Since so many of you seemed to be watching Smash judging on response to the pilot episode, and since its a fictional show about a possibly real musical about a very real departed movie star, I thought I'd write it up weekly. But Oscar is a needy lover and hogged all my time. Now there are so many episodes to discuss! To get caught up we'll do two doubles, so here's the first of them.
1.2 "The Callback"
In the second episode, we were both thrilled and shocked to find that they didn't drag out the "who will they cast as Marilyn Monroe?" drama for weeks on end. Though obviously they could and will revisit it since we're a long way from opening night. Both girls, Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen (Katharine McPhee) endured torturous waiting and callbacks while the power players made up their mind. Ivy it was. The best sign that the show is serious about being an actual show about the business of Broadway theater rather than a show about whatever the hell it feels like being about in any given scene (Glee... sigh) was that we actually see Julia and Tom (Debra Messing and Christian Borle) toiling away at work wondering about structure and characters and arguing about song order and even the process itself. You can't just write a musical by stringing songs together. The worst sign for the freshman show is the insistence on Julia's adoption subplot. Isn't birthing a brand new musical enough parenting?
Jack: It's a big risk
Eileen: Nothing's Bigger Than Broadway!
Jack: I'm aware.
Set List: Blondie's "Call Me" (McPhee), "Let Me Be Your Star" (McPhee/Hilty), "20th Century Fox Mambo (McPhee), Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams" (Hilty)
Pop Culture and Movie References: vampire craze, Clash By Night, Monkey Business
Best Moment: Ivy practicing her Monroeisms "thank you ever so"
Anjelica Awesomeness: Huston's condescension towards her ex's new blonde plaything "We've met" / "I don't think so" / [mocking her with squeaky bimbo voice] "I doooo"
Gay Gay Gay "Nothing's bigger than Broadway!"
Curtain Call: Megan Hilty does a stunning cabaret rendition of "Crazy Dreams" to close the episode.
1.3 "Enter Joe DiMaggio"
In the third episode Karen gets invited to participate in the workshops as part of the chorus and she takes a trip home to Iowa for a babyshower. Things get more complicated when Michael (Will Chase), a rising actor, signs on as Joe DiMaggio and Tom's assistant Ellis starts feeling proprietary about the musical (his casual comment in the pilot sparked the whole thing) and steals Julia's notebook. The best thing about both of these developments is that they make Julia (Debra Messing) way more interesting as a character because she has such irrationally strong reactions to both, one being an ex-lover the other being someone she just bristles at instinctually. In fact, Messing really steps up in this episode making her own case for an Emmy run. (Julia is a surprisingly thorny and multi-faceted character by episode 3. Not at all what we were expecting after the pilot.) Emmys for everyone!
We're noone you've ever seen
Movie stars don't live anywhere here
Except on the local drive-in screen ♬ "
Set List: Bruno Mars "Grenade" (Chase), Gretchen Wilson's "Red Neck Woman" (McPhee) "Mr and Mrs Smith"
Pop Culture and Movie References: Gone With the Wind, The Seven Year Itch, My Fair Lady, Sinatra, Siegfried & Roy
Best Moment: Julia's intense jarring switch from painful confession to Tom to bitchy showdown with Ellis
Anjelica Awesomeness: Huston's Eileen Rand is really a marvel of a character creation. She has Huston's usual dragon lady severity but there are so many exquisite playful beats that the character feels unpredictable even when she's working a repetitive "bit" like throwing drinks in her ex-husband's face. Their dinner scene together is filled with weirdly flirtatious hostility, giving off the distinct impression that they once had great sex but always enjoyed pissing the other off. "You have exquisite taste. When you weren't cheating on me it was one of the things I really enjoyed about you."
Curtain Call: "Mr and Mrs Smith"... I'm more and more convinced that this needs to be an actual musical on Broadway. Can this series be about a different new musical every season and put it on Broadway directly afterwards? I mean... many new musicals don't have songs as uniformly strong as the ones this show is cranking out.
LATER THIS WEEK... we'll discuss "The Cost of Art" and tonight's episode "Let's Be Bad". If you're not watching, start. Good show. You can get caught up on Hulu or iTunes.