The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016)

(On TV, October 2016) No matter how bowdlerized and sanitized it can be, there’s something faintly wrong in seeing a network TV remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When mainstream crashes into a celebration of weird, the results can be fascinating but not necessarily satisfying. I have some geeky attachment to the original Rocky Horror Picture Show (which opened in North America a few days after I was born), but no slavish devotion to it: I haven’t seen it in more than fifteen years, I barely identify with what it celebrates and as the generally faithful remake unfolded, I suddenly remembered without enthusiasm how eccentric its latter half could be. But you don’t have to be a proud genderfluid weirdo (in the best meaning of the expression) to wonder whether this TV remake undermines or reinforces whatever the original meant. At best, this remake is an excuse for an exuberant musical (“let’s do the Time Warp again” indeed). At worst, it’s just as undisciplined and meandering than the original. Not all of the actors can do justice to the material—Laverne Cox does well as the iconic Frank N. Furter, but her casting completely changes the nature of the role and raises issues I fear to explore. Others seem to be happy to play famous roles, but few seem to embrace the campiness of the material (although Christina Milian does so fairly well). This homage boldly incorporates the cult-movie talkbacks in a framing device that’s half-realized at best, and manages to find a way to incorporate Tim Curry. Still, the glitzy result seems sanitized to the point of losing half its meaning: Even though this remake shows how far along mainstream TV has evolved, the point of the Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been in its off-beat sensibilities, defiantly offering an alternative to normalcy. This remake, playing at eight o’clock on a weekday night, really isn’t. On the other hand, it remains sporadically fun … so there’s that.

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