In a dream, Brittany (Heather Morris) dreamed of performing as Britney Spears.
The first ten minutes or so of last night's Glee — that would be the one with Britney Spears, both in person and in music — had good reason to exist. Namely: Heather Morris.
Morris is the gem who plays Glee's own ditzy Brittany, who came out of nowhere to lay down deadpan lines ("Did you know dolphins are just gay sharks?") with such seemingly unknowing panache that she quickly became a fan favorite. (I've heard creator Ryan Murphy tell the story a couple of times about her suggesting she wanted acting lessons, which he nixed on the basis that her untrained blankness is perfectly hilarious.)
Morris didn't come on Glee to be hilarious, really — she came on as a dancer. Specifically, she'd been on tour in the past with Beyonce, as one of the "Single Ladies" backup dancers. (On tour, not in the video.) Until last night, she hasn't had a proper showcase, because in dance sequences, she's generally either relegated to a backup role while someone else performs, or she's performing with the rest of the club, none of whom are great dancers capable of doing what she can do.
Early on, last night's episode gave a long showcase to her dancing, which was great fun. But unfortunately, after that, as the various members of the cast used dental anesthesia to give themselves Spears-based hallucinations, the Britney numbers served little purpose. Who needed Lea Michele as Rachel, doing a near shot-for-shot remake of "Baby One More Time"? It wasn't that it was terrible, but ... why?
Previous themed episodes haven't given up quite so completely on any presentation of a story of any kind — the Lady Gaga episode, remember, was the same one where Kurt's dad got in a rumble with Finn over Finn's treatment of Kurt. Moreover, both the Gaga episode and the Madonna episode found reasons for the characters to take an interest in the musicians as icons. Lady Gaga is culturally interesting. So is Madonna. You can credibly have Kurt talk about how significant they are without damaging his character. But why would Kurt care about Britney Spears? Having all the Glee kids suddenly decide they were wildly excited about performing "Toxic" (that would be "Toxic" from 2004, when Kurt was about ten) just didn't make as much sense, so the stunt nature of the episode was extra-pronounced.
Britney herself? Eh. She showed up in a Cheerios uniform, and it was cute and all, but she didn't really do anything. At least the Madonna episode didn't waste an actual appearance by Madonna.
I don't hold it against Glee that they experiment with this stuff. But this experiment left me entirely cold — even Heather Morris reading twenty Brittany lines instead of, say, the three best ones she might drop in a regular episode didn't satisfy, particularly. It was great to see her dance. It was great to see her get a shot at the spotlight. It just would have been better if her showcase had been part of a real show.