New York Realism Means Carrying Coffee At All Times
Smash Season 1 Episode 11 recap
(No really, it does. I'm not being snarky there.)
So the problem with Smash, as you may know, isn't that the characters are over-the-top or that the situations are ridiculous; it's that the show is trying to sell us those things as straightforward and proper. And let's be honest: everyone who's still watching - and I know you are still watching - is watching for the camp, and the songs (oh my GOD the songs about the Method), but not realism. Which is why, in an episode where the camp is turned down and the drama is up, you just feel so meh about the whole thing.
If you're going to be campy, be campy! What happened to breaking into song on the street? I know we've established that Smash is not exactly going to go into the depths of the human condition, so why not have fun with it? Instead, we have the not-impossible but pretty goddamn unlikely scenario of two adult men deciding to hold off on sex because one believes in God (wait, what?) and the loss of a press secretary job implying the not-chosen must eat their lunch in a park. Because that implies...joblessness? I really don't know.
This episode was shockingly slow, which made all the not-over-the-top but not-actually-reasonable events so much more awkward.
A small sampling:
Anjelica Huston talks out loud to herself! While reading a document! That's the level of authenticity that we can expect this week on Smash, so you understand why I get excited about coffee as a mark of realism in television.
The “after rehearsal” scene was so boring and meandery they had to have a random guy run in, completely sober, and then be accused of being drunk. Oh, and don't wonder what that story is about because we're never going to see him again. Cool?
When Anjelica asks for an extra long scene by 5, I realized we've never once seen Julia with a computer. Tom doesn't sit at a piano all that much either, but he sings and dances convincingly enough that I believe he has a job. Julia? No. She may not be able to type.
Karen, the loving girlfriend who didn't think to ask her boyfriend about his job for two weeks, is STILL SAYING "WEASEL" to refer to the colleague who bested him. It's 10 f*cking PM! Can we get a “dick” up in here? Something?
Ivy and Karen are now, inexplicably, best friends. What's horrible about that is that they might actually be good for one another. The only person who manages to puncture that saccharine-sweet Iowa garbage is the Broadway Bitch. God help me if I liked this scene the best, which isn't to say that I liked it much.
Ellis is secretly apparently 45. Who else would actually say something terrible about someone without checking over both shoulders and cutting the first call? Are we in any way supposed to believe that this is a person who is in their early 20s? There's a whole culture of fear associated with talking sh*t about someone while pocket dialling them. He never knew this? And he made it through his teen years?
As for Uma Thurman, not only was she completely fine as a performer, even her character is written as completely reasonable, albeit with “ideas”. What's the fun in that? Okay, I'm mostly joking, I don't actually care that she was good. But again, it's not exactly a showy piece, is it? What about the part, since it's not really singing and it's not really comedy, made it attractive? Because I know it was not the Stanislavsky number. That included scatting.
I assume the actor who plays Leo was fired after this episode, and that the character will be summarily sent to boarding school. Is this agreed? Also, a common misconception about TV writers is that different writers each focus on one specific character. This is untrue, but I am willing to pretend it is so that we could fire the Leo writer just to be sure we'll never be subjected to him again.
What the hell does Nick the Bartender see in Eileen? Does he have a particular attraction to “busy”? Because she doesn't have any other traits, does she?
If the show is going to survive and amuse its legions of fans (maybe?) who are willing to overlook a lot to get to the point where there's in-character singing or dancing, I think we can pull the plug on the “nothing really happens” episodes and turn up the ridiculous. Like a roomful of executives sweating isn't exactly a high-paced drama but at this point I think “silly” is the mark to aim at.
Having said that, I refuse to acknowledge Karen-as-Marilyn because it looks so awful, and because Karen as written has never, ever once had a Marilyn trait displayed when she wasn't in someone else's fantasy. So maybe they have the edge on the “complete departure from reality” after all.
Attached - Debra Messing out in New York on Sunday night.