If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “Why do I still keep watching Smash,” I’d be a rich lady. It’s the common consensus. Why is everyone still hooked when they know it’s so bad? My answer: plot. Oh, and the age–old “guilty pleasure.”
It was clear creator Theresa Rebeck’s influence in the show became less and less as the season moved along, till eventually, she announced stepping down completely. This made me nervous. The show was receiving an equal amount of backlash and praise when it received a Season 2 renewal.
At the same time the production reigns were passed to Gossip Girl’s Josh Safran. It will be interesting to see how the show fares in the hands of a CW veteran, but the choice isn’t surprising. Smash steered farther away from theatrical drama to daytime soap…looks like Broadway may meet the Upper East Side next season. Yikes.
And Rebeck’s leaving is still suspiciously vague. In an interview with Vulture, she spoke out, "Actually, I’m moving on, I have other things to do. I feel like it is what it is and I’m really proud of the work I did, and it was time to do some other stuff," which includes a play and a novel for Random House. But still, can Smash stand strong without her guidance?
The season finale was nothing jaw-dropping. Although, I must admit, I was eager to see who would win the role of Marilyn. After Derek (Jack Davenport) flips through a rack of Marilyn’s costumes, envisioning both Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen (Katharine McPhee) in each, he makes a choice. Karen wins his heart in the purple “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” simple frock. Oh, come on. We all knew it. Karen’s the protagonist of the story. What would’ve been more interesting is if both girls got a shot, each encompassing a different aspect of Marilyn’s character.
Cameos were profuse, with the return of Nick Jonas and Bernadette Peters, both pointless. Almost all plot lines were re-visited, some annoying and some necessary. Ellis (Jaime Cepero) admits to putting peanuts in the smoothie and is fired (finally), Michael (Will Chase) confronts Julia (Debra Messing) again about their affair (can this be over already?) and Eileen’s (Anjelica Houston) ex-hubby offers to back the musical at long last (oh, forgot about him). And, I’m sorry, but does anyone else completely doubt Ellis’ heterosexuality? If Ellis comes back, let’s re-cast….please.
But despite all these obvious loose-end-tie-ups, Dev (Raza Jaffrey) and Karen’s relationship was thrown an intriguing curveball, although, yes, still expected. Ivy, in her last attempt to defeat her foe, tells Karen about her affair with Dev. I was excited to see somewhat of a throw-down between Dev and Karen, some anger and vulnerability from both of them! Nothing. A few tears, but nothing ferocious or genuine. Can their relationship die already? I think everyone feels the same about most romances in the season. Michael and Julia (Debra Messing), Derek and Ivy, and don’t let it break your heart if Eileen and “the bartender” don’t make it…
All this indifference should serve as a sign of the unlikeablity of every single character in the show. You don’t really care about any of them. McPhee’s Karen has potential, but her limited acting abilities completely limit that character from flying. And Hilty, who we’re supposed to feel compassion for, becomes more and more a villain; less conniving and more pitiful.
And for Messing….her comedic genius is totally wasted. Why is she playing a tormented housewife? Hopefully next season Swift will be gone and we can see her crack a joke or two. Maybe once the show makes it to Broadway the characters will lighten up. Although, in the hands of a Gossip Girl producer, probably not.
For Smash to continue, there will have to be some serious adjustments in the character development. After all, what makes the theater so exhilarating is that its artists find joy in the hardships. Perhaps that’s what the last number was supposed to prove; unfortunately the number fell flat. McPhee was lovely, the lyrics were not; one last cliché—to go out with a bang.