Smash: Director’s Notes, Premiere

The Steven Spielberg produced epic a-star-is-born redo/ multi-format tie-in promised cash cow mid-season offer-up has finally aired! Remember when it was premiering after the Super Bowl, and then NBC was like–whoa, actually this show is not really that good, so we better air The Voice instead! Yes, I do too. It’s basically Glee for the geriatric set, but who can refuse another musical-driven tv show? Certainly not I. First, a disclaimer: I am not a real Broadway buff. I make no claims to registering anything related to concepts of theater authenticity, and barely get the references to theater critics, etc. I assume those things are thrown in there to appeal to sad struggling actors and the roughly 200 Upper West and East side grannies who pay attention to that crap. No, I’m here for the dance numbers, people. So, let’s get down to the business of show, why don’t we?

Director’s Notes:

  • Angelica Huston is a fierce bitch with an even fiercer haircut. That woman can do no wrong, and elevates every single scene she is in. Great casting!
  • The pacing, particularly in the scenes involving Will and Grace, er, Tom and Julia was totally off. You know they thought about casting Sean Hayes for Tom’s role. Tom’s theataaah background doesn’t jibe with Debra Messing’s more understated (yes, I said that) performance here. Either she needs to key it up, or he needs to tone it down.
  • Tom and Julia’s “nice” act is boring as hell. Tom: “yes, theater is a tough world, but can’t we be nice?” Oh, I’m sorry, I just dozed off. Niceness is clearly going to be a problem with this whole show. Tom and Julia are nice! So is Karen! And Karen’s boyfriend Dev! Everyone else has sold their soul for a chance at money and fame, but viewers at home will identify and love these nice characters for maintaining their integrity. No, we want backstabbing. I know Karen needs to be nice…at first…but if I don’t get my All About Eve plotline, I will be hot-pissed.
  • That new assistant totally would have been fired. Why did they miss the opportunity for the line: “You’ll never work in this town again!”
  • Which brings us to Katharine McPhee, who as we all know has become famous for trying to become famous, but being too boring and therefore not quite achieving it. First, she’s besties with Tori Spelling, next she’s losing on American Idol, then…well, Smash! This background sort of makes her perfect for this part, but I, like the lechy British director, don’t think she has it in her. The two seduction scenes: between her and her boyfriend and between her and lechy Brit were almost painful to watch. No sex appeal at all. Dev and Karen actually seem to recoil in platonic dismay at being forced to kiss.
  • Side note: Were those scenes helping to set up some Black Swan realness? Will something be, ahem, going down between Ivy and Karen? Probably not, but still, someone needs to smack and/or bang the Iowa out of Karen.
  • “We can do a baseball number!” OK, I like that this was a touchstone for all the theater people.
  • The musical numbers: I can’t yet decide if I like that McPhee’s non-theater background makes for a different kind of singing or not. Ivy’s numbers really were better: more theataaah, more glitz, and actually more heart. The baseball choreography was a lot of fun, but the final number with the two would-be Marilyns singing their hearts out about their dreams fell a little flat. The lyrics were trite, and the music read as “generic broadway musical ballad #2.” I did not need the Cristina Aguilera scene at all, and though it was kind of fun to see what Karen imagines to bring the performance, I’m pretty sure that will get old fast.
  • Apartment porn!
  • I hope they do a Nanny reference. (Remember the dad was a Broadway producer, they could totally bring him in for a cameo.)
  • Let’s talk about Dev. Who the hell is this guy? A plucky British mayoral staffer? The way he treats Karen is super weird: is he her dad? her gay best friend? a Frank Kapra derived guardian angel/ moral compass? Live-in Jay Manuelesque lifestyle coach? I’ll tell you what he is not: realistic. Poor Dev, when Broadway ruins Karen, whose wardrobe will you lay out then?
  • Inspired by Jerch’s illustrated recaps for RuPaul’s Drag Race, each week I will be nominating one actor for a cheeseball of the week award. This week the low-fat, reduced sodium, white bread crumb and bologna crusted cheeseball on water crackers goes to Karen! But watch out Karen, Dev is out to get that cheeseball for himself.

One thought on “Smash: Director’s Notes, Premiere

  1. Jerch says:

    Loves it. Did you notice how there were no people of color cast in the lead roles? Not like that’s anything new. Maybe I was thinking about how diverse the Glee cast is, and/or maybe I was noticing it because the two main side characters ARE of color (Dev and the assistant). Shame, NBC. The last musical number bothered me because the transition from diegetic to nondiegetic felt odd. I realize that’s common in a musical, but I still didn’t like that the song went from being played as accompaniment to being sung by a character. Lastly, I agree with the too nice critique, especially with Debra Messing and Tom. I mean, if they were going to so blatantly cast them as Will and Grace, couldn’t they have at least kept the heightened sarcasm/snark? Seems like a missed opportunity.

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