How to ruin Smash

2013-02-04_2143I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that NBC would be moving Smash from Tuessdays to Saturdays in the US.

They’ve just about ruined any hope for this season by pulling focus from what made Season One so strong: Karen vs Ivy against the backdrop of Marilyn Monroe.

This year we have so many new characters and sub-plots going on I am finding it hard to care for the people I enjoyed following so much last year.

Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) barely share any screen time together anymore, and both have sub-plots away from the Bombshell musical.

Karen is busy with a fringe musical with new composers Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) and Kyle (Andy Mientus). While they may introduce new music and romance into the plot, it’s a shame they weren’t proposed as alternative songwriters for Bombshell. That would have kept them more central to our universe.

Ivy is busy rehearsing a new version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses with guest star Sean Hayes as Terry Falls. This is so banal as to be insulting. Why they would hire a talent like Sean Hayes and give him the most ludicrous plotline, as a TV star with no grasp of stage craft, is beyond me.

Then we have Jennifer Hudson as Veronica Moore, a Broadway star busy singing songs from The Wiz for Derek (Jack Davenport) to direct. She’s practically taken over the show.

There is no longer any insight into Marilyn Monroe and the tug of war of the first season that so well reflected moments of her own life. Bombshell is now ancillary to Smash rather than being its focus.

One of the biggest mistakes the producers made was in ditching the supporting character of Ellis (Jaime Cepero) whose own ambitions saw him sabotage Bombshell. Even now with him absent from the cast, his character is still manipulating its demise, all without Cepero ever returning to the screen.

Oh well, it was all so promising last season.

Maybe they should have tried this one out off-Broadway?


  1. I loved Smash too; especially the music side of it. I will watch when it comes to Seven, however I have heard it has been cancelled in the US, so the hope is that they wrap up the story when it ends.

  2. Unfortunately I tuned out half way through S1 – simply couldn’t stand watching Katharine McPhee. I think casting her as lead was a terrible mistake, highlighted in every scene she shared with the amazing Megan Hilty.

    The right actress can carry an otherwise mediocre show (e.g. SJP in ‘Sex & The City’?) but I don’t think McPhee has the onscreen presence or acting chops to make ‘Smash’ a … smash!

  3. I’m in two minds about Smash S1 vs S2. A lot of the secondary characters and the way they were written was a mess, so I’m glad they got rid of them for this season. But I agree there are too many subplots that just seem like filler. I’m thinking particularly the Eileen one and the Ivy one. I’ve never been a fan of Karen (too Mary Sue) but I’m liking the idea of amateur songwriters trying to make their first musical happen. I personally wish they would focus on Ivy more and less on Karen.

  4. In the first season Rebeck did an excellent job with the creating of Bombshell, the staging of the big musical numbers and the Karen/Ivy story.

    The rest of it was always mess and Ellis was the worst character I have seen on TV for a long time.
    Basically Rebeck was a playwrite and had no idea how to write or run an ensemble TV show. Her basic idea came from the book Smash, a fictionalised account of the staging of Funny Girl.

    It was fun watching the first episode of season two throw out the mistakes and cliches of the first especially Ellis.

    The problem was having no idea how to take the Bombshell idea further they made the entire show about disconnected subplots broken up by random poorly staged musical numbers.

    Episode #3 when the suddenly made the show about several different Bombshells,creating another musical and another Broadway show at once was dreadful and it was never going to recover from that.

  5. It’s my understanding that Spielberg’s original concept for Smash was that there would be a new musical storyline each season. The Marilyn/Bombshell musical was the first. In other words SMASH isn’t exclusively a series about the Bombshell musical. I guess he figured it would become difficult to maintain conflict/interest over multiple seasons. How many times can Ivy replace Karen or Karen replace Ivy in lead role and still become somewhat believiable.

    So with 17 eps to fill, the series 2 showrunner devoted the early episodes of the season in developing a new musical/s and coming back to Bombshell later. It’s my view that the Liaison’s story line is just a filler to keep Ivy alive until new developments with Bombshell.

    A CD is now available with all the music of Bombshell. A look online at the song list and who sings them gives a view where Bombshell is heading this season.

    As someone who enjoys this series because of its behind the scenes musical theme, songs and cast (Karen and Ivy), it’s sad that there is unlikely to be a third season with new musicals and cast.

  6. David, have you read Buzzfeed’s article on Smash?

    It’s a fascinating read into the show. Think there were too many cooks involved.

    • Buzzfeed’s lengthy article is fascinating for those wanting an insight into S1. Yes we knew Theresa Rebeck had been replaced, yet despite some scenic misgivings about S1 I still enjoyed it as a whole. Maybe that’s because I am a fan of musicals, Marilyn and was impressed by the two lead girls. But whatever problems S1 had have been avoided in S2 by heading off into worlds I barely care about. Characters I barely care about. It should have turned inwards not outwards.

  7. Agree that there are problems with this season (and with most of what you have said) but I’m not sure if the Karen/Ivy battle could continue to work as the ongoing focus of the show. Ivy has become unexpectedly sympathetic in this series and although it’s a bit of a leap to accept such a huge personality change it’s an improvement and makes me wish the show could focus more on her. Karen just feels bland and uninteresting.

    Given the tug or war with funding and production issues with Bombshell it’s probably appropriate that it fades in an out as the show focus, but then again, the writers seem to have painted themselves into a corner by taking that path and the whole show now feels splintered with so many different plots/shows/characters/agendas.

    Other observations – Although you mentioned it I have to chime in on Sean Hayes Jerry Lewis-esque character which is so embarrassing it’s amazing that it made the show at all, someone should have reined that idea/performance right in.

    Despite minimal plot and screen time Anjelica Houston continues to be one of the best things about the show albeit completely wasted with what she’s been given to do this season.

  8. Smash was always a mess for me. I bought a series pass for season 1 and couldn’t finish it. Wanted to love it but found it way too irritating.

  9. I hate when this happens to shows, they make so many changes to the original concept that it wrecked the shows chemistry.

    And the real kicker is in the US the ‘brains’ at NBC gave Parenthood a shorter season ending in January and Smash took over the Tuesday time slot only to see the rating tumble!

    I really hope Parenthood is rewarded with a full 22 ep season 5, which might be it’s last!

  10. I find myself agreeing with you David, everything you have said is so true , so much so that I have now given up and no longer watch it……its a pity it was one of my favourites .

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