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Smash: "The Fringe"

When I first heard the title of the new Smash episode was "The Fringe" I was all 'grrl, whaaa?' since Smash is safe and exceedingly polished (the show has always looked great and well funded whatever you want to say about the writing and acting) whereas most Fringe shows are kind of the ultimate clichés of scrappy underfunded hot messes. Surprised I am but I report that this week's episode turned out to be the best of the season thus far.

2.6  "The Fringe"
What's the buzz ♫ tell me what's-a-happening? Eileen has opted for the more commercial version of "Bombshell" and Julia is horrified that her favorite song "Never Give All The Heart" might now be cut. Derek in a petulant fit quits the show. Jimmy in a petulant fit quits his show (for like ½ a day). Karen in a dead-eyed fit (there are no other kinds for her) sneaks out to perform in "Hit List" which is kind of a back-door way of quitting her show. Julia in a sulky fit vaguely suggests she might quit her show. (Ivy is too much of a professional to quit her show but it's so bad you know she wants to...) Is all this quitting brilliant self parody and meta commentary on the episode by episode erosion of Smash's audience? more

Set List: Originals: "A Letter From Cecile" (Hilty),"This Will Be Our Year" (McPhee, Jordan, Mientus, and cast),  "Never Give All The Heart" (McPhee), "Heart Shaped Wreckage" (McPhee & Jordan); Jukebox/Showtunes: none.
B♡BBY:Let me just share a screen shot because I'm always glad when he's there even if it's just as scenery.

Worst Moment: Derreck quitting "Bombshell". So much of Smash's "drama" feels inauthentic to me like a terrible fusion of drama queen realness and bad writing but that scene was especially ludicrous. None of the characters on this show make much sense from episode to episode anymore.
Best Moment: I can't believe I'm saying this. I repeat I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M SAYING THIS... but there was something about the blatant Baz Luhrmann rip off set with its Pepsi-Cola backdrop instead of the famous Coke sign that made me smile. There was something about the fringe smallness in the middle of Smash's big scale that made me feel generous toward it. There was something about Karen and Jimmy walking toward each other (my two least favorite characters!) singing a good song "Heart Shaped Wreckage" while Derek looked on that made me suddenly interested again. It was like I was one of those bored extra reporters looking up from their boredom in the "Letter From Cecile" scene when Megan Hilty chucked caution to the wind and really dug comically into her Liaisons number just to wake them up. 
GradeB because this episode woke me up.

Look, maybe I'm grading on a curve because the second season has been atrocious but whatever. It's not technically forgiveable (Seriously, showrunners... there are calendars. And rules!) to wait six episodes for something that feels like plot movement but there exists more highly praised longer running shows that do this all the time and people allow them to continue airing! I'm going to be sad when Smash is cancelled on account of there not being anything like it on the TV landscape but I want the sadness to be earned so I was glad that this episode had a pulse and intriguing moments! 

Cecile (Hilty) & Cecile (Uma)

P.S. Do you think Uma Thurman is weirded out by Smash's obsession with her? First she was the big multi-episode guest star last season as a talent-deficient famous movie star (not exactly a flattering gig) and now Megan Hilty is upstaging her Cecile role from Dangerous Liaisons by way of musical comedy aplomb?

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Reader Comments (21)

FYI..."This Will Be Our Year" is actually a cover of a song by The Zombies.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

This was actually a pretty decent episode. Hopefully it's part of a streak that lasts until the end.

Ivy is finally going to be Marilyn AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE GODDAMN FIRST PLACE so i'm happy for that alone. Liasons is a fun place for the show to visit for the time being though. (Sidenote: has anyone heard Megan's new album yet? it's quite lovely.) Plus, i'm waiting for Bernadette Peters to come back so i can finally see Hang the Moon performed. It should be very beautiful if it's done right.

Even though I Believe in Tom Levitt, isn't sort of ludicrous for him to suddenly become a director with no prior experience? I know the show has been leading to this and he probably learned some stuff from directors of his other shows and Derek, but it still is a bit hard to swallow.

