Smash recap – 1×06: ‘Chemistry’

Courtesy of NBC

Hola Smash fans! TVAngie is busy writing hate mail to Katherine McPhee, so she asked me to step in for this week’s episode. While I’ll confess that I’m enjoying the show more than my writing partner, I’m still finding some fairly significant faults in the singing saga. Will tonight be the night things begin to gel a bit more?

Let’s bitch it out…

Unfortunately I’m going to have to admit that ‘Chemistry’ is at best a muddled hour. My biggest issue with the show continues to be that the Smash writers think we should be interested in particular storylines that are simply not that engaging. Do we care if Julia (Debra Messing) cheats on her boring husband, Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) with mediocre actor Michael (Will Chase)? Well, since we don’t know anything about Frank or Michael, I would say no.

And what about poor Karen’s (Katherine McPhee) money problems? Or her boyfriend, Dev’s (Raza Jaffrey) pursuit of public office? Or even Eileen’s (Anjelica Huston) divorce? I don’t care about any of these things because these people are little more than two dimensional cut-outs that get moved from scene to scene. We spend so little time with each of these people on a weekly basis how could they possibly make an impact on us?

In my dreams, Smash is a show about the making of a musical and the struggles to do so. Unfortunately this is not the Smash that we have, which stubbornly cuts away from rehearsals at every opportunity. It’s frustrating to hear Derek (Jack Davenport) or Tom (Christian Borle) request we start a piece over at a particular spot and then cut to Eileen playing Big Buck World in a hipster dive bar with Jaime Cepero’s Ellis (?!?!). Why not really examine the dangers of Ivy (Megan Hilty) losing her voice a week before the workshop or examine what thirteen hour days of rehearsals are like on these people?

Instead let’s watch Karen insult the band and text her way through a bar mitzvah gig. Desperate to pay off her laughably low credit card bill (oh Iowa!), Karen grabs Ivy’s leftover gig in Northport where she wears a short skirt on a high stage and sings Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Up” like she’s a full blown diva. The problem is that she’s at a bar mitzvah and the show stages this musical number with the energy of (alternately) a concert DVD or a deleted scene from The Phantom of the Opera (the Gerard Butler version where they just pan the camera back and forth in front of the actor singing). The jewish kids who wear sunglasses at night either love it and are giving Karen the wave, or they’re making chopping motions because they want to kill her off-stage.

Courtesy of NBC

More interesting is another (admittedly failed) musical number when Ivy experiences side effects from the steroids she takes to cure her sore throat. Like last week’s “Let’s Be Bad” number, the song reflects Ivy’s (or is it Marilyn’s?) point of view. In this case, the camera repeatedly cuts between close-ups, medium and long shots with Ivy in different positions in her sad sack bedroom. It’s somewhere between music video chic and Requiem For A Dream drug trip and ends with a Karen-as-Marilyn hallucination in the mirror questioning whether things are truly okay. I’m not really sure if I liked it so much as it exists and it serves its purpose. So…yay?

The best scene, although likely the farthest from reality, is Ivy’s outburst when Derek berates her in front of everyone for breaking character during rehearsal. How juicy is it to watch her ask for notes without being publicly humiliated? Very. How unlikely is it that a star would insult the director’s narcissistic personality and then his lackluster bedroom skills (what is he, Tom)? Also very. But was it entertaining? Umm…hells yes. So more of these scenes and fewer like the Julia and Michael seduction scene, which made me want to jam bamboo in my ears thanks to the wooden dialogue (Julia: “I can’t think if you touch me”; Michael: “I can’t think if we don’t”) and wash my eyes out with bleach. Did anyone else want to scream “Don’t touch the dirty sex couch!” when Michael and Ivy climb on it during the “History is Made at Night” number the next day? Set the ick factor to blech.

Other Observations:

  • Near episode’s end, Karen discovers that the bar mitzvah gods have shined on her and she impressed some big wig named Bobby Raskin with her unconventional song choice. Ivy throws a fit like a good diva, while those of us in the audience sit around and wonder why we’re supposed to care. Memo to show: We don’t know who this guy is and therefore we don’t really care. You have to make us care.
  • Ellis tattling…er – sorry – reporting to Eileen about what’s happening in rehearsals makes me want to take a shovel to his head. Is he not working for Tom anymore or does he just latch on to anyone remotely powerful that walks by. Seriously folks,why is he on this show?!
  • Tom attends lawyer John’s (John Bledscoe) lawyer cocktail party where gay mafia members wear complimentary coloured skinny jeans, sport British haircuts and chat about $2 million homes. Should I be offended that gay men clearly work on this show and okay’d this scene, or just accept that it’s a stereotype because there are actually people out there like this? Perhaps I’ll just focus on John’s “upscale minimalist” furniture and wait for the inevitable Tom/Sam (Leslie Odom Jr) relationship. Side Note: Is it worrying that the couple with the most genuine chemistry is Tom and Ivy? What does that say about this show?
  • Michael to Julia: “Do you want me to stop?” Me to TV: “Yes.”
  • How nice of Smash to equate pancakes with adultery (next week: orange juice with lupus!). Also, who loved the not-so-subtle suggestion that Michael cured Julia’s inability to write when the “History is Made at Night” is ready the morning after they cream up the couch? Insert your own “unclog the writer’s block” joke here.

What did you think of ‘Chemistry’ Smash-ers? Do you want more about the musical and less about the people? Who is your favourite character? How should the show kill off Ellis in a very “special episode”? And did Big Buck World pay for that product placement? Sound off in the comments below.

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

6 thoughts on “Smash recap – 1×06: ‘Chemistry’

  1. What is the name of the song Ivy is singing in her bedroom before she starts hallucinating??? I really like that song, at least what she sang of it.
    I read on Yahoo that SMASH may already be canceled for next year! I’m bummed as I am already addicted to this show!! Even my 16yr son is enjoying it. I admit, wasn’t the best episode of the season thus far. But the show does have promise. And I agree, get Ellis out of here.. sneaky little punk!

    • Quick search suggests that it is a cover of Jessie J’s “Who You Are” though it doesn’t sound like it’s available for download (only the title track is).

      As for renewal chances, the numbers have been lower than NBC would like, though they’ve stabilized the last few weeks so it’s not still losing viewers. Remember that it’s only just aired its sxith of fifteen episodes, so even if it is cancelled, you still have more than half the season left. NBC has significantly different standards for renewing shows because it has virtually no hits, so there may still be a good chance it comes back if there’s enough audience and critical goodwill. So don’t despair just yet!

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