Smash recap – 1×07: ‘The Workshop’

Courtesy of NBC

Smash throws everything but the kitchen sink into this week’s episode as the “Marilyn” workshop finally shows to an audience of potential investors. Amidst the completely uneven storytelling there is a glimmer of hope (huzzah!) when we almost get not one but three uninterrupted numbers!

Let’s break it down after the jump

So let’s take care of the good: Katherine McPhee finally delivers a believable performance this week as Karen goes to a recording studio to record a demo for the hot shot producer she met at last week’s Bar Mitzvah.

This is McPhee’s stomping ground so I expect her to deliver. She can do “in a studio recording” because it doesn’t require much from her aside from singing. I could have done without the totally predictable, slothful recording technician who turns to putty after listening to Karen’s siren song, but I digress…Good job McPhee!

Unfortunately the opening scene with Karen is about as good as she gets. From there she descends back into the pit of unbelievability. Are we really to believe that she would give up a potential recording contract to honour her $200 commitment to stay in the workshop? Bitch please.

But speaking of the workshop, it’s by far the best thing about this episode, proving once again that Smash really needs to stick with the musical and nothing else. I think it was a smart move for the producers of the series to introduce us to the original numbers slowly throughout the season, so when we get them all in tandem, we can’t help but hum along. I didn’t even mind the disruptive cutaways when Karen fantasizes (still) about singing the lead Marilyn role. (Oh, Iowa…keep dreaming!) We get a solid ten minutes of musical performance and choreography, and even a new number sung by scrunchy-face Michael (Will Chase). I would venture to say this is the best episode of Smash this season because it gives us the longest uninterrupted sequence of engaging musical performance

Courtesy of NBC

As much as guest star and Broadway legend Bernadette Peters elevates the dramatic, day-in-the-life scenes, I really don’t think exploring Ivy’s (Megan Hilty) mommy issues is necessary in the episode. There’s enough drama going on with the debut of the workshop that everything else is unnecessary. I can see how the mommy issues are related to Ivy’s ability to perform – I’m more griping about things like the stupid boiler/heater going haywire. I mean, I shouldn’t be thinking of things like “How on earth aren’t these performers passing out from heat exhaustion?” or “Why didn’t someone go and get a frickin’ fan?” when there are musical numbers going on. It’s a distraction that could have been easily avoided.

And it seems like the show is indeed aware of the power it has when it just features these amazing performers. I mean, take for example, when we’re first introduced to Peters’ character, Leigh Conroy, and she does her best impression of the Kristen Wiig “Don’t make me sing” SNL sketch.

Everyone, literally, drops everything so they can stare slack-jawed (and rightly so) at Leigh while she belts out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”. It works. We completely forget about the zzzz-worthy material that came before it (Michael/Julia [Debra Messing] affair, I’m looking at you).

I know it’s unlikely that the show is going to do a radical 180 on its format. Alas, we will never get a show that just focuses on mounting  a musical, so I’m trying to let it go. We’re stuck with the poor attempts at character development, only getting glimpses of the “backstage” musical, so I’m trying to make a concerted effort not to beat a dead horse. But I’m hoping that now that we’ve become accustomed to a good four numbers, that eventually we’ll start getting to see more extended periods of the musical stuff (like we did in this episode) and less of the “dramatic” (please note the ironic quotes) stuff.

Other bits:

  • The show needs to get a PC writer on staff STAT. I could literally feel the cringes of my fellow viewers during the whole “stupid gaydar” exchange between Ivy and Tom (Christian Borle).
  • Oh, and let’s not forget the Chinese plumber talk. Nice Smash, we can now add ambivalent racism to your casual homophobic and misogynistic references. Note to the writers: Find another way to convey your comic relief!
  • Ellis (Jaime Cepero) tattles about Julia’s affair to Eileen (Anjelica Huston) who thanks him for the information while simultaneously threatening him and calling him out as a dirty little snake.  She does this in a single sentence. Looks like all the time playing ‘Buck Hunter’ has Eileen back in top form.
  • Speaking of the super producer, many may gawk at the flirtation she’s having with the bartender, but I think it’s cute.
  • Leo (Emory Cohen) delivers what is sure to be his Emmy winning scene when he (apparently) reveals knowledge about his mother’s affair: “I do know what you’re in the middle of. And I think it sucks. I think YOU suck.” Bra-vo.
  • Um, why was Julia wearing her sunglasses in the (indoor) post workshop meeting? I really hope it wasn’t for the dramatic purpose of taking them off once it was suggested that Michael be cut from the show. No, there must be another reason. There must.

So what did you think Smash-ers? Are you enjoying the way things are shaping up? Do you think more Broadway heavyweights are going to continue to pop up? Sound off in the comments section below.

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

3 thoughts on “Smash recap – 1×07: ‘The Workshop’

  1. Pingback: Smash recap: 1×10 – ‘Understudy’ « Bitch Stole My Remote