Advertisement

Advertisement

HOT TOPICS



Advertisement

NOW PLAYING

in theaters



review index

new on DVD/BluRay

Welcome

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

Powered by Squarespace
What'cha Looking For?
Comment Fun

COMMENT DU JOUR
Missi Pyle's Oscar Memoir!

ME N OSCAR

 "Amazing. Missi is freaking hilarious! Keeping it real at the Oscars…love it!" -Lindsay

"I died a little when I saw that Chastain picture... The best of luck to Missi. And, girl, you're fun!" -Fadhil

all of Missi Pyle's guest posts

 

Beauty vs. Beast

don't read and drive!


GONE WITH THE WIND POLL - Have you voted?

Keep TFE Strong

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

Subscribe
« Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Wizard of Oz" | Main | Somewhere Over the Link Roll »
Wednesday
Mar062013

Smash: "The Song" & "The Read-Through"

What's happening on SMASH: They're trying to make Jennifer Hudson happen.Sometime last week between episodes four and five of Smash's ill-fated second season I had an unhappy epiphany: I was no longer looking forward to new episodes of "Smash". Last season, when everyone else was 'hate-watching' I was actually unironically enjoying. Yes, it had issues but where else were you going to see showtunes on TV? And besides, MANY shows have troubled first seasons as they find their voice. Bunheads, for example, recently leapfrogged from 'who-is-this-for?' curio to must-watch in the final episodes of its first season.

Yet, for all of my "Support the Musicals!" blog fervor, Smash is now a chore. They've basically cut the staged musical numbers and all we're left with is solos on bare stages or by pianos, usually by Jennifer Hudson. "The Song" as an episode was, and I couldn't believe it, a Jennifer Hudson concert. That was the plot! She's a fine singer but not a good actress and therefore hardly worth tuning into as the lead of a serialized scripted television. (I'm as surprised as you that the show suddenly thinks of her as the lead. I thought it was a guest arc!). Smash already fell on this sword in season 1 whilst trying to make Katharine McPhee happen. 

Ivy & Karen are reduced to back-up singers... wth showrunners?

More...

I have always maintained that a show about musical theater could be an A+ kind of show, or at the very least an exciting oasis in an otherwise homogenous TV landscape where 86% of television characters are employed in four types of businesses: medicine, law enforcement, generic corporations with cubicles and the legal system. The only thing that's keeping me with Smash now is the promise of upcoming guest spots from Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters! (Card-carrying Show Queen... don't judge.)

But what's actually happening on Smash?
Many things which I’ve listed in order of Dull to Excruciating but as is the case with all weak episodic television that can’t really own itself, none of what’s happening really happens. Things that happened but didn’t happen: Veronica decides to change her image with Derek’s help, then decides against it, then decides for it but no image change is visible to us since she is now changed but ended her concert with a generically inspirational ballad that would be right at home on American Idol;  Eileen (Anjelica Huston) has given up the reigns to "Bombshell" and her ex husband Jerry has taken over as producer…but at the end of the latest episode he defers to her and let’s her determine the musical’s fate and she seems to be in charge again despite a time-waster of a government trial about her money subplot; Ivy’s (Megan Hilty) new job, playing the Uma Thurman part from Dangerous Liaisons in a Broadway revival has saddled her with a movie star (played by “Just Jack”) who doesn’t understand that  Liaisons is not a comedy and is going to make the show a disaster so she turns his head around, but then he seems even more likely to make it a disaster; with Karen's help Kyle and Jimmy catch a big break which almost doesn’t happen but then it does when Veronica sings their song on TV and they’ll now  be featured in the Fringe Festival which almost doesn’t happen but then looks like it’s going to; and finally the one plot thread that veers wildly between  dull and excruciating with moments of potential which it never quite reaches is the Julia plotline in which she attempts  to rewrite “Bombshell” but since none of the songs appear to have changed, has the show really changed? A musical is not its book. And a book is not a musical.

