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'Glee' recap: A 'Rocky Horror' time warp

October 27, 2010 |  9:07 am

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If anyone still thought “Glee” was a family show (hello, Parents Television Council), last night’s “Rocky Horror” episode gamely attempted to put that belief to rest once and for all. Its steamy highpoint came when Will drafted Emma to rehearse “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” with him (as Brittany and Santana peeped in), and they packed in all the repressed sexual tension they’ve been feeling for each other for … well, forever, in “Glee” terms.

The number left Will shirtless and panting, Emma disheveled and emotionally undone (trivia note: Jayma Mays, who plays Emma, actually auditioned for “Glee” with this song), and the rest of us crumpling the slices of unbuttered toast we’d been metaphorically clutching in our hot little fists and reaching for those unthrown rolls of toilet paper to pat down our dampened brows.

The song was abs-solutely ab-tastic. (Abs, of course, being an important theme of the evening.)

But let’s face it, there was a lot of antici … pation for this episode: The marriage of the belovedly quirky, boundary-pushing, musical TV show to the belovedly quirky, boundary-pushing musical midnight movie seemed a particularly promising match. As Will points out in the episode, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” like the glee club, is a place where outcasts can find a sense of belonging. (Certainly it served that purpose in my high school.) But while, in theory, the episode could have been a slam-dunk, in actuality, it kind of sank like a soggy section of newspaper.

The central problem was that it wanted to be sexy, but not too sexy, and ended up being as toothless as a Halloween vampire with caramel stuck in its fangs -– or as an iconic sweet transvestite played by a sweet young woman, though, as Mercedes, Amber Riley tried her darnedest to make it work. (But why wouldn’t Kurt have jumped at the role? His reluctance to play a transvestite rang false.) Much the way that Will’s motives for having his group stage the scantily-clad-character-strewn musical were slightly murky and suspect, it’s unclear exactly what the “Glee” creators were going for here. Were we to root the characters on as they embraced their sexuality and their inner “dirty”? Were we to tsk-tsk the early sexualization of teenagers a la Sue (and, ultimately, Will)? And what did it mean that Will canceled the performance of “Rocky Horror,” but decided that it would be fine to perform the show privately, for only one another?

You could be forgiven for feeling as confused as a teenage boy shuffling down the school halls wearing only fake glasses and a pair of boxers.

Which brings us to those abs. All those abs. Sam’s abs, Finn’s abs, Will’s abs. They actually got their own storyline as Finn and Sam revealed their teenage body issues. It was a timely topic, what with all the (rightful) griping about gender double standards prompted by “Glee” stars Lea Michele and Dianna Agron appearing barely clothed -- and alongside a fully dressed Cory Monteith -- on the cover and in the pages of this month’s GQ magazine. As Quinn points out, women deal with being objectified by men all the time. That goes triple for women in the performing arts.

So it was refreshing to see the teenage boys struggling with misgivings about their looks and society’s expectations for them. Raised some meaty issues: Are young men today, like young women, being held to impossible to achieve body standards? Could Artie be right about young women’s expectations changing thanks to Internet porn? Are young men being as rampantly objectified as young women? Doubtful (see the aforementioned GQ issue, just for starters), but certainly interesting to contemplate.

Also interesting to contemplate:

1) Are we still rooting for Will and Emma? Sure, they’ll get back together eventually, but personally, I have to agree with Will. Carl the dentist is good for Emma. And John Stamos, who sang “Hot Patootie -- Bless My Soul” last night, is such a fun addition to the cast. I’d be happy to have him stick around a while.

2) Is the character of Becky -- “Give me some chocolate or I will cut you,” she threatened Will -- taking a dark turn?

3) Do you think there’ll be a sudden run on peanut-allergy costumes this Halloween, thanks to Brittany? And what would a peanut-allergy costume look like?

4) How does Chris Colfer manage to shine so glintingly, as he did in “Time Warp,” even when he barely factors into an episode?

5) What Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf look like now, as opposed to when they appeared in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

6) Despite my overall dissatisfaction with the episode, I suddenly became aware that I was singing along -– with disconcerting enthusiasm -– during “Time Warp.” Anyone else find themselves nostalgically transported against their better judgment?

Thoughts? Responses? I’d particularly be interested in hearing what die-hard “Rocky Horror” lovers thought of the show.

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: The New Directions glee club performs in "The Rocky Horror Glee Show." Credit: Adam Rose / FOX

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