Hit TV series "Glee," Fox's weekly jukebox musical, trotted out its hyped Britney Spears episode tonight. Like last season's Madonna episode, the second episode of season two featured the show's high school show choir kids performing Britney Spears songs tied together with a loose narrative about self-empowerment and loosening up.
What did you think of the episode?
The episode, titled "Britney/Brittany," spotlighted the dancing talent of Heather Morris, the blond actress who plays breathy airhead cheerleader Brittany Pierce. As we saw during the "Glee" tour's stop in Rosemont last May, Morris is a strong, forceful dancer. Her resume includes backing up Beyonce and Tina Turner. The first Britney dream sequence -- most of the Britney songs performed were the result of characters having dental anesthesia-induced hallucinations (which also resulted in one cute "David After Dentist" reference) -- probably confused some viewers. Was that Britney, or Brittany? The later was true (as in the photo at left), but Morris aped the real starlet so distinctly it wasn't always easy to tell.
The real Britney did appear, even spoke a few lines, but only briefly in the dream sequences. She was used as an icon, a figurehead, a source of inspiration for the kids to express themselves and for everyone to relax their inhibitions. Which they did. No doubt some parents tonight lost any last remaining bits of faith in the show, somewhere between the mention of frottage and the pasty fro-headed boy's simulated masturbation, twice.
Dominatrix cheer coach Sue Sylvester warned against such madness, telling Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) that a depraved riot would break out if the glee club performed a Britney Spears song at the school's homecoming assembly. Chicago-area actress Jane Lynch, who plays Sylvester, got to deliver this little rant of slightly revised local history: "That's what one Hubert Humphrey said back in 1968 at the start of the Democratic National Convention, but then hippies put acid in everyone's bourbon and when an updraft revealed Lady Bird Johnson's tramp stamp and tattoos above her ovaries, Mayor Richard J. Daley became so incensed with sexual rage that he punched his own wife in the face and spent the next hour screaming, 'Sex party!' into the microphones of all three major networks."
The weird part: The narrative managed to make Britney Spears' music seem dangerous -- a good thing in terms of pop and rock and roll's history of pushing buttons -- and then harnessed that very danger for a message of individuality and empowerment. It was both exciting and deflating.
Drawbacks: Each of the Britney songs, except the assembly presentation of "Toxic," was a slightly scrubbed re-creation of Spears' respective video. "Glee" previously has been more creative than that in its plumbing of pop music. "Slave 4 U" and "Me Against the Music" were just clones with unusually high production values for TV. Only the football fight song reading of "Stronger" by Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) rose above the baseline. The show closed with its only non-Britney song: "The Only Exception" by Paramore, sung by Rachel Berry (Lea Michele).