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R.I.P. "Smash"

Smash, age 2, passed away on Sunday May 26th, 2013 at an undisclosed location at NBC after airing its final two-part episode "The Nominations" and "The Tony Awards". Few were there to mark its passing due to its long and quite unamusing terminal illness. Smash's difficult short life was plagued by self-sabotage, and two unfortunately common showbiz ailments: Actress Dysmorphia Disorder, in which everyone pretends that a gifted actress is NOT awesome so as to place another lesser being on a pedestal, and the no less deadly Audience Prosopagnosia in which a piece of showbiz believes it is performing for a different audience entirely than the one it's got.

Smash, television's first and now only Broadway musical series, was born on February 6th, 2012 to stubborn scarf-aficionado Theresa Rebeck but wrestled away from her and placed in the care of foster parents who, from all filmed evidence, had never set foot inside a Broadway theater, never witnessed a Tony Awards telecast and prefer American Idol Results Shows to Broadway Musicals. 

In its final death rattle on Sunday night, Smash continued to exhibit all of its usual signs of self-loathing and  mental illness: oh look another "Cute" moment about leaving your cel phone on during live theater!; oh look a lame subplot suggesting the show's best actress should chuck aside her showbiz career the second she's earned it; oh look, more encouraging of absolutely unprofessional behavior to get your way in your profession as if everyone working in musical theater is a complete sociopath and everyone else is okay with this!). In its final two hours of life Smash drifted in and out of consciousness and lucidity forgetting it was a musical and then remembering and even breaking the fourth wall (during one bizarre gay flirtation) on the way to its "Big Finish", a cute reminder that McPhee & Hilty did always sound good singing together, despite all the rest.

In the tradition of all self-immolating entertainments, Smash will be buried with the careers of several of its participants though these names are as yet undisclosed and mourners are asked to withhold petitions calling for Katharine McPhee, Jeremy Jordan, and Joshua Safran's entombment. Smash is survived by Megan Hilty (aka "Ivy Lynn"), actress, Christian Borle & Debra Messing (aka "Will & Grace" "Tom & Julia"), actors, and presumably by Anjelica Huston, diva, who survived Jack Nicholson and is rumored to be indestructible.

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Reader Comments (37)

I was dreading watching the end fearing it will be an all out tribute to Karen's fabulous talents. I only watched after reading spoilers to see who won the "Tony". Phew. At least there it was bearable.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

get over it, let's talk about a real show. where is mad men at the movies?

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

It was bad. Yes, it was bad. But I was smiling for most of the show. I'm gonna miss this crazy schizo monstrosity!

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I don't know what I would've done if Karen won the Tony.

Also, I really really really wanted to hear Daisy Parker's acceptance speech.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Ultimately, "Smash" should be remembered as a testament to several very talented actors--Christian Borle, Anjelica Huston, Megan Hilty, Andy Mientus, and especially Debra Messing, who brought every fiber of her dramatic integrity to the show and almost single-handedly saved many scenes. I actually wouldn't blame Jack Davenport, Jeremy Jordan and Katharine McPhee (!) too much, as their characters were usually written so one-note and saddled with so many impossible/unlikable storylines, even Streep and Day-Lewis would've been at sea.

As messy and soapy and problematic as the show was, I appreciated it--in a network TV sinkhole filled with singing competitions, cop procedurals, forensic detectives, serial killers, hospital soaps and lawyers, it was a genuine relief to turn on something every week that tried to be different and brave and innovative. Yes, when you're doing stunts and tricks in the air, the biggest risk is that you'll miss the trapeze, which the show did regularly; still. (And considering this week I'm seeing "Rock of Ages" on tour--yet another jukebox musical pandering to aging baby boomers/Gen-Xers,--it was so nice to see a show about the talented people who write original scores for Broadway.)

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDback

When they did that fake-out with Ivy not even getting a nom, i almost blacked out with pure rage. So not cool. I almost cried when she won and had to remind myself that Ivy Lynn is a fictional character.

I mostly liked the finale though. Under Pressure is definitely the A Thousand and One Nights of season 2 and i loved it. Ridiculous? Yes, but i loved the whole cast getting together for a final number. Plus, Big Finish put the biggest smile on my face even though i would've been more on-board with a Let Me Be Your Star reprise.

I'm going to miss all of the awesome/terrible moments. But at least i got a newfound love in Megan Hilty and the full Bombshell soundtrack which i have totally worn out at this point.

and here's a must read:

Marc Shaiman's thoughts on all the songs he and Wittman wrote for the show, some insight with the behind the scenes drama and audio from Anjelica Huston's cut (and lovely) number of "Adieu, Mon Coeur" which could've at least played over the credits.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

I was glad to be introduced to so many talented performers and I wish them well.

Although I think it may have been a mercy that poor Smash died when it did. Safran's plans for an Afterlife of Season 3 apparently had MORE attention focused on Karen, who would now become a movie star. Jimmy would join Karen in the "incredibly gifted" category and be Julia's new musical partner (hands up, those who prefer Tom to Jimmy), and Karen and Jimmy's love story would take center stage. Better to die now.

