Great performances could have redeemed the mess and justified the decision to pre-shoot it. Alas, they never materialize. Cox’s suffers most from the weight of what came before her: As the original Frank-N-Furter, in film and on stage, Tim Curry exuded both sex and danger. There was no question he could both arouse and consume you if he wanted—his giant jaw might unhinge and devour some part of your body, literally or figuratively. (Speaking of which, apparently Fox thought overt cannibalism was a bridge to far for network TV, Hannibal be damned. At least it makes the fate of poor Eddie—Adam Lambert—a little bit more palatable.) Cox, however, never makes Frank truly unsettling or malevolent. On Orange Is The New Black, she shines most when she’s tasked with naturalistic drama. Rocky Horror doesn’t allow for that, and it appears she hasn’t yet mastered how to go broad, resulting in a one-note interpretation that’s hampered by the mid-Atlantic accent she adorns. The costuming also doesn’t do her any favors. When she sings “don’t get strung out by the way I look” in “Sweet Transvestite,” the lyric makes little sense. Curry’s Frank was askew from the minute he strutted into frame. His corset was barely laced up; his fishnets were ripped. Cox, meanwhile, is completely glamorous. She’s working the Beyoncé fabulousness of her garments, but the flawless-queen aesthetic doesn’t make sense in this context.


And then there’s Victoria Justice as wide-eyed Janet Weiss, whose trip to the castle prompts a sexual awakening. The former Nickelodeon star is never convincingly innocent or frightened at the story’s outset, nor does she fully embrace her character’s lustful transformation. She cries out that she wants to be “dirty,” but nothing implies that she’s actually experiencing carnal pleasures. Perhaps Justice felt restrained by the generally chaste tone of the endeavor. It’s unclear why Fox—which airs Scream Queens and Empire, after all—was so afraid of putting sex and gore on screen. Those shows are far more sensual and, in the case of the former, explicitly macabre, than anything Ortega and company offer. Was it an attempt to keep the TV musical family-friendly? Because, if so, Fox picked the wrong project to redo.

Does anyone get it right? Ryan McCartan is endearing as Brad, and Annaleigh Ashford is a hoot as Columbia. Legendary theater veteran Ben Vereen is also a welcome addition when he wheels in as Dr. Scott. And then there’s Curry himself, in the role of the narrator-figure, The Criminologist. It’s heartening to see Curry in action, given that he suffered a stroke back in 2012—if only Fox could have better honored his legacy. The original Rocky Horror Picture Show is schlock in the best possible sense. This is just trash.