2.4 THE SONG 
Set List: (Originals) "I Can't Let Go" (Hudson); Jukebox: Billy Joel's "Everybody Loves You Now" (Mientus, Hudson); Showtunes: "I Got Love" (Hudson), "I Got Love Redux" (Hudson).
B♡BBY:It's clear that dumbing B♡bby, Sam, and the other dancers from the show is a sure sign that this show does not really want to be about musical theater. What is musical theater without the zing and flavor of the chorus? What is musical theater without the gays? The only gay still standing is Tom and he’s been neutered for season 2. No sex life and, more miraculously, seemingly no interest in sex which is totally against any previously written concept of this character.
Best Moment: “Everybody Loves You Now” which made the show (briefly) feel like a real musical again.
Worst Moment: No, not the moment where "Ellis" resurfaced (not literally, but he was on the phone). The moment after that when I realized that the show was actually better with him in it [GASP]. It no longer even has even has the special knife's edge danger of "so bad it's good"  to keep it lively. Now, it's just dull. 
GradeC

Karen has fallen for the male version of herself: everyone is obsessed with how awesome he is while he himself is insufferabl

2.5  THE READ THROUGH
Set List:  (Originals) "Public Relations" (Borle & McPhee), “Caught in the Storm” (Jordan); Jukebox: "Some Boys" (McPhee); Showtunes: none.
B♡BBYWesley Taylor returned for a split second, but it was only to flirt with and then diss Kyle when he didn’t like his writing. Using the gays against each other when you’ve written out all the gay stuff this season? Boo!

Best Moment: Chosen with the full knowledge/disclaimer that the show hasn’t earned this particular intrigue… but the idea that there can exist within one show “Bombshell”, two completely separate shows fighting for attention (a big glitzy spectacle about a self-made movie star and a layered drama about a woman as created /projected by a series of men) is kind of fascinating. Or would be with better writing or actual ways to show us this beyond people paying lip service to it.
Worst Moment: “Some Boys” – was like a narcotized impossibly mundane dream sequence complete with filters! -- I don’t know how it’s possible that Karen’s character has become LESS interesting (the negative of zero is…) but watching her moon haplessly over this new jerk? Pathetic. I don’t even wish this plotline on Karen, who the show has taught me to loathe for her whiney ease at getting everything she wants. Except this guy apparently who is like the male equivalent of Karen in that everyone keeps telling me he's awesome but he does nothing to earn the awesomeness. Honestly I much preferred Dev to this new guy. His political storylines dragged the show away from its raison d’etre but he wasn’t a horrible character until they decided to write him into horribility
GradeC-

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (25)

Maybe if they brought it over to Bravo? It is a very frustrating show, but, like "The Walking Dead" there is NOTHING like it on television right now. And the possibility of greatness is there... somewhere...

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I watched the first season, flaws and all, but can't bring myself to watch this one. As you pointed out, all the reasons to watch it have gone, leaving the talent they had at their disposal, floundering. Its actually worse than Glee, which jumped the shark long ago.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I'd almost rather have Ellis back than those two guys from the bar. Who cares about them? At least Ellis tangentially gave us more Anjelica Huston screentime; they just give Karen more reasons to Mary Sue up the plot.

I'm totally with you - I'm only watching at this point for Liza's guest appearance.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

"No, not the moment where "Ellis" resurfaced (not literally, but he was on the phone). The moment after that when I realized that the show was actually better with him in it [GASP]."

Exactly the same happened to me. And that's when I finally quit.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertee

UGH.

The most frustrating thing about Smash has always been that at its heart is the kernel of a GREAT television show, but it self-sabotages by running full-speed towards its worst instincts and away from everything that makes it a great show. Debra Messing and Megan Hilty are the best actors on the show (Christian Borle would be, if only Tom had something as great as that "Public Relations" number this week), so they stick them both in their own separate plots, have literally everything interesting that happens while writing the new version of Bombshell happen off-screen (including the reading - a classic example of how this show always prefers to tell instead of show, which is always the wrong thing to do), and let Ivy get completely overshadowed by JUST JACK! (sorry, I just can't be bothered to learn Sean Hayes's character's name) in yet another production where her professionalism counts for nothing.