I loved Megan Hilty's last line. "Come on, the show's over". But now, THAT girl knows how to deliver a line.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I spent 99.9999% of the two hours wanting to throw my computer at the tv screen. The aforementioned nomination fake-out was just mean and felt like a big "F you" to the fans (and sanity) and everything else just made me happy that the show was finally being laid to rest. The final number was pretty nifty, though.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

If this show had a decent lead-in, it would've survived. It was too experimental to stand on its own.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

^Uh, well The Voice is as good a lead-in as NBC had.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

I still don't understand the abject love of hilty, she's talented but has a quality i would liken to too much of a good thing; her speaking voice is shrill; her range and tone while singing is empty and vapid; her acting is no better then macphee's(squint eyes, push out bottom lip...tada acting). Frankly i found her "i'm a tough bitch, but really have good intentions" hard to swallow, and really that may be the fault of her direction...but she played it so badly on the good side that you couldn't help but think being that the mean side came so naturally to her...she is just all the drooling simply from her wicked days? maybe she translates better on stage because on TV it was just one note and it was sour

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterepic

@Derreck, thanks so much for that link! It's awesome to read the stories behind the music.
I had a bittersweet feeling watching the finale. Yes, everything was silly, like the Dillion gay subplot, or unnerving, like Jimmy shennanigans or the Daisy Parker controversy, but the show delivered when It was about Broadway, shame that it wasn't often like that. Like Allen said in Annie Hall "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible. Yeah, I know; and such small portions."

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

Can somebody write Debra Messing a part worthy of her talents? If there could be an equally brilliant part, perhaps a sister of Messing's character, for Cynthia Nixon, that would be ideal also. Thanks God (Harvey Weinstein).

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

RIP smash, I'll miss you despite all the awfulness -- that made the good moments more beautiful.

hilty, borle and MESSING (in caps because she does get enough love for what she did with her part) were definitely the highlights.

but I'll say "smash" is also survived by marc shaiman & scott wittman.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

"I still don't understand the abject love of hilty, she's talented but has a quality i would liken to too much of a good thing.."

Don't know what Megan Hilty you were watching, because she is as good as what everyone, and I do mean pretty much everyone is saying about her. If not for her, this show was nothing. Of course WITH her, McPhee looked pathetic, and perhaps some people are a little bit sore about how terrible she was. You obviously don't know Ms Hilty, because she really is the most gracious interview, the most complimentary compatriot (she said nothing but wonderful things about everyone in Smash, particularly McPhee, but also just seems to respect everyone she works with.) The one who came on 'sweet' when bitch was obviously her hidden forte always seemed like McPhee to me. The only time her acting ever came alive was in those instances when her entitled bitch persona came through, and she was really very believable. If Megan Hilty's voice is 'one note' and 'sour' then I guess I love that note. The sour part....? Just no.

May 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeattle Girl

I don't get all the mean things said about this show. Yes at times it was soapy, but the cast, and songs were great. I was amazed every week how they created such catchy songs. Crap pop stars can't get this prolific.

There isn't a freaking channel that doesn't have a CSI or Law and Order and it is pissing me off. Once again NbC phucks up and cancels the a diverse show.

I bet a phucking cop show goes into its place.

NBC execs are douche bags!!

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

You're grieving over garbage. Of course Huston will book again. But can she gain relevancy outside the Ryan Murphy machine?

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I resent the Smash bashing. It's a musical drama, people. Of course it is ridiculous and silly. Get over it.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

Joey - well i loved Smash in concept and even occassionally in execution but it was TERRIBLY WRITTEN and seemed to be made (in the second season) by people who hated live musical theater which was so depressing at times. anyway. love musicals. wish this one had been spectacular because god knows network tv could use more diverse topics in its scripted series.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

Who won the Tony for Best Director ? Did I totally miss that scene ? Help ! Anyone ?

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBilly Held An Oscar

The most unfortunate aspect of the demise of "Smash" is the fact that network suits will undoubtedly use it to justify their resistance to diversifying the television landscape.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

i don't think they announced who won best director.....your question just sparked that....maybe i missed it too.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy.

@Derrieck - thanks for posting that link. Loved reading all those little behind-the-scenes nuggets, and I especially loved his last paragraph. Why was it so hard for them to come up with compelling characters when the world of musical theater is FULL of them? And instead we get Ellis and Jimmy? The writers should be embarrassed.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

It makes me so mad that we're never going to get another musical theater show on television after this debacle. The test case needed to be great to justify not only its existence, but the future of the genre. It miserably failed, and now that ship has sailed forever. Maybe a cable outlet will be brave and do something similar to this, or "Glee" will go into that direction next season or two, but "Smash" could have been great in better hands. This season 2 was awful in an entirely different way than season 1 was (at least that had a "so bad it's good" quality to this, while this season was just boring and uninspired). Most of the cast will find better prospects in the future either on television or Broadway, and that's a comforting thought.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulian

I don't think I've seen a show so relentlessly tone-deaf and blissfully unaware of the core problems of the show itself until Smash. Even Glee has moments of meta jokes at its own expense.

