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.
“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.