Send me the Names
Smash season 1 episode 5
I know some of you are Broadway-philes, or watch obscure TV like I do, or keep track of third leads in straight-to-video productions.
Send me the names of your personal favourites. Those pets you have who sing and act, who should have been cast in the role of Karen rather than Katharine McPhee. I would love to know who they could have cast, if they had done this properly instead of looking for a name they could “introduce”.
This character should have been 19 years old. She should have skipped the theatre scholarship to some school that would have made her parents comfortable and come straight to the city. She should have lived, like most of the dancers in the show probably live, one on top of another on top of another in a terrible, disgusting apartment where you don’t ever, ever open the kitchen cabinet doors lest a friend come running out to greet you, desperate to figure things out just by shoving her way into a room no matter what.
This should have been her only chance.
Karen is “24” if you believe the show - and every bit of McPhee’s almost-28 if you believe a guy like Dev would actually try to build a life with her and that she would have to understand his big tough job down at the city. She seems to care about this job slightly more than she would care about a bad haircut – it’s irritating and all but not enough for her to actually go and do something else about it. She’ll just sort of…ride it out.
She pouts and whines like a child when she talks about her job that she’s lucky to get; she doesn’t know what to wear to be a backup dancer (long sleeved tees are apparently the key to fitting in, so thank God we covered that last week); she is shocked – shocked! – to learn that sometimes, in the theatre, women are expected to play the whole range of the female experience – including sexuality: “I always looked down on girls who were all about being sexy.” Oh, did you? How wonderfully judgmental. I’m sorry, is that your roommate you’re living with? Is it really such a revelation that as an actress, this might be something in your wheelhouse to deal with?
Lest you feel this is all about me railing on Karen, I have plenty of anger left for the other two women the show throws under the bus this week. So, let’s see here. Julia, who is neglecting her duties – and by the way, I didn’t need the nefarious little nerd of an assistant to tell that to Anjelica Huston in her one scene, I can tell by the lyrics in that interminable Marilyn song. We’ll get back to that. But Julia, who blithely runs around flirting with Michael even though people are starting to get tired of the fact that the musical they’re going to stage in five minutes is completely unfinished, no big deal, just has to drop back into the affair she said she hated in a matter of hours. All while screaming at her son over pot. (I know, the adoption. And I also know that weed-related offenses are treated more strictly in the US but…wow) I mean, is this woman acting like anyone you’ve ever met? With the bringing the scampish ex lover into the house for hours on end, joshing with her son whose father is conveniently absent? Why am I supposed to believe this woman is any good at her job or has any interest in her family when all it takes is one glass of red wine to toss her judgment out the window? I know, there was a song, too…
About the songs: if this show was giving us kick-ass music -- recognizably awesome, rousing themes that people were singing the next day -- that would be one thing. But we’re getting these insipid anemic “Marilyn was sexy!” things that all have to do with foxes or bears and it’s just kind of exhausting and not very good. Instead it feels like ninth-grade chorus class with lyrics that nobody relates to with kids secretly sharing the lyrics to Red Light Special in the hallways. It’s just so…irrelevant.
And part of that is real life. It’s true that the kids who know every line to Into The Woods don’t necessarily have the same pop-culture knowledge as the rest of the world. Ivy is a full example of this, being a dyed-in-the-wool Broadway baby. The parts of the show where she meangirls Karen are still the most authentic, the girl who is one way towards girls, and another way entirely when men appear. But she’s a victim of the fairy-tale as well. The idea that if you find someone who loves you (whatever, “thinks your tits are nice” is basically the same, right?) then all that will flow between you from then on is hearts and flowers and those saucy cupid’s arrows when it’s time for sexy-times! Barf. Everything that Ivy has worked for and been strong about is completely negated when she turns into a pouty sex doll outside Derek’s door. What the hell is supposed to be the takeaway here? How is this making a strong character at all?
The less said about Tom’s bad date, on which we wasted a lot of screen time, the better. What’s the moral here? Gay guys can have bad sex too? I don’t know.
The show is a fantasy – but I’m not sure whose. I know it’s “ripping the mystery” off the inside world of Broadway – but why would you do that if the truth is that the inside world is boring as hell?
Attached - Katharine McPhee at that casino event last week in New York.