You're absolutely right, Nathaniel: It feels like they don't even want the show to be about theater anymore, which was practically the only reason to watch in the first place! I'm literally watching this show through splayed fingers now. Aside from the Bombshell production numbers, it HUUUUUUURTS!

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Aren't Ivy and Karen two characters in the upcoming August: Osage County?

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

I'm still partially enjoying the show and i think future episodes are looking better.

Jennifer Hudson is making Katharine McPhee look like a decent actress but she can still sing the hell out of a song. "I Can't Let Go" was amazing.

Plus, did they really need a cliffhanger? Eileen is totally going to go with the commercial friendly draft of Bombshell no matter how great they SAY Julia's new version is. Plus, i'm still wondering how the hell Elizabeth Taylor fits in that version at all. Karen is going to stay on Hit List and Ivy will end up as Marilyn AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE FIRST DAMN PLACE.

I think everything revolving around Hit List is dragging the show down. UGH, Jimmy. I'd much rather spend time with Bombshell.

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

Not important, but "I got Love" is not an "original". It's from the underrated musical "Purlie". Originally sung by the incomparable Melba Moore, who won a Tony for her performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oFZV7fAbaE

March 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin P.

Brandz -- that they are.

Derreck -- i hope you're right. Smash will undoubtedly be canceleld this year so it would be so sweet to see it end with Ivy as Marilyn.

Kevin P -- thanks! I shall fix.

March 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Eugh they hired the wrong show runner everything now is so bland (I loved the first season too). There seems to be zero stakes for anyone involved save for Julia and Ivy and that has more to do with the wonderful actresses playing them than the writing itself. As Michelle Visage would say 'I'm bored'

Ps can you start doing Rupaul's Drag Race recaps again ? :)

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Completely agree with you Nat! Last year I was looking forward every new episode and for about 45 mins I was completely amazed by it, flaws and all. But this season everything is bland and uninteresting. At least we have the complete Bombshell CD!

Ps. What is it with the Liz Taylor bit? Marilyn didn't hate her. She hated the media attention Cleopatra was having so she decided to do the nude pool scene in "Something's got.."

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

Rami -- i never did RuPaul recaps although I guess I should have all along. Such a fun show. and there are movie references fairly often.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I remember some on this site or did I make them up in my head ;-)

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrami (ramification)

I'm telling you guys, watch Nashville instead! Much more interesting musical television, and a far better use of an hour of time.

Or download YouTube videos of old Tony awards ceremonies, which I love!

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Nathaniel, what was your Best Supporting Actress lineup back in '06?

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Speaking of telling instead of showing, Sex on a Stick Daniel Sunjata suggests a retreat to his house in the berkshires and then they don't show us any of it? WTF? They just come back from the reading and are all 'oh, hi, yeah, we're back, we're totally professional and just worked together profesionally. nothing unprofessional happened. let's get our read on!'

Lame.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I just finished rewatching the whole of season 1, which I liked better the second time around. The gorgeous color, the crisp and clear photography. Since I knew how the plot went, I wasn't disappointed. Season 2, I agree with what's been said. They tell rather than show, undercut the characters, and seem uninterested in the Broadway core that's the heart of it.

They seem to be like the inflexible juggernaut, that is pre-set in it's path and won't change. The plot which is telegraphed (is this spoiler, gossip, speculation?) appears to be 2 teams, team Marilyn with Tom&Jerry, Julia, the ensemble with Bobby&Jessica (yay!), and first Karen then Ivy. Team Hitlist with pop songs, has Derek, Eileen, dramaturg, Karen, and Jimmy and Kyle.

I would like to suggest, however, that in the spirit of the recent mash-up, that Jimmy gets hit by a bus and dies. Dramaturg fixes the plot, and they bring back Tom's boyfriend from national tour to sing Jimmy's part in Hitlist.

Apparently, both plays are up for Tonys, presented by Rosie O'Donnell, and Karen and Ivy are pitted against each other yet again. Oh, I wonder who the winner could be?

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I'm loving the "Which Bombshell to produce?" storyline so I actually enjoyed the fifth episode. Too bad that that storyline looks to be wrapped up in the next episode...

