Monday, March 5, 2012

'Smash' Can Never "Be Bad" In My Eyes...

Life moves fast. The entertainment industry moves faster.

I just want to take a moment to address something that has been bugging me of late. The last episode of Smash saw some reviewers criticizing the amount of character information we were getting in such a short amount of time. One reviewer in particular, who shall remain nameless because honestly I see the review as part of the problem and do not want to encourage anyone clicking on the link, actually argued that there were too many characters in Smash to keep them all straight, let alone hold an interest in the majority of them.
No, this particular reviewer is not 80 years old. But where one person criticizes, another (me) praises.

Personally, I get bored when shows drag out storylines or character development. I feel it is the writers attempting to stretch one plot point as far as they can, perhaps because they don't have many more ideas for the future. But that often leads to the audience drawing conclusions long before the show makes a definitive statement about such things, and that again, leads to boredom for the audience is just waiting for the characters to play catch up. Furthermore, it nothing aggravates me more than when shows give you a character's backstory or relationship to another character in an expositional monologue. It's part of the reason I love Michael (Will Chase) and Julia (Debra Messing) so much; you get their history told in one line, but you see the weight of it on both of their faces and in their body language every time they're in the same room. Smash shows, rather than tells, and some people just don't want to have to pay even the slightest bit of attention.

It will never fail to baffle me at how people want to see characters stay stationary rather than grow and develop, and yes, have relationships and other exciting adventures with new and equally exciting characters. Clearly, if those are things you are against, you shouldn't be watching Smash, which moves at an incredibly realistic (and refreshingly NY brisk) pace. You probably shouldn't even be reading my blog in general because I have no idea what shows you and I would agree upon! But that being said, since "Let's Be Bad" was the first episode of the season I hadn't seen ahead of time, I decided to do something different with my reaction piece and simply live-blog it. I thought it might provide even more instinctual, and certainly immediate, commentary.

- It's a shame Eileen's (Anjelica Huston) assistant was so far away from her when he delivered his last minute news about quitting (a shame but not surprising-- he's a smart little weasel) because it's been awhile since she's thrown a drink in anyone's face, and if her palms aren't itching to do so, well, mine are itching for her!

- Oh, you win Derek (Jack Davenport). I understand why all the girls sleep with you. I think Karen (Katharine McPhee) even understands it. She's just fighting it to be the good little moral girl from middle America. But pulling her aside under the guise of needing to work on a routine simply to offer her your biased advice was a nice touch. We all know you voted for her to get the role of Marilyn, but I don't think Karen knows it, and it's nice that you're still trying to help her out-- help everyone else in the room see what you (and Julia) saw in this green girl. If "you have trouble with follow-through" is any indication, every piece of dialogue is going to be punctuated with importance tonight. It's why I love this show so much; it's what makes it smarter than most of what's on right now.

- "It's not just a love story; we're trying to explore some bigger themes." Well, yup, I was right about the dialogue. But seriously, "What's bigger than love?" Chase, if you didn't look so much like my cousin... But I am glad Julia didn't melt on the spot; it's a little bit of a cheesy line, and sharing a dessert you know she loves is so much more intimate and real anyway.

- What is wrong with you, Tom (Christian Borle)? He is adorable; he is sweet; he is well-dressed, well-employed, and seemingly well-bred. Yeah, the lawyer talk is dull, but you can break him of that; it's probably just "still new to each other nerves." Stop checking your phone! Or, if you're not attracted to him, tell him that now so you don't string him along. Stringing him along is something Ellis (Jaime Cepero) would do. Also something Ellis would do? Use a guy who clearly likes you for a favor like getting your BFF's kid out of jail!

- Leo (Emory Cohen)-- wait, Leo, really? Who's idea was it to name the kid Leo? Or then, when you cast Debra Messing, why wouldn't you say 'Maybe we should change the kid's name...' That's like naming Michael Swift 'Will'.

- I don't remember what I was initially going to say about Leo. But John (Neal Bledsoe) getting all lawyer-y on things is probably going to ignite the spark in Tom. John was a little dull at dinner-- a little too "first date" still-- but Tom seeing him be as passionate about something as Tom is in his music? That's all you need to make the connection.

- Tom's impromptu songs to Leo's gripes? Priceless. I wish he had been my babysitter.

- Watching Julia scold her son makes me wonder how Grace Adler would have handled having a boy. My guess is not nearly as cool, calm, and collected. In fact, I'm pretty confident raising Lila wasn't nearly as poised or "all together" as Julia was, even when chastising her son for his stupidity. Being able to be mad but still hug him goodnight (and him not only accept it but welcome it)? Said a lot more about their relationship and the family dynamic she has obviously worked hard to set up than anything they could have verbalized. It's the little moments-- the indicative behavior moments-- that make me want to live in the TV show. But not in New York.

