The days of hate-watching are over. First season Smash may have been dumb, but it was, at least occasionally, interesting.
It’s not that I don’t hate the new season. I do, but it’s no longer entertaining, and whereas before I could sort of tune-out the stupid, or groan through it until they went into some Broadway-like musical number, I can no longer even do that.
To begin with they’ve made Grace Julia super annoying. Granted she was no picnic last year either. Good that they jettisoned her husband and son though I didn’t mind Shrek so much. The forty-year old boy who still lived at home with them was awful. If they’d just cast someone who looked sixteen, and acted sixteen, maybe viewers wouldn’t have gotten so pissed off about it. The homelife versus crazy-world-of-theater could have worked. A realistic look at the pressures of being the playwright’s spouse could have been interesting. In fact, All About Eve was told from the spouse’s outsider point-of-view. Frank as narrator, or even telling the story from multiple characters’ points of view would have, at least, been different.
Julia’s cheating with a charisma-challenged blank-slate was not a sympathy builder either. But this season she’s become even worse in every epsiode – shrill, neurotic, unattractive. I understand the character is supposed to be based on the show’s now fired, creator and former showrunner. The lady should sue.
Also disappointing is poor Tom. The one truly “likeable” character in the whole show is now reduced to playing the magical gay-man. They sent away his boyfriend, and reduced him to being a teller of hard truths and asexual friend to needy straight women. He exists as Julia’s roommate and confidant, Ivy’s friend, and the person who stands up to Derrick. What a waste! Not only of a good character, but of the very talented Christian Borle. They should be trying to get his character into musical numbers. One of last year’s highlights was his performance of Don’t Say Yes.
Last year’s focus on the production of a single show was not a mistake and gave the story a focus although the Karen versus Ivy rivalry was ludicrous, especially as Ms McPhee’s dramatic shortcomings became more apparent. This year there’s nothing to wrap the drama around. It’s like they’ve thrown in a million subplots hoping one or two will stick, plus references and shout outs to Season One.
Take last night’s ending (please). Ellis? I don’t care about Ellis. Clearly, Ellis was working for someone. Didn’t we already know or suspect it was Eileen’s ex? Is that reveal really a big cliff-hanger?
As for the new song-writer, the character makes no sense nor does that of his loyal lyricist, or the mysterious nature of their bond, which will no doubt involve another reveal. Are they step-siblings from the same abusive family, were they raised together in an ophenage from which they both escaped after knocking out an abusive matron? Who cares? What is clear is that drugs are bad and Jimmy’s use will have consequences, and maybe Karen’s heart will be broken again, or broken for the first time as she didn’t seem all that shattered by her break up with Dev.
While I’ve read a few reviews praising the new music, I really couldn’t stand last night’s song. Reminded me of Billy Joel, maybe because they actually played a Billy Joel song earlier in the episode (yeech) and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The producers should be aware that some people have a very strong aversion to Billy Joel and have been known to run out of shopping malls when his songs come on. If NBC doesn’t think Broadway-like show tunes are going to appeal to a wide audience, they should just cancel the whole shebang and put it out of its misery.
As for Jennifer Hudson’s Veronica Moore, and her mother, why are we supposed to care? There’s no build up to the character. She arrives a star. The question is whether or not she will break away from her good-girl image under mamma’s tutelage. But what are the stakes? Where’s the drama? Might I suggest the writers watch Gypsy to see a “real” stage mother in action and the havoc she wreaks (no pun intended) on the lives of her children? Or better yet, see The Hard Way? That’s a 1943 melodrama in which Ida Lupino plays a stage “big sister” who runs her talented younger sister’s life and career. It was based on the relationship between Ginger Rogers and her ambitious mom.
Karen continues to be a cypher, and will be no matter how they write her as long as she’s played by Katherine (Frozen Face) McPhee. While they’ve made Ivy somewhat less self-destructive, and finally gave her a career break, unless we start seeing Liaisons rehearsals and numbers, it won’t help Smash.
In fact, maybe they should jettison everything and everyone except for Tom and Ivy. Get Tom a job directing Liaisons and make the whole season about Ivy’s big break, and Tom’s directorial debut. Give us some great new production numbers and set up professional and personal tension and rivalry between these two old friends, maybe via an overly ambitious bisexual chorus boy who’s playing them both in his own quest for fame. If you want you could even throw in an increasingly insecure Veronica Moore, trying to shake her good-girl image and miscast as Madame de Tourvel or even the Marquise. Will she make it to opening night? That would be my Hail Mary pass to save Smash.