Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee). That’s who was chosen to portray Marilyn Monroe in ‘Bombshell’ as the NBC show Smash closed out its freshman season last night. Looking back, Smash turned out to be more of a shin-splint marathon rather than a quick easy sprint. It never quite recovered the creative footing it kindasorta demonstrated waaaay back in its pilot, and frequently left us shaking our heads, our fists and the clumps of hair we pulled out during moments of (often Ellis inspired) frustration.
At least we knew that we were in good company, though: even The Hulk was creatively dissatisfied going into the finale.
In honour of ‘Bombshell’, we’re doubling up with two bitches instead of one. So how did the finale do?
Let He Said/She Said bitch it out…
He Said (Cinephilactic)
I remember viewing the premiere, fifteen weeks ago, and agreeing with critics – for the most part. I liked the songs, I thought Megan Hilty’s Ivy was a great find, and I appreciated Katherine McPhee’s vocal talents, although not her acting.
Fast forward to the finale, and I can pretty much say the same things. Swap out Julia’s (Debra Messing) adoption woes for her extramarrital affair, Anjelica Huston clearly still has more range than Eileen allows her to play and Jack Davenport’s Derek remains a cad, a douchebag, and yet he somehow also remains one of the show’s best characters.
Still, I’d be remiss to say that I enjoyed the show the way I did the pilot. The continued rivalry between Karen and Ivy dominated the show in a way that I’d hoped it wouldn’t, and the Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman) interlude, while amusing, was ultimately just a stopholder to get us to this: who will it be Marilyn in the finale? To its credit, I didn’t think Smash would reveal who was going onstage until the curtain raised at the end of the episode (so points there). At the same time, however, I can’t give the show too much credit since Ivy’s decision to overdose during Karen’s big final song was a terribly cheesy cliche (and oh-so-Marilyn! Gag).
As always, what I enjoyed most was the backstage mechanics: the rush to fit Karen into ill-fitting costumes, and the last minutes rewrites. The challenging collaboration between Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia would have been nearly perfect if Julia hadn’t patted herself on the back so hard for delivering such an amazing product. Considering everything the beyotch nearly did to derail the whole thing, I’m surprised the crew hasn’t strung her from the rafters by her thumbs. If the finale accomplished one thing, it is to reinforce that my absolute favourite character is no one from the principal cast, but rather Derek’s assistant, Linda (Ann Harada), who always wears a bemused and exasperated expression, like she’s herding cats trying to corral this group of morons towards a finished product.
While I appreciated that Ellis (Jamie Cepero) was disposed of rather expediently, the fact that he escaped on anything other than a gurney and a toe-tag is disappointing. His firing by Eileen was long overdue, but it wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted since it looked like Eileen was almost uncertain of herself. Thankfully her mobster bartender boyfriend was also mostly MIA, so hopefully both he and Ellis will be written out once and for all when the show returns next Winter.
What did you think, TVAngie? I didn’t touch on Dev (Raza Jaffrey) or the curious case of the engagement ring, nor the hilariously awful/convenient blackout/red light stage interaction between Julia and Michael Swift (Will Chase)? Oh Sweet Baby Cheesus, I just remembered (with sinking despair) when Julia oh so subtlely remembered the last time she threw up was with her spawn first born.
I’m also curious, since I know that you’d have to be forced, A Clockwork Orange-style, to ever watch the show again, what could be done to persuade you to revisit this trainwreck when it returns next year? What might that ideal S2 look like?
She Said (TVAngie)
All in all I was pretty underwhelmed by the finale. It came as no surprise that Karen was set to play Marilyn, although I was impressed that she was able to pull it off with all the shizz that happened to her backstage. I can’t imagine it was encouraging for her to hear everyone rumbling about how she couldn’t do it, especially in such explicit terms (ie: Eileen).
I was, however, impressed with all of the backstage antics with wardrobe changes, and tech. I finally felt the true hustle and bustle of what goes on backstage. I also appreciated how Derek was Karen’s cheerleader and wasn’t motivated by what was going on in his pants. It was the first time that I felt he was appropriately fighting for his artistic vision.