It had so much promise. I still want to see Bombshell on Broadway.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

@ CMG - This season actually had a decent amount of meta commentary to it. "Cut, Print..Moving On" that opened the season comes to mind and I still think Ivy talking with Sean Hayes' character on the stairs about Liasons is one of the most meta things i've ever seen on TV. (even if that might have been unintentional)

It's such an odd situation.

I've read several interviews with Josh Safran, season 2's showrunner and he actually has a great deal of knowledge about Broadway. The Derek, Karen and Ivy triangle (or whatever the hell that was) was influenced by relationships in actual Broadway shows and he has an intimate perspective of the story of Rent due to him dating Anthony Rapp for several years and knowing the original cast-members.

Reading interviews with him, he seems like he knew his shit, but it just never translated on screen.


May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

and i would totally kill for a Bombshell poster with the cast/credit names on it.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

Good or bad- "Smash" was at least a regular musical series. Not just another show about detectives, doctors, lawyers or glorified serial killers.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Oh, Nathaniel, that was a great read, and you diagnosed Smash PERFECTLY. I haven't even seen the last episodes yet because I had no idea they were airing on Sunday(?!?! WTF!), and I kinda don't even feel like watching them, really, which is just a sad testament to how ruined this show became. It was very clear that nearly everyone involved behind the scenes had a completely different vision of what the show was, and that came across in different ways each season (Season 1: OTT, venturing into so-bad-it's-good territory; Season 2: Confused and uninteresting, with bland and aggressively awful new major characters). I really do wish that this had been on Showtime or HBO, where it would have stood a better chance of becoming as great as it could have been, quite frankly. I got the distinct feeling during this season that NBC thought that theater people did not watch this show, which was absurd. This could have been the Slings & Arrows of musical theater, and instead it was... well, not much, really. It's sad.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Train wreck comes to mind . . . to bad for the actors/singers -- they performed the best they could gave given the material and scenario.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

I'm not sure if you're caught up on Mad Men, but I am so curious to hear your thoughts on recent developments. It's getting goooood.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Frankly, I was rooting for "Imitation of Life" to win the Tony.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Nashville is a musical drama and it's not ridiculous and silly. It's soapy, but it's not ridiculous and silly. It wouldn't surprise me if it got some big Emmy nominations.

Of course, Nashville is about country music, not Broadway, and the music is realistically integrated into the show - that is, people don't break into song when there's no reason for a performance in the plot.

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I thought the second half of season two was actually pretty good, and I enjoyed the series finale. RIP Smash. Never remotely as good as it could have been, but it had its moments.

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I finally caught up with the last two episodes and I'm happy to say they were pretty much as bad as everything during the season. I could NOT believe they were going into new ridiculous soapy stories like Ivy's pregnancy (a sure sign of desperation), and Tom's new closeted love interest. Phooey.

But this show still could have survived it all if they'd had the guts to either outright fire Katharine McPhee who should never get another acting job, though methinks Uncle Steven will help her out. Or at least they could have turned her into the only character she is capable of playing - a bored, entitled cokehead Diva.

Still, I'm very, very happy to have made the acquaintance of Christian Borle, and especially Megan Hilty. They really delivered for two years. I can only imagine what they must be like on stage where they can present a full two hour journey of real characters every night.

Long live Ivy Lynn who is finally free of her shackles!

I just realized that Ivy on Smash and Ryder on Glee have the same last name. Could they be brother and sister?

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Derek won the Tony for best director, for "Hit List".

I loved the show. I grew up in musical theater, and let me tell you, they nailed the behind the scenes drama, which is often much more entertaining than ANYTHING happening onstage. I thought the whole cast was great and fun...I think Jack Davenport is amazing and should have been given more opportunities to sing.

Getting rid of Theresa R was the biggest mistake. When someone conceives a project and brings it to life, it often dies when it's yanked away and given to a surrogate parent, who just doesn't have the same passion for the story and is often just looking for a job (not that looking for a job is a bad thing, but it's not the same as pushing a concept through from beginning to end).

I thought McPhee was fine--I was surprised at all the hate here for her. She has an amazing voice. If anything, the way they wrote her as this perfect goody-two shoes to blame, not the actress. She was doing what she could with what she was given.

Christian Borle was terrific to watch, as was Angelica Huston; I wish they'd kept WIll Chase on, as he had a fire rarely seen on television.

I'll miss this show very much--but last year, I found myself looking forward to Monday nights, and this year, it was more like, "Oh, right, Smash is on..." I understand how they needed to move on from just the one show (Bombshell) but it made for a much more broken storyline; instead of Karen vs Ivy, it was Bombshell vs Hit List...

June 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterScarlett

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