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Hudson's arc is over I think. So at least on that end, you won't have to be plagued by her "poor acting." I personally thought she was great opposite Sheryl Lee Ralph.

What I'm not liking is the tedium of waiting for "Bombshell" to premiere, this budding Karen/bad boy relationship between McPhee and Jeremy Jordan (make it stop, now), and Julia's scenes with the dramaturg. Ivy sidelined with that "Liaisons" flop is no better, but I'll take what I can get for Megan Hilty, since this show is utterly convinced that the star of this show can only be McPhee and no one else. Sean Hayes was a mess, though I guess that was the point. I do like Angelica Huston's arc and wish for more scenes with her opposite Michael Cristofer. And oh, if they do something "shocking" and bring back Ellis for whatever nefarious reasons, I'm gonna seriously have to cut a bitch.

I'd agree that it was better to hate-watch this show than be bored with it. Josh Safran's changes haven't amounted to much of a damn in hindsight.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan

I remember a RPDR recap, too. Or something along the lines. For like the first episode of the Sharon/Willam/Latrice season.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Nathan, ITA with every word. An instant change that would make the show a 100 times better would be to make it just about putting on Bombshell (including Ivy). But they stupidly won't do that. What a pissed-away opportunity. Too bad, cuz this is the best acting Debra has ever done.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

what kind of money is karen making?

because we see ivy doing hard work... now, karen, is she a producer? derek's 'wife'? does she get paid for that?

and we know she is a terrible waitress, always taking breaks and daydreaming.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

I'm just hanging in here until I get to see Bernadette Peters return to the show and break my heart into a million pieces when she sings "Hang the Moon" with Megan. With MEGAN. She is playing Marilyn Monroe's mother so obviously Megan Hilty's Ivy is Marilyn again. And pretty much the only other reason I'm sticking out the ride on this train wreck is Megan Hilty herself. I live 3000 miles from Carnegie Hall (where as I type these words Megan is singing a concert, and I would have sold my soul to be there....) so I will watch Smash just to hear her sing, and watch her make every scene she is in come alive. This show has been so disappointing that I am simply grieving what should have been. Decent writing, along with someone who has a bit more personality than a dead salmon as Karen might have saved this show. It should have been so good.

I've had to ban my cat, Wilson, from watching Smash with me. He literally hacked up a Rhode Island sized hairball during the Season One finale. And then.....I was merely looking at some Season 2 promos before this season began and there it was....KAREN KAREN KAREN IS AWESOME being spoon fed all over again...and crikey if he didn't hack up another one right there on my keyboard. I gave him a bath and comforted him..."It'll be OK, Wilson". But of course, it isn't really OK. We still have Katharine McPhee sucking all the air out of the television and oh too few moments with Ivy Lynn. It sucks.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeattleGirl

I'm just hanging in here until I get to see Bernadette Peters return to the show and break my heart into a million pieces when she sings "Hang the Moon" with Megan. With MEGAN. She is playing Marilyn Monroe's mother so obviously Megan Hilty's Ivy is Marilyn again. And pretty much the only other reason I'm sticking out the ride on this train wreck is Megan Hilty herself. I live 3000 miles from Carnegie Hall (where as I type these words Megan is singing a concert, and I would have sold my soul to be there....) so I will watch Smash just to hear her sing, and watch her make every scene she is in come alive. This show has been so disappointing that I am simply grieving what should have been. Decent writing, along with someone who has a bit more personality than a dead salmon as Karen might have saved this show. It should have been so good.

I've had to ban my cat, Wilson, from watching Smash with me. He literally hacked up a Rhode Island sized hairball during the Season One finale. And then.....I was merely looking at some Season 2 promos before this season began and there it was....KAREN KAREN KAREN IS AWESOME being spoon fed all over again...and crikey if he didn't hack up another one right there on my keyboard. I gave him a bath and comforted him..."It'll be OK, Wilson". But of course, it isn't really OK. We still have Katharine McPhee sucking all the air out of the television and oh too few moments with Ivy Lynn. It sucks.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeattleGirl

SeattleGirl -- your cat has such good taste

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>