I also didn’t expect that Ivy would stoop to the level of ‘supreme bitch’ by telling Karen about her night with Dev with puppy dog eyes, trying to make it sound like she was doing Karen a favour by telling her. I did expect she probably would have used it somewhere down the line, but so soon after? I’m a bit disappointed that the producers chose to paint Ivy this way – I’ve said it throughout the season – the show is more interesting when Karen and Ivy have a less obvious rivalry going on. Again, it just serves to hoist Karen up on an even higher pedestal: how can she not be the right choice when she’s able to learn the entire show (blocking and all) in a matter of hours with all of this personal crap in her ears? It’s clear that the show is rooting for Karen.
As for other storylines: I’m happy that Michael’s wife left him (Karma!). Also, I think the audience did a collective dry heave when teased with the possibility that Julia might be pregnant with his spawn.
I was surprised that you didn’t address the musical numbers, Cinephilactic, as that’s usually something that tends to save the show for me. When Karen started her rendition of “Wolf” again, I thought her vocals were bang on, but it looked like her face had just been injected with botox. It didn’t help anything when the number was intercut with Ivy’s rendition way back when (Read: Ivy was better.) But then Karen warmed up as the choreography picked up and all in all, I didn’t mind it. But she completely killed the final number. As much as I liked the downer ending last week, I thought the new ending was much more fitting. Of course, McPhee does a stellar job because all she really has to do is stand there and belt it out. Methinks the producers are onto the fact that she doesn’t really do well with the acting/singing combo. This could bode well for S2 for sure.
And speaking of S2, here’s what I think it will look like:
1) I don’t think we can avoid the fact that Julia is preggo with Michael’s baby and we’re likely to go through more groan-worthy hardships with her family. Cue the UGH.
2) I think Karen will get significant buzz from her preview performance and will likely take over the role full time while ‘Bombshell’ paves the way to Broadway. I predict the success will go to her head a bit and she’ll start being bitchy to her fellow chorus members. Something catastrophic will happen and she’ll realize that she needs to come back to her super-sweet Iowa ways. Again…UGH.
3) Ivy will be discovered in the dressing room after injesting a mouthful of pills as a last ditch effort for attention. She’ll get it, but it won’t last very long. I say she’ll descend further and become a stripper. Karen will feel bad for her and come in as saviour (of course), and petition that Ivy become her understudy. They end up sharing the role of Marilyn – Karen for evening performances and Ivy for matinees. Everyone’s happy by the end of season two!
So that’s a wrap for Season One. Frankly, I’m hoping that the new change in leadership over at Smash will deliver a much more cohesive season. What would it take for me to watch this show without it feeling like a chore? More focus on the musical! Cut out all the other crap (Read: Emory Cohen) and get McPhee some acting lessons. I would also appreciate the show more if it went full-out camp, embracing every cliche and approaching it with reckless abandonment. I saw a glimmer of this in the Bollywood episode.
Bitchstolemyremote’s worst Lines of the night:
- Julia (re: Karen, to a demanding Derek): “She needs to make a phone call!” Claaaasic overreaction from Julia.
- Ellis: ““You haven’t heard the last of us” Umm…does Ellis have multiple personalities? That might actually explain a lot
- Julia: “I’m not running away from you. I’m running away from me.” Join the queue, you crazy beyotch
- Ivy (about Dev’s cheating): ““That’s very Joe DiMaggio of him.” Everyone absolutely needs to stop talking about things using Marilyn as a verb
- Julia: “This is a disaster. It’s such a good musical.” Way to take your share of the blame, sweetie
- Eileen (to Nick Jonas): “Marilyn’s in trouble.” See what we mean? It sounds stupid – always has
- Derek (tracking Karen to the dressing room): “You dropped little bits of Marilyn like bird crumbs.”
- Derek: “Whatever happens next, don’t ever doubt that you’re a star.” This either sounded like pure cheese, or just enough schmaltz
Bitchstolemyremote’s best Lines of the night:
- Derek (surveying Karen’s loose fitting clothes): “There isn’t a belt in the building?”
- Linda: “This one she doesn’t have to dance; she just has to show her underwear.”
- Derek (to Ivy, explaining why Karen is Marilyn): “I see her…in my head. I can’t help it…I see her. She just has something…that you don’t.” Brutally cold, but honest. It’s the quintessential Derek line.
- Linda (responding to Derek’s demands to keep working): “According to equity, there are breaks.”
That’s it for Smash‘s first season. What did you think, Smash-ers, did the season finale do it for you? Were you happen with the break-ups, make-ups and suicides? And what does your S2 look like? Sound off below!
Smash has completed its freshman season and will return Winter 2013 on NBC.