I'm still meh on Hit List (the songs all sound like stuff from Kelly Clarkson's "maybe" pile) but Heart Shaped Wreckage was really nice. I guess the staging helped. I couldn't figure out for the longest time why i liked the staging but then STRICTLY BALLROOM popped in my head to relieve me. Baz makes everything better.

That wig on McPhee though. Damn, girl.

and Jimmy. ugh. I swear, he's such a big dick, it's almost pornographic. I always cringe when something goes wrong with Hit List because it'll always lead to some bitchfit/tantrum from him.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

I can't stand karen with her "derek!" (everytime time something happens) anymore. are they married?

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

As much as I liked that Fringe number, I really wanted Jimmy to walk over and stand on what looked like train tracks and get hit by a runaway locomotive. That character is just worthless. And his singing is just OK.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I keep forgetting to watch this show! I've been home every single Tuesday for the last five weeks and I keep forgetting that this thing is on. I want to watch it, really I do. And now you tel me there's some sort of Dangerous Liaisons thing going on? Oh man, I'm annoyed with myself.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAR

And is it mean to talk about how strangely flat and bland Condola Rashad was? There's something about this show that just sucks the talent out of almost everyone (Hilty and Borle being the main exceptions).

I don't think Derek quitting was that out of left field. He's been pretty pissed with the direction the show had been going, first Elaine out as producer and Jerry in, then choosing the wrong script, cutting songs, restaging songs without his permission, etc.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

jimmy has been such a dick that a) the audience no longer cares about him b) he deserves a big payback for all his bad behavior and c) it will be absolutely ridiculous when the writers make him a nice guy, as they will have to do.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterverbocityeric

Easily the best episode of the new season, and because (lo and behold) they finally actually SHOW talented, creative people doing creative things! On a show about mounting a Broadway musical! AMAZING! Seriously, though, the scene with Tom restaging "Never Give All the Heart" and all the drama about which version of the show they should be doing is EXACTLY the sort of stuff that Smash should be about. It was pretty much the only thing that really worked about Season 1, so I'm hoping that it just took this long to press the reset button and we will be seeing a lot more of this stuff from here on out. Stick to your strengths, Smash! Even if it means more of Anjelica Huston throwing drinks into people's faces! (I'm serious. Bring Ellis back for one scene just so she can throw a mug of beer in his face and all will be forgiven.) And especially if it means FINALLY having Megan Hilty/Ivy in the role of Marilyn where she belongs. He may be an ass, but at least Jerry had the chutzpah to point out the big, brunette, charisma-free elephant in the room (it's an expression, not a comment on McPhee's figure, which is lovely). McPhee's voice is more made for the pop-rock tunes of Hit List than it is for the classic Broadway stylings of Bombshell anyway. And she's Derek's muse (I'm still holding onto my theory that his is because she's such a blank slate. Prove me wrong, Smash! Prove me wrong!), so where he goes, he'll make her follow.

Derek's big blow-up felt perfectly in character to me - he and Tom have a history, and he's always been sensitive about people butting their noses in to his vision. I found it totally believable that he would quit after Tom restaged the number to veer away from his vision, especially since Jerry was forcing him to do a version of the show he didn't want to do (anymore). I also like that, if the previews are to be believed, Tom doesn't turn out to be a genius (or possibly even competent) director.

Also: Bobby's BACK, bitches! Any episode with Bobby automatically gets a half-letter grade boost, yes?

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Doesn't Bobby look nice in a tank top?

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I do feel bad that NBC sunk this show by keeping it off air so long and then giving it a lead-in with a 1.0 rating. Eh... it may still pull off some Emmy nominations.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Best episode so far because it focused more on the making of a show within a show, but jimmy is irredeemable at this point it's like writers stop making him such a dick just for the sake of generating conflict , there are better ways to do this.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRami

And there it is, SMASH essentially cancelled; it will finish its second season on SATURDAY nights.

And people will get to bitch on and on about how musicals (Glee, Smash, etc) suck in serialized television.

On the series itself: it wants to be too much at the same time and juggle every genre and every character and give the spotlight to five different people at once. After those two good first episodes on this season, it returned to its old ways. What a mess.


