I’ve been watching Smash with a mix of interest and frustration. Last season, the show definitely had its flaws (Uma Thurmond is probably the biggest one — Julia’s affair the second), but with changing showrunners and an acknowledgement that there were problems made me have hope for the second season. As I’ve been watching, though, I see my sights were set too high.
But I’m still watching, still curious. This is all despite the fact that this show is being moved to Saturdays and is basically cancelled (while not announced yet) and certain leads are moving on to other projects. I guess I just hope it gets better, even if it doesn’t come back.
And in the past two weeks, it has. The only problem is that it took this long. We’re eight episodes in, and we’re finally reaching plot and decent music.
But you know what? There’s a flaw in what I just said. Two words made my last note completely wrong: “only problem.” The real issue with Smash this season (and the reason I think that no one likes it) is that there are multiple problems, of which I’ll describe many now.
Jennifer Hudson: Jennifer Hudson has a wonderful voice. And I can see why Smash wanted to feature it. The only problem? She added nothing to the plot of the show. In fact, she detracted from it. What did her character have to do with Bombshell? What did it have to do with Karen or Derek? So what if she did a concert? Why should I care? Multiple episodes were devoted to a character that made me wonder why I was watching. And her songs, as nicely sung as they were, had no relevance to me.
Jimmy: Jimmy is by far one of the most repulsive characters on the show. His arrogance and stubbornness is not attractive, and I have no idea why Karen seems to like him. While he is talented musically, they’ve given him no redeeming qualities. At least Eileen’s husband was entertaining to watch. And Derek has his softer moments (remember him and Karen on the floor of the dressing room in the finale, when they actually had a heart to heart?). I just don’t get it, and I wince when he’s on screen.
The plot: There are a lot of issues here, and I’ll try to list them all briefly. But if you’ve been watching and you left the episode going, “So, uh, now what?” that’s the main thing. First, we have Eileen’s financial/legal issues — but so much time had passed that I didn’t even remember what issues were there. Then Bombshell was over. Then it wasn’t. Meanwhile there’s some other musical on the block that we don’t even understand the plot of (at least in the first few episodes introducing Bombshell, we knew we’d get something about Marilyn. Here, it’s just about loooove, and what the hell does that mean?). Now, it looks like we’re getting to the point where two musicals will be facing off against each other in some capacity — which could be interesting. But why’d it take so long to get here? And why spend multiple episodes having Julia rewrite Bombshell, just to go back to the original. Just another divergent path to waste time.
The music: Last season, whether I liked the episode or not, I walked away from the TV singing songs from the show for days. I’m not exaggerating. These songs were in my head for days. This season, I’m beginning to realize why they play “Let Me Be Your Star” at the end of each episode to promote the soundtrack — because all the other music has sucked. There have been two songs that have been impressive, and they happened in the last two episodes. As someone who loves musical theater, I’m extremely disappointed. The one thing this show had in its favor was the music (instead of the karaoke-esque Glee), and we’re not even getting that.
Ivy: Speaking of music, somehow this season, they took the most talented individual in the entire show and stuck her in the shadows. How much has she really sung? Megan Hilty has the best voice in the cast (I’ll even put her ahead of Jennifer Hudson), and she’s been doing nothing. I’m thrilled she’s finally back as Marilyn, but my god, what a disappointment.
These are just the major issues. I didn’t even mention the stupidity of the Derek/Karen/Jimmy love triangle or the fact that they’ve ruined the theme song by providing one (the subtlety of last season was just so…theater). But the fact that we’ve taken eight episodes to finally get to a point that I know where the show is going and might like (though that’s still up for debate, given that Jimmy’s still in it) has to be a major issue. If I weren’t a TV person, I would have flipped it off a long time ago. If you thought dealing with Ellis on a weekly basis was bad, well, you clearly didn’t expect this season.
So while I’m disappointed that Smash isn’t getting it’s chance in the spotlight this season, it’s pretty much its own fault.