I’ve made it pretty clear before that I am a musical theater/Broadway junkie. I love it. So when Smash premiered last year, it was right up my alley. Of course, what started out as a great premise and show slowly deteriorated into an unrecognizable mess that didn’t know what it wanted to be. The Golden Gate Bridge at daybreak was more clear than the direction of Smash. But after the major changes in the off-season, I had high hopes Smash would pull it itself together….and it has! The worst part, no one has stuck around to see it.
Right now I’m invested in two things…Bombshell and Ivy’s career path. The biggest miss right now (and my biggest disappointment) is Hit List and the storyline with Jimmy and Kyle. I was so excited to hear Jeremy Jordan was joining the show. He’s fantastic. But this character is awful. I’m actually more interested in Kyle than Jimmy because there is this sweet vulnerability to Kyle and this green, ideological, passionate spark to him that is really fun to explore. But Jimmy? Does nothing for me and therefore, other than the fact that he’s adorable, what the hell does Karen see in him? He was rude to her, condescending, arrogant, and a jerk. Well if that doesn’t scream “I must be with this person” I don’t know what does. Her taste in men is truly atrocious. And can I throw something out there? Why in the world are Kyle and Jimmy treating Karen like she’s Patti Lupone? The last I check, no one has ever heard of her, she’s never been on Broadway before, so why are they treating her like some huge Broadway star that’s going to help them get their break? Because she knows Derek? A guy whose reputation on the Great White Way is marginal, at best right now? It doesn’t make any sense to me. So I wish Hit List, and everything revolved around it, would just go away. And Karen can go with them.
I know I’ve been hard on the character of Karen and Katharine McPhee, but it’s so easy. I’ve said it before, I could listen to McPhee sing the phone book and love it. But the acting? Wow…not good at all. It’s why I’ve never been able to believe in her for this part and I’ve never really been able to believe in Derek if he sees this “something special” in her. Really? She has something special over Ivy/Megan Hilty? Really? I think it’s another reason I’ve never been able to buy Karen. Ivy blows her away. Her singing, her acting, her stage presence….she’s the whole package. It also doesn’t help that I’ve actually seen Hilty in several Broadway shows and she’s magnificent every time! Hilty is a bona fide star. So next to McPhee, it’s not even close. I also don’t like the way the writers started write Karen as a pretty big bitch. I know she had every right to hate Ivy after all the horrible things she has done to her and if I were her, I’d probably be as cold to Ivy as she has been. But it’s not just Ivy. In the rehearsal room she’s short and testy. If she’s given direction she refutes it snobbishly. I’m sorry, when did she win all her Tonys and become worthy of telling people what to do? Wait, let me back up. When did she even act on a Broadway stage? Oh that’s right…NEVER. She had a tiny bit of success in out-of-town tryout and that’s it. Yet she’s acting like she’s been on a Broadway stage for 20 years (and not in a good way.) I’ve never been a fan of the Karen character and this season, I like her even less, and I didn’t think that was possible.
But what I’m loving is how this show is getting back to the behind the scenes of musical theater. I’m a fan of the Hit List storyline, no. But what I do like is that we are seeing two young people with a passion for music and theater, trying to make a go at their dream. We see two very inexperienced kids who are trying to figure out how to make it in this business. I look at it as we’re seeing Tom and Julia before they were Tom and Julia (and with a lot less charisma.) Speaking of T&J, their storyline is great. We’re seeing Tom and Derek bond in their own twisted way to get this show to Broadway. We see Julia doubting herself more than ever wondering if she really is as talented as she thought. Instead of her BFF helping her get her mojo back, it’s a dramaturg who Julia hated and wasn’t sure she could trust, that set her straight. Now we’re to the point where Julia’s new draft is amazing and Derek thinks will win every award in June (when the Tonys are) but Jerry, who is now the producer because he’s a douchebag, and Tom think the original draft is better…Jerry thinks it will sell more tickets, which as the producer is his job to decide, and Tom thinks it tells more of the story of Marilyn instead of the men who created her (which is more the focus of the new script.) All four go to Eileen to decide which script they are going to go with. It’s an interesting dynamic for the Tom and Julia relationship. We’ve pretty much seen them on the same side always having each other’s back at every turn. So now to see them on opposite sides is quite the shift. I certainly don’t think their relationship (personal and professional) is in any danger but it is fascinating to watch how this project is dividing certain people and bringing others closer together.
I still say when it’s all said and done…Ivy will be Marilyn. Karen will become so attached to this new project that she will leave the show and Liaisons will fall apart and Ivy will be asked to come back and be Marilyn. That’s my guess. And secretly, my hope! It’s just a shame this will be the last season for Smash. It’s really found its groove this year and is a much stronger show. But too many people walked away and haven’t come back so I don’t think NBC will have any other choice but to cancel it come seasons end. I just hope we get the finale we deserve as fans or maybe we get an 8-12 episode pick up to wrap it up next year.