March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Would be so nice to see :
Ivy back as Marilyn where she belongs
Droopy eyed Karen and dreary Derek out in the Fringe where they belong
Tom directing his and Julia's baby
Eileen producing
Jerry out the back door
Bombshell a hit on broadway!! Yay!!!

Of course there will be a spanner or two in the works. Ivy won't want to come back. Julia and Tom will fall out as that new guy weasels his way further into her life. Jerry will pull the funding while Hit List will be a huge hit once Jesse L. Martin gets his magic "Rent" paws into the show. Oh and if Ellis comes back there's bound to be some shenanigans.

Things are definitely looking up...

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Yay! Jesse L. Martin! Please let him have some songs. He could have all Jimmy's songs, because the only way Jimmy can redeem himself with me is with His Death.

And Ivy is just so darn cute in Liaisons. I like that she got to do a little comic bit, revealing more of her range and skills.

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Karen got the perfect match in Jimmy. He's as annoying as she. Go do "hit list" on a out of town run and leave the show please!

I loved Ivy's number as Cecile. Amazing!

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVinicius

Condola Rashad didn't play Ellis's "girlfriend" last season. That was weird.

This Saturday move is so embarrassing. To all the show's musical talent and potential, and to the masochistic fans of this silly show (myself included). I really wanted to see this show succeed, but with shitty showrunners who don't know what they're doing or want to do, this is what you get. Now it's double doses of reality crap like "Celebrity Apprentice," "Ready for Love," and "The Voice" from now until May. Be careful what you wish for, viewers.

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRicky

Wait, I thought that "Dangerous Liaisons" was a play? A serious play that the Glenn Close movie was based on? And there's the French novel or something too? Is this also some musical comedy that I'm not aware of?

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBilly V.

Glad you enjoyed this episode, Nathaniel. I really got into it. I am loving The Hit List though I enjoy Jordan far more than you do, it seems.

About character consistency, it's not just between episodes. It's even during them! Are we supposed to believe that Julia, who was furious that Bombshell was going the commercial route, is now totally on-board now that Tom is directing?

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Also, interesting point about ripping off Strictly Ballroom (which I haven't seen), but I sorta figured the Pepsi-Cola sign was an allusion to the one on the East River in NYC, which I thought was yet another nice way to emphasize the show's New York location.

One last thing I thought of: those of you into Bobby do know that he has a weekly web series, It Could Be Worse, right?

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

This site is turning into a twin favorite forum for me along with the Television Without Pity Smash Bitch-fest! Nathaniel, thanks for saying EVERYTHING I thought about this episode. And what a joy to see all the agreement in the 'LETTER V OF THE ALPHABET BOOK-NESS OF KATHARINE MCPHEE AS AN ACTRESS: VAPID. VACUOUS. VACANT. A LETTER V TRIPLE THREAT!' All over the McPhee-love sites the McPhans are slobbering over how they can't wait until their special snowflake Karen gets together with sleazy Derek, because....'OOOOOOH, they have so much CHEMISTRY!' The only chemistry I see, as far as Karen goes, is what happens to a dead body after a few days in the elements. So anyway. Remember, I banned my cat, Wilson, from watching Smash with me because he hacks up hairballs whenever McPhee is on the screen, but this week I forgot to lock him behind the pocket doors, and there he was, in my room, jumped up on the bed and watched. Watched the whole thing. And when Ivy did her terrific solo, he did one of those things that cats sometimes do....he purred so loudly that it was sort of like a loud harummmmmmphy type thing. Obviously pure contentment. I love that cat. He's wise, and wonderful, and discerning.

March 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeattle Girl

They're setting it up so Karen can go do The Hit List with Derek and the boys, and so Ivy Lynn - whose Liaisons is clearly going to crash and burn - can return to Marilyn in BOMBSHELL where she belonded the entire time. I mean, it's telling that they've never gotten McPhee to recreate any of the musical numbers that Hilty knocked outta the park like "Let's Be Bad", "I Never Met a Wolf", and "Big White Baby Grand". Or have they and I didn't noticed because she's such a snooze.

March 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

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