- Stop being such a voice of reason, Tom! You may hear guilt in Julia's tone, but don't you also hear happiness-- a lightheartedness you don't hear when she's fighting with bad cell reception to get a hold of her husband? Let her flirt a little! A little flirting can be healthy (Okay, I swear I'm not a homewrecker; I just really like Michael, and if Julia was one hundred percent happy at home, she wouldn't be so drawn to her ex anyway. We all must do whatever makes you happiest; life is too short!).

- "I'm pretty good with a password" equates to "I can hack into your private emails," Eileen! Do not trust Ellis!

- That was a weird exchange between Sam (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Tom. I like how eager and excited Sam is, but I don't know why Tom was so off-put by it. Did he assume Sam was flirting or trying to get ahead opportunistically? If so, maybe he's been hanging around Ivy (Megan Hilty) too long. Sam genuinely seems like just a dude who's thrilled to go to work and be friends with those he sees there. I hope they don't prove me wrong.

- I'm all for Derek calling out Ivy's mistakes to teach her a lesson. It was very Simon Cowell. It's some nice (though petty) payback for calling out Karen last week, but I honestly didn't hear what he was talking about with the vibrato. I imagine Hilty can't sing a bum note even if she tried. It's just not quite what he wanted to hear; it wasn't necessarily wrong. It's going to be interesting to watch how his favoritism affects the workshop, and the mood in the room, if Karen keeps being used as an example. It wasn't particularly comfortable for Karen to have that kind of a spotlight on her-- especially when she was making so much progress with the ensemble. But moreso, it's going to be interesting to watch how it affects his personal relationship with Ivy.

- Too bad Julia didn't have a drink in her hand. Tom could have used some cooling off.

- Remember when I said Ivy might be going method? Well, I don't know much about Marilyn Monroe, but I never got the impression she was a diva, so I think tonight Ivy just took the title of her music a bit too literally. Her bad behavior is obviously a front she puts up to protect herself and save face in front of those she deems not worthy enough to confide in or let into her inner circle in other ways-- but she's still deeming someone "not worthy." It's getting harder to understand or justify her behavior, let alone root for her, when she's reacting out of brattiness about a perceived slight rather than anything Karen has actually done to her. Ivy's "I'm a grown up" line was, well, just oxymoronic. And to follow it up by pointing out Marilyn's strength was having something that couldn't be taught? Well, isn't that just another feather in Karen's cap since she's the one who came out of nowhere and whose innate talent attracted those Ivy has been fighting to get to notice her through years of training and clawing her way up?

- I don't care what other critics have been saying, if they drop the adoption storyline, I'm going to be pissed. Yes, there are a lot of stories to juggle, but life is complicated like that!

- Are you really not allowed to break your formation until the director calls for it? That is an awkward twenty seconds!

- Oh Leo, you're such a predictably entitled, emo teen. But I'd still be your friend on Facebook. Because in any other situation I'd say it's totally unfair for Julia to lay the adoption worries on him, but since he already established just how badly he wants a baby brother, he deserves it.

- Oh my God, Tom; don't be such a priss!

- No, Tom; it is a problem. When "stars" slack or simply get distracted it sets the tone for everyone else. Behavior but also the level of the game trickles down from the top. Ivy is slipping, and you have to take your rose-colored glasses off to see it and step in and help her. Otherwise you're no better than all those around Marilyn who were complacent in her pill-popping. What, too far? Don't like that comparison? Tough, it's all the same; it all begets the same slippery slope. Which is just extremely apropos with the glamorized production of "Let's Be Bad."

- Ah when words contradict feelings, and therefore truth.

- Oh damn, Sam, you just stole a line right out of my own pilot about how gay you are. For the record, I didn't think you were gay. And I was kind of hoping you'd hit on Karen. Ah, well...

- Dev (Raza Jaffrey), the wall Karen talks to when she needs to expose her inner monologue. I'm not a fan of voice-over, but if seeing the emotions on Karen's face aren't enough for this show, I'd rather give her a true inner monologue than keep Dev around. Right now, she talks at him; he never says anything back that is not simply what he thinks she wants or needs to hear. Whether or not it is actually what she wants or needs to hear, though... Of course, if you add voice-over, then the show would really be all her journey, and right now I like the side-by-side Karen and Julia...with little helpings of Ivy.

- McPheever alert! "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" was absolute PERFECTION.

- YES, HE CAN! Shut up, Julia! He is