I'm back, Internet! My hiatus forced me to watch both "Brittany/Britney" AND "Grilled Cheesus" after they aired, so bear with me as I try to get the SHE BLOGGO schedule back on track. First things first: the RBI Report for the Britney Spears Episode!
"Brittany/Britney" (written and directed by Ryan Murphy)
This one has Ryan Murphy's fingerprints all over it. Banner episode, good music numbers, and contrived storylines abounding - classic Ryan! I won't lie, there was a touch of lingering disappointment in the air when I finished watching this episode.
What frustrates me with Ryan's episodes is that when he works backwards from a desired effect, he goes about it in a way that makes no sense whatsoever. This is how I always feel manipulated when I cry at the payoffs - the shoddy setup always makes me feel like it was unearned. Yes, Rachel's rendition of "The Only Exception" was beautiful, but did it make me like Rachel and Finn as a couple? No, because the conflict that got them to that point was ridiculous. They don't seem all that happy together, and I find their carousel of fabricated drama tiring. The truth of the matter is that Ryan wanted an excuse to make Rachel Berry dress like the "sexy schoolgirl" for "Baby One More Time," and forced the conflict by having Finn criticize her dress. In doing so, he completely desecrated the "sad clown hooker" scene from "Hairography" which is actually really touching. Not only that, but there have been a few Rachel outfits that already border on sexy schoolgirl, so why the stretch?
The same goes for Will's storyline. In what universe has Will Schuester ever been uptight? He started a boy band, for Pete's sake. He shakes his ass in the faces of his students. He made out with Shelby Corcoran after having known her for thirty seconds. The man is not uptight. Yet in order to make Britney Spears music "work," Ryan tried to build the whole episode on this shaky assumption. What's frustrating is there could have been a million other believable reasons why Schuester got his panties in a twist over Britney. We were willing to believe that Carl would deliver anesthesia for simple teeth cleanings, so I have to imagine we'd go along for the ride on other counts that don't sacrifice character consistency. This is a musical comedy. There are no rules when it comes to reality in a musical. However, it's still a scripted television show, and there are rules when it comes to character development. (I'm not even going to go near how much of an ass Will was to Carl in this episode. They're really tanking his likeability.)
My worry about Ryan's episodes is that they perhaps are microcosms of the show itself. He puts forth this huge novelty, and we forgive him for the missteps because of the incredible concept. They usually come in the form of a positive message, a mind-blowing musical number, or an ode to an artist, and are amazing enough to make us forget the little things. Which is why I'm writing this RBI Report with a twinge of guilt for ragging on the episode so much.
Of course, this duality of Ryan Murphy does mean there also are an abundance of positives about the episode. I loved the choice to strip down "Toxic," and only wish we got to see more of it during the episode. Frankly, I was surprised and elated by the scene with Finn, Quinn, and Rachel at the end. Kudos for side-stepping an actual seduction (because, eyeroll) and developing the intriguing Rachel/Quinn dynamic that they dropped in the Back 9. Well done, all around.
The writing for Santana and Brittany in this episode was spot-on (is it just me or are Naya Rivera's line deliveries severely underrated?) and I almost wish they had gotten a storyline in the foreground instead of Will and Emma. The Britney cameos were well-done, and distributed appropriately, and on the whole, I thought the episode treated Britney and her place in music history realistically and respectfully. Artie singing "Stronger" was also a pleasant surprise.
My brain hurts too much to write a conclusion for this. I'll just say this: when I rewatch "Brittany/Britney" in future, I'll probably watch the musical numbers, the classroom scenes, and the Finn/Quinn/Rachel scene. And I'll be happy in that little Britney bubble.