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No heart, no soul, poor casting
(Spoilers galore follow. But you've come here to read about the show. Why would you be surprised people say things about it?)
Remakes of classics nearly always suffer by comparison to the originals. There might be a time in future decades once the generations of us who attended and performed RHPS dozens of times through our lives pass on when a fresh production might be able to stand on it own merits from the 1975 movie. That time has not come yet. This version is definitely a pale imitation of the original but it does not do well even on its own merits.
I think I will start with the venue: To really be true to the original you cannot broadcast it on network television with its inherent limitations of censorship. RHPS is about sexuality. Not just sexuality, but what used to be alternative sexuality that isn't quite so alternative these days. Even so, there is only so far a network broadcast can go when it comes to sexuality, violence, and language--even language that is not considered vulgar. This version is definitely constrained as a result. The director and producers had to stay conscious of what might and might not fly on network TV throughout. If this had been made for a cable network that has more leeway it might have had more of a chance to be successful. Another viewer noted this version seemed more like a high school production of a famous play and I think this is part of that reason. It's far too sanitized. I think a lot of reviewers are comparing this to the original as a movie when it was more of a stage production. Even at that, it was uninspired.
Much has been made about poor casting choices. Nearly every actor was out of place in their respective role. Then again, I think we have to ask how much of a role the director played in this failure. RHPS is best when it is camp. It should be grab you by the balls, in your face outrageous. If you play things down, you lose the energy of the story. So yes, there are poor casting decisions throughout but director Kenny Ortega did not help his actors much. I also don't think the actors really researched the story to incorporate it into their roles. It seemed like nearly everybody had given cursory reading of the script, a few rehearsals of the music, then off to the filming. Everybody but the Janet character seemed muted.
The biggest failure is Laverne Cox as Frank. I keep reading people say what a great actor Cox is but I see no evidence of it here. Frank N Furter is the character at the center of the production. Tim Curry is one of the greatest scene-chewing actors ever, so Cox will never look good in comparison, but even so, Curry played this role right and Cox did not. Where did Cox go wrong? By not embracing the over-the-top nature of the character. Frank is supposed to be flamboyant, outrageous, take charge. If you are going to play this part you need to own it, you need to take charge, be the star. Cox did none of those things. Cox performed her lines and songs in a workmanlike manner--but that is not what Frank N Furter is. Flamboyance is at Frank's heart. Cox is flamboyant only by being trans in real life but certainly not flamboyant in this character. Honestly, I don't think Cox has the chops for it. Cox was hesitant and played it as an equal partner of an ensemble. If you want to be a successful Frank N Furter you have to go out, take command, grab the cast and audience by the short hairs, and pull them into your show. Oh, and Cox's affected English accent was annoying at best when it did show up. Either play it all with the accent or not at all. But there again is another failure of direction.
Victoria Justice as Janet was the only bright spot for me. Well, that, and Adam Lambert's time being mercifully short. Justice looked like she really researched and understood the role, and was not waiting for direction. She was the only actor who seemed to be comfortable in her role.
Everybody else seemed unsure of what to do and how much to do it. Annaleigh Ashford has gotten a lot of criticism as Columbia but I didn't find her nearly as bad as other reviewers. I would have loved to see her in an R-rated production with a good director. Adam Levine was on screen only to sing Hot Patootie and was quickly, thankfully gone. He may be many things, but able to pull off scruffy biker rocker isn't one of them. Ryan McCartan played a capable Brad. He didn't embrace his role as easily as Victoria Justice embraced Janet, but he didn't embarrass himself. The same can be said for Reeve Carney's Riff Raff. Staz Nair was completely lost as Rocky. I believe the character of Magenta should inspire some feeling of menace from the first moment you see her. Christina Milian just did not do it. She was probably the second-worst casting choice after Cox. She had no presence in the role. I like that they gave Tim Curry a chance to play the criminologist/narrator, but his health problems and inability to speak smoothly prevented him from pulling off a narrator's role in stitching scenes together. I wish him well in his recovery. One role in the play that is not in the movie is the Usherette, played capably here by Ivy Levan.
In summary, the Rocky Horror Picture Show should be primal, in your face, overtly sexual, graphic, garish. It should not be what this came off as: a studied, safe for family hour network TV, sedate musical play based on a campy R-rated musical film.
Great show that went astray
The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr., was a wonderful show with great writing and fantastic ensemble acting. The plot of the show was Briscoe County, Junior (Bruce Campbell), who had grown up more or less a spoiled rich boy in the late 1800s USA, finally becomes a man trying to track down the gang who killed his bounty-hunter father, with the help of blustering bounty-hunter competitor Lord Bowler (Curry) and lawyer Solomon Poole (Clemenson). Briscoe combines elements of the square-jawed Western hero archetype with a Bret Maverick-style rake. Along with the regulars were a number of recurring characters playing heroes and villains alike. Billy Drago played a memorably vicious John Bly, leader of the gang Briscoe and Bowler are up against, while Kelly Rutherford turned in bravura performances as Dixie Cousins, the traveling showgirl who Briscoe hooks up with from time to time.
