Let's just get the rough part out of the way: Fox's take on The Rocky Horror Picture Showhas people who've already seen it wanting to throw things at their screens - and not in the way the cult musical desired. As fans of the counter-culture classic might've feared, the network wobbled in retaining the B-movie, campy schlock that made the original a fun freak fest. That's partly because the stuff that made it taboo in 1975 when the film debuted -- the mashup of horror, comedy and music; the outright mocking of heteronormative norms -- barely count as unusual today.
As silly as it seemed on the surface, Rocky Horror made a statement by asking us to loosen inhibitions as well as challenge convention and taste -- something that would be difficult for a big network to pull off now. Void of a unique spin (as well as a live audience that could've maybe added some oomph) this version seems to exist only to put a layer of lacquer on the first perfectly good one. But it's not all bad. There's some stuff to find endearing in this update. Below, five things to appreciate about the show.
1. The music
Like the entire spectacle, this remake's music goes full throttle production-wise creating a three-dimensional, all-enveloping surround sound. Ultimately, whether one prefers to feel the music seeping into the bone marrow versus being carried back in time for a retro lo-fi thrill is a personal preference but suffice it to say, producer Cisco Adler didn't hold back. "Sweet Transvestite" oozes with soul versus the grinding guitar-driven original. "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul," originally done by Meatloaf, has been reworked from a gritty, rockabilly hoot into a more thumping, bring-the-house-down howl with more evident bluesy-R&B implications.
2. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox, playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter, owns her entrance, in which she makes her inspirations and references clear: Grace Jones, LaBelle, perhaps a little Bette Midler. Sure, Cox being cast as "transvestite" -- a now laughably out-of-date term used to describe guys who donned ladies' gear -- feels confusing in a way but, hey, if she's cool with it who are we to pull out an updated list of acceptable terms? Anyway, Cox's shimmies and shakes and kicks are peak diva-ness and it's hard to take your eyes off of her, especially since she's the luminescent fish in a sea of so-so. Not a surprise, I guess, since she's a trained dancer but it's her thick, haughty and vaguely European accent and over-the-top vamping that really make her interpretation sizzle. Her rendition of "Wild and Untamed Thing" would make Tina Turner proud.
3. The costumes
The shiny veneer here that departs so much from the first is partly due to the sartorial selections and the colored Mohawks, Doc Martens and Bowie-inspired platform boots that give this some contemporary sass. Laverne Cox, who rocks some mean fishnets throughout, makes her debut in an exquisitely ornate headpiece as fierce as any of Philip Treacy's wildest creations. Rocky (Staz Nair), her sinewy creation, flits around in nothing but gold lamé boxers for the bulk of the show too, so there's that.
4. Adam Lambert
Casting Adam Lambert as Eddie the delivery boy who meets a fateful end, pays off dividends. There's no denying the joy of seeing his dreamy face, sure, and he nails his bad-boy biker scene. But he's also a subtle nod to the program's LGBTQ undertone, manifested in the source material obviously, but also the rainbow flags conspicuously seen throughout too.
5. Tim Curry
Having Tim Curry, confined to a wheelchair after a stroke in 2012, play the Criminologist narrator is just... what's the word? Nice. He's deadpan and cheeky simply by being monotone and self-aware, and it's lovely to see him as part of this revival. If nothing else, his inclusion is a sincere bow of respect to one of the greats -- a gesture of goodwill that helps pardon its sins.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again airs Thursday Oct. 20 at 8/7c on Fox.