John Lennon’s Imagine, and singing with such spirit and verve at Sectionals and Regionals, including Rachel’s all-time belting-buster, Don’t Rain On My Parade. I miss Quinn and a pregnant ballet corps turning Swan Lake into a weird yet movingly feminist It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World. And I miss Don’t Stop Believing, back when it  needed to be said — and sung — not just about the characters, but about a bold, unprecedented show which had the guts to turn a weekly TV series into music-making art.

This season, for the most part, I’m still waiting for such moments, and that wait has turned to concern. Glee has shown us so much more than it’s showing us now, which is why I worry that it’s losing its way.

I still love the cast, the characters and the concept, and I’m still hoping — as an eternal optimist  — that my beloved show will find its path back to meaning. But apart from Grilled Cheesus, name one song, one scene, one moment this season that deserves the esteem of the Season One highlights I just mentioned.

I’m still looking, but so far they’re not there. So far we have a hit show going through the motions and coasting on its success, rather than digging deeply into its characters and brandishing a still-beating heart. My favorite show ever, throughout last season, is now the show I wish were better.

But still I yearn ardently for the Glee I knew — which almost makes me feel a bit silly. I mean, a TV show isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, right? After all, it’s just a hour’s diversion, and we can’t expect too much.

Or can we? Especially if we don’t stop believing.

John Stamos as Carl as Eddie.


One Response to “Glee blog review Episode 5 ‘The Rocky Horror Glee Show’: Settling for sensation?”

  1. Rainicorn Says:

    In my opinion, the one good episode so far this season was not “Grilled Cheesus” but “Duets”; but, apart from that, I pretty much agree with everything you say. “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” was a real let-down; only Mercedes’ inventive reinterpretation of “Sweet Transvestite” saved it from being a total failure. To be honest, I thought the Britney episode was worse, but maybe that’s because I’m not familiar with most of Britney’s songs.

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