The writing and comic pacing of this show were usually spot-on and this show deserved to be on far longer than it was. Had this show decided to be a comedic Western it may likely have attracted a bigger following. The biggest issue dragging this show down was the subplot regarding a quest for orbs that allowed time-travel. When the show concentrated on being a comedic Western, it was one of the best shows on the air. When the sci-fi elements of the orb subplot were written in the show bogged down in trying to connect the disparate elements and backstory, plus put some adult viewers off. With a marginal Fox network viewership, that was enough to doom the series. It was a shame, too, because Briscoe, Bowler, Solomon, Dixie and Comet the horse deserved to have many more adventures.
Those of us who are fans still remember this show extremely fondly, with copies of the series on VCR traded like gold. The theme music still is used by NBC for some sporting events, most notably its Olympic coverage.
When you have no ideas, use time travel aka this is Star Trek: Quantum Leap
Easily the silliest and lamest of the Berman/Pillar/Braga Trek shows, not a mean feat after the way ST:TNG was conducted. Start with the theme song, a sappy Rod Stewart lite-rock ballad that would pass as deep for junior high. The school analogy is apt because in this show, the familiar faces of the soon to be born Federation are the cool older kids the silly, geeky sophomoric humans want to hang out with but have nothing to offer. Nonetheless, the human geeks show up everywhere and can't be ignored, so the older alien kids parcel out goodies (technology, crew, etc.) just to keep the sophomores quiet and occupied. Unlike the original Trek, in which humanity found its way in spite of itself and was an equal partner at the start of the Federation, the Enterprise Earthers must be shown how to be learned by the more sophisticated spacefaring peoples and really have nothing to offer the much more learned alien races, revealing more than a bit of anti-American & anti-Western political bias in the process.
Now about the plot lines. This Trek era should be a rich field of built-in scripts of a stumbling Earth making contact with other stumbling species, ultimately to band their strengths and weaknesses in common cause as the Federation. Instead, Berman and Braga lead off and keep resorting to the most hackneyed of all SF plot devices, time travel, ruining Enterprise the same way they undermined their other ST collaborations. There were some quality scripts in the first season (especially the introduction of the Andorians). That quality is destroyed by a Temporal Cold War story arc, in which two future races drop in on the Enterprise to raise havoc with the crew and allow the writers to artificially introduce conflict without needing to follow such simple rules as physics, plot continuity or character development. The glory of the original Trek came from the writers being forced to operate within a defined structure of circumstances, which limits the writer's options but at the same time provides built-in tensions a good writer can exploit. Yes, TOS used time travel sometimes, all exceptions (bad ones almost aways, with "City On The Edge Of Forever" a good Harlan Ellison story with Trek characters overlaid) and none being central to the development of the show. Like all bad sci-fi writers, the Berman/Braga crew leans on the crutch of time travel the way Sam wrinkled her nose on Bewitched to magically make things appear or reappear, or Bobby showed up in the shower to negate an entire season of Dallas.
For Berman & Braga, wave the magic wand of time travel and anything you want to happen can happen. Bad writers (like the Berman/Pillar crew) use such devices so they don't have to spend time crafting plots and characters. No need to actually work on plots when you can just drop new bad guys in and out with a time machine. No need to actually pay attention to series continuity as a writer, either, because time travel undoes it all anyway. Much like a chess game where you can move a piece (or multiple pieces) to any space on the board, or off the board, whenever you want, time travel relieves the sci-fi writer of need to structure a universe or episode because there literally are no rules, nor do the characters need to be developed because there are no rules for them, either. The structure of the show and its characters can change to fit the writer's needs to produce an individual script. With the time travel plot device, there are no consequences to character actions because they can all be undone magically instead of having to live with the experiences of previous episodes. Time travel makes for easy writing and bad episodes. As for me, give me a sci-fi universe where the characters have to make decisions and face the consequences of those decisions in the following episodes. Give me a reason to invest my time in the show and its characters instead of the episodes being cartoons where Wile E. Coyote always comes back intact from the fall into the canyon.
For my money, if you want Scott Bakula to time travel, be honest and make Quantum Leap II instead of renaming the Sam Beckett character as Jonathan Archer. Would somebody at Viacom please, please fire Berman, Braga and Pillar and order the Trek office to never again write a time travel script? They are making generic sci-fi with Trek names. I can see generic sci-fi on dozens of shows. Give me a reason to watch a Star Trek show instead of all the rest.
Bad, bad, bad. What was JMS thinking? (potential spoilers incl.)
I can't dignify this by saying it's as good as "cheesy". I was a dedicated B5 fan and this movie was a huge disappointment. I was not expecting a B5 Redux, but neither was I expecting anything this bad, especially with more than two years having passed since the end of the show. The plot deals with a Ranger captain who does not meet Minbari standards of what a commander should be. The Minbari are ready to drum him out of the Rangers until G'Kar intervenes. The captain and his crew are then reassigned to a broken-down Star Fury (the Lisandra) whose previous crew had disappeared after being attacked. The Lisandra is then chosen as an escort for a diplomatic fact-finding mission to a very strange archaeological dig that may have something to do with attacks on the edge of the Interstellar Alliance. Even though this is tagged a B5 film, the acting and writing are more reminiscent of a kids' monster movie/TV show from Japan, right down to the weapons officer firing the weapons by karate kicking and shadow boxing. On the whole, this movie might equate to a good Ultra Man episode. The plot was misused (far too much set up, not enough tension in the battle scenes), the dialogue and acting was wooden and the writing was slapdash. Maybe Stracynski was right to end the show because if this movie is any indication, he had run out of ideas.