TV: Smash Finale—“Big Finish”.

After two tumultuous seasons filled with cast and creative overhauls, dwindling ratings and a move to Saturday nights in the U.S. to really put the final nail in the coffin, Smash bid Australian audiences adieu last night on Soho.

I, for one, am sad to see Smash go as, while it certainly wasn’t the best or most cohesive show on TV, I found it immensely enjoyable to watch, partly because I’m a sucker for Marilyn Monroe and a fan of musical theatre, but also because of the melodrama and the sometimes-fantastic casting.

It’s no secret I’ve had my issues with Smash, though, namely Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright, whom the writers tried to shove down the audience’s throat, even more so with her star turn in Hit List in season two. Luckily, this freed the part of Marilyn Monroe up for Ivy, who should have been a shoe in for the part from get, what with her curvy frame, platinum blonde locks and knockout Broadway voice.

While there were a few problems with season one, like Julia’s family life (which was reintroduced in the final, leading me to ask, what was the point in retiring Frank and Michael Swift in the first place?), her obsession with scarves, Karen’s possessive boyfriend Dev, and psycho assistant Ellis, Gossip Girl’s Joshua Safran was brought in to replace series creator (and real life Julia Huston) Theresa Rebeck and revamp the show. He did this by dreaming up a rival musical for Bombshell: Hit List.

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“The only reason Hit List made it to Broadway was because Kyle Bishop died.”

Harsh, Ivy, but true. Kyle was one of the better new characters of season two, but he and his musical could be seen as an allegory for Smash: it was dead in the water so a second musical was introduced in an attempt to revive it.

Several of the themes and songs in Hit List centre around reinvention—“Rewrite This Story”, for example—though I’m not sure how intentional the correlation with Smash’s failure was.

And for an eventual Broadway musical driven by the meta desire to run on Broadway, Hit List has a strange obsession with MTV, fame and the VMAs, of all things. While this wasn’t revealed on the show, it did come out in a very interesting story on Vulture, which begs the question: how did a show (both Smash and Hit List) about Broadway dreams become so muddied by pop?

Safran’s former show’s influence can also be seen in Jimmy, the bad boy who just wants to make good, and Karen’s just the manic pixie (strike that; she’s far too bland to fall into that problematic category) dream girl to help him. What eventuated with Jimmy’s past harks back to Gossip Girl’s season one cliff-hanger: Serena thinks she killed someone on a drug-fuelled bender, but it all works out for the best.

Ivy also experiences a happy ending (pardon the pun) when she finally tells Derek she’s pregnant and he expresses joy at the news despite the fact that his character has been bewildered by parenthood in the past and—of course!—there’s no other option for Ivy than to go ahead with the pregnancy in the wake of her burgeoning career and Tony win. This is network TV, after all.

As for the Tony’s, which rounded out the series (sorry Safran; you didn’t make it to the VMAs like you’d hoped), Kyle took Best Book, but Best Actress, Best Musical and Best Original Score– Music And/Or Lyrics went to Bombshell, proving the Marilyn musical still reigns supreme in the short-lived world of Smash.

Related: The Problem with Smash.

Elsewhere: [The New Yorker] Farewell, Smash.

[Vulture] The Unspoken Full Plot for Smash’s Hit List Musical is Revealed.

TV: The Problem with Smash.

This post was originally published earlier in the year when Smash first aired on Foxtel’s W, now SoHo.

Smash, the Steven Spielberg-produced musical-serial about a Marilyn Monroe Broadway show, debuted with promise. I quite enjoyed the first few episodes, with Debra Messing as one of the musical’s writers, Angelica Huston as its producer, and Broadway star Megan Hilty as the number one contender for the role of Marilyn. But then Smash kind of plateaued.

Clem Bastow, writing for TheVine, seems to think it’s because of Katharine McPhee’s inclusion as the other competitor vying for the lead, and I have to agree. Bastow writes:

“The trouble with McPhee’s performance in Smash is that it jolts me out of my suspension of disbelief… [B]ut whenever Karen/Katharine opens her mouth, the fourth wall comes crashing down around me. Her voice is thin, her performance mannered, she acts with her chin like a young Gwyneth Paltrow, and self-consciously holds her mouth in such a way to suggest a very pretty female version of Jack Nicholson’s Joker.”

I’m all for Hilty’s Ivy Lynn, who’s spent ten years in the chorus and lives and breathes Marilyn through and through. But I just can’t get behind McPhee’s Karen Cartwright who, as Ivy rightfully observes, got to New York five minutes ago, hasn’t paid her dues and is already getting callbacks for lead roles. She can’t act (McPhee as Karen nor Karen as Marilyn), complains about everything and is an ineffable dolt.

But in the last few weeks, Smash has been looking up. I immensely enjoyed the episode when Ivy lost the plot after being replaced as Marilyn by Uma Thurman’s major movie star, Rebecca Duvall, and had to go back to being an angel in the chorus line of Bombshell’s (the name they’ve settled on for the fictional—but very well could be a real Broadway show if Smash’s commercial success continues—musical) writers’ other Broadway show, Heaven on Earth. Ivy loses it, mixes her throat medication with alcohol, goes on stage high, and ends up singing Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That)” with Karen in Times Square (video above. Please excuse the horrid quality, but I wanted a clip that actually showed the scene rather than just the audio).

I still can’t stand Karen and Ellis, the sneaky assistant to Huston’s Eileen and, formerly, Bombshell writer Tom Levitt but, if it’s about Marilyn Monroe, I’m willing to let Smash go out with a bang.

Are you watching Smash? What do you think of it?

Related: The Problem with Smash. 

Elsewhere: [The Vine] You Ain’t Gettin’ 88 Cents From Me, Smash.

Image via Crushable.

TV: The Problem with Smash.

 

Smash, the Steven Spielberg-produced musical-serial about a Marilyn Monroe Broadway show, debuted with promise. I quite enjoyed the first few episodes, with Debra Messing as one of the musical’s writers, Angelica Huston as its producer, and Broadway star Megan Hilty as the number one contender for the role of Marilyn. But then Smash kind of plateaued.

Clem Bastow, writing for TheVine, seems to think it’s because of Katharine McPhee’s inclusion as the other competitor vying for the lead, and I have to agree. Bastow writes:

“The trouble with McPhee’s performance in Smash is that it jolts me out of my suspension of disbelief… [B]ut whenever Karen/Katharine opens her mouth, the fourth wall comes crashing down around me. Her voice is thin, her performance mannered, she acts with her chin like a young Gwyneth Paltrow, and self-consciously holds her mouth in such a way to suggest a very pretty female version of Jack Nicholson’s Joker.”

I’m all for Hilty’s Ivy Lynn, who’s spent ten years in the chorus and lives and breathes Marilyn through and through. But I just can’t get behind McPhee’s Karen Cartwright who, as Ivy rightfully observes, got to New York five minutes ago, hasn’t paid her dues and is already getting callbacks for lead roles. She can’t act (McPhee as Karen nor Karen as Marilyn), complains about everything and is an ineffable dolt.

But in the last few weeks, Smash has been looking up. I immensely enjoyed the episode when Ivy lost the plot after being replaced as Marilyn by Uma Thurman’s major movie star, Rebecca Duvall, and had to go back to being an angel in the chorus line of Bombshell’s (the name they’ve settled on for the fictional—but very well could be a real Broadway show if Smash’s commercial success continues—musical) writers’ other Broadway show, Heaven on Earth. Ivy loses it, mixes her throat medication with alcohol, goes on stage high, and ends up singing Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That)” with Karen in Times Square (video above. Please excuse the horrid quality, but I wanted a clip that actually showed the scene rather than just the audio).

I still can’t stand Karen and Ellis, the sneaky assistant to Huston’s Eileen and, formerly, Bombshell writer Tom Levitt but, if it’s about Marilyn Monroe, I’m willing to let Smash go out with a bang.

Are you watching Smash? What do you think of it?

Elsewhere: [The Vine] You Ain’t Gettin’ 88 Cents From Me, Smash.

Image via IMDb.