The 13th Floor

How Does FOX’s ROCKY HORROR Measure Up to the Original?

When FOX first announced they were doing a new version of ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, it was meant to be a live stage show, done to capitalize on the popularity of live productions like THE SOUND OF MUSIC and GREASE. It quickly went from being live to being a pre-taped stage show. But by the time it aired, it resembled little more than a remake of the original film, with some leftover “live stage” bits that were clunky and awkward.

ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN could have been a lot worse than it was. Regardless of the actors or the staging, it still had the music, which is the real heart of the show. You can still sing along, which goes a long way.

My biggest issue with the FOX version is that there seemed to be a lack of basic understanding as to what exactly made the movie so special. In general, LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN was a very vanilla, watered-down version of a cult classic that will never translate properly to a remake. Below are some of the major differences.

Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX
Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX

The Lips

I understand that a TV show in this day and age can’t really start with three solid minutes of a closeup on lips singing. I actually rather liked the Usherette as an alternative. She was seductive and a little weird. Until…

The Audience

I don’t know what was going on with the audience participation stuff. It is not fun or even amusing to watch if you are not in a theater, participating live. Watching it during the show was jarring, and totally pointless. If you are not familiar with ROCKY HORROR, then it probably just confused you.

Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX
Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX

Dr. Frank-N-Furter

The biggest change in FOX’s version is Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the role made iconic by Tim Curry, and played by men in stagings since. FOX selected Laverne Cox as Frank. I love Laverne Cox. I think she is beautiful, well spoken, and a great actress. Not a great singer, but a serviceable one. But as far as I am concerned, she is a woman, and her casting felt like a stunt. Transgender is very different than transvestite. So seeing a beautiful woman, dressed as a woman, singing about being a “Sweet Transvestite” is awkward. “I’m not much of a man by the light of day, but by night I’m one hell of a lover” has a different meaning when sung by a woman – even if that woman was born male.

Frank-N-Furter being played by a woman also changes the overall illicitness of the film. The movie ends with Janet ending up with Rocky, and Frank ending up with Brad (more or less). Instead of being a hetero and a homosexual couple, it is two heterosexual couples. While having a trans woman in the lead role is still rather subversive, at the end of the day, everyone ends up in “traditional” gender roles.

The rest of the cast is fine. Not great, not terrible, but fine.

Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX
Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX

Janet

I actually really liked Victoria Justice as Janet – she is a stronger singer than Susan Sarandon, but I thought she gave into the pleasures of the flesh much faster than she should have.

Brad

Ryan McCartan was probably the most lackluster cast member. He wasn’t as gawky or awkward as Barry Bostwick was. Instead, he was just bland. He is the only cast member I had never heard of before, and now I know why. A Disney channel actor, he doesn’t seem to have any sort of personality to speak of, which would explain why I haven’t heard of him.

Riff Raff

Reeve Carney’s Riff Raff was actually great, except for the singing. He has a beautiful voice, but he missed Richard O’Brien’s signature growls, especially at the beginning of “Time Warp.” Also, he had a terrible, cheap wig that looked like someone grabbed it from a Halloween shop.

Magenta, Columbia, Eddie, Rocky, and Dr. Scott

They were all fine. I wasn’t thrilled that they changed Columbia’s outfit (a tutu instead of hotpants? No top hat?) or in Rocky’s outfit (gold boxer shorts instead of teeny tiny briefs) but otherwise they didn’t make much of an impact either way.

Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX
Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX

The Criminologist

It’s Tim Curry. He’s fantastic.

The Time Warp

They totally changed the choreography of “The Time Warp.” The jump to the left was okay, but after that, it got all kinds of fancy and was in no way recognizable as the Time Warp. Since this, at one point, was supposed to be a live stage production, they got real dancers to be the Transylvanians, and they are doing flips and twists and all manner of fancy choreography. The point of the Time Warp is that anyone can do it: “It’s just a jump to the left – and a step to the right.” I even did a version of it on ice skates when I was a figure skater. There is no way I could do FOX’s version on the ice.

Back-Up Singers

During “The Time Warp” and a few other musical numbers, legit backup singers, complete with microphones, show up. Does this harken back to the production almost being live? I have never seen THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW live; are there backup singers in the stage production?

Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX
Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX

Cannibalism

They completely cut out the part where Frank-N-Furter reveals the group had been eating Eddie at dinner. That is a pretty significant scene. Instead, Frank reveals that Eddie is dead in the dinner table, but they cut away before they reveal his missing leg and Frank-N-Furter doesn’t announce to the clan that they were eating human flesh. Is cannibalism that big of a taboo that a network can’t mention it?

Elbow Sex

I only noticed Riff Raff and Magenta have “elbow sex” once, near the end. Were other “elbow sex” scenes cut for time or because of the incestuous implications?

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