Depending on your angle, the rumor that Fox’s Glee may take on the classic rock opera Tommy, by The Who, is perplexing or enthralling.
According to a report by The Chicago Tribune, the musical series aims to follow up its last full stage-to-small-screen attempt, The Rocky Horror Glee Show, with a tribute episode for Tommy. And before any Who fans get riled up, word has it lead guitarist Pete Townshend and frontman Roger Daltry not only approve, but they’re likely to actually appear on the episode as well.
The 1975 film version of the rock opera starred Daltry as the titular Tommy, “a deaf, dumb, and blind boy” who “sure plays a mean pinball.” (Yes, those are the lyrics of one of the film’s most iconic songs, “Pinball Wizard.”) Ann-Margaret famously played Tommy’s mother, to critical applause and an Oscar win. The film also saw cameos from the Music Industry and Hollywood elite: Eric Clapton, Jack Nicholson, and even Tina Turner as the infamous Acid Queen. The musical and film both delve into incredibly dark territory: drugs, insanity, religious cults, abuse, murder, baked beans baths. The usual.
Much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the subject matter and iconic moments in Tommy are just a little outside Glee’s high school lens, and when the series took on a sanitized, kid-gloves version of the Tim Curry musical the backlash was loud and harsh. Rocky Horror’s creator, Richard O’Brein told a New Zealand website he was “disappointed” that the series “diluted” the content of the musical, pointing out specifically that the series substituted the word “tranny” for “transvestite.”
GLAAD’s Matt Kane also expressed his distaste at the way the series handled what many fans considered “mature” themes: “This inclusion of this slur is particularly alarming given last season’s powerful episode in which Kurt’s father chastised Finn for using the word ‘f*g,'” he wrote.
The inclusion of both Daltry and Townshend is encouraging, but the series’ track record suggests that the writers and cast may not have the ability to tackle a classic full of such sensitive material in a way that’s true to the original.
Do you think it’s possible for Glee to successfully take on Tommy?