My hopes for Smash's precarious sophomore season were dashed the split second the third episode began as Katharine McPhee sang a poprock song in a halfshirt on a platform for a throng of admirers and capped it off with a little crowd surfing. I thought this was a show about making a Broadway musical... not about creating a pop star?! The new character Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan), prepping for a pitch to powerful director Derek, announces just before the opening titles that "one shot is all we need". Unfortunately for Smash, it's had several of them and still isn't hitting its mark.
2.3 "The Dramaturg"
This week's episode, which felt mostly like connective filler to get us to the new season plotlines after the debut's efforts to tie off last season's storylines, mostly involved auditions though the writers didn't find a way to make that a thematic core. It played like a coincidence across multiple stories: Ivy auditioned for the Cecile role (the Uma Thurman role) in some sort of revival of Dangerous Liaisons; Jimmy and Kyle pitched their embryonic musical "Hit List" to Derek, Derek intended to re-audition for The Wiz producers who fired him in the last episode but was side-tracked by Julia's book changes. She was basically auditioning to keep her job by adding "heat" to the show (i.e. more focus on Marilyn Monroe's upwardly mobile sexuality; enter JFK). The changes were suggested by new dramaturg Peter (impossibly handsome Daniel Sunjata) who is no stranger to Broadway himself, having cut a very fine figure in the Tony winning baseball drama Take Me Out some years ago.
In my very limited experience with theater and theater people I understand dramaturgy to be a respected craft that functions like great editing, fine tuning and sculpting pre-existing material and jettisoning stuff that doesn't work. (A good dramaturg is EXACTLY what Smash needs.) Smash implies (at least for now) that it's more like vicious ghost-writing / script-doctoring so naturally this new character Peter is an asshole. Just like all the men on Smash. I do not need characters to be "likeable" to enjoy a show (hello Mad Men) but if they are all going to be hateful they need to be complex enough to fascinate me. There is no one on this show to root for beyond Ivy (whose self-pity is wearying). We're supposed to root for Karen but she literally complains and sighs and rolls her eyes every time we see her in a rehearsal scene which suggests that she DOES NOT WANT TO WORK TO CREATE A SHOW... so why should we root for her to star in a series about the making of a show?
Set List: (Originals) "Party" (McPhee), "Our Little Secret" (Ovenden), "Moving the Line" briefly (McPhee/Hilty); Jukebox: "Dancing on My Own" sung as a dirge (Hilty); Showtunes: "Soon as I Get Home" (Hudson).
B♡BBY: Wesley Taylor was not in this episode. Hmmmm. Coincidence that it was a terrible episode? I think not!
Best Moment: Ivy finally wakes up and speaks the truth before walking away from a Derek landmine "You're doubting yourself. You don't do that remember? And neither should I."
Worst Moment: God, take your pick? This episode was all over the place. But I have to go with the weird cagey subplot about some sort of violent dude in Jimmy & Kyle's past. Zzzz. Don't care about this. Want more Ivy, Derek, Tom & Julia with a little piece of B♡bby (and okay he can bring Karen along) on the side.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SAVE THIS SHOW? (Artistically, I mean. It's doomed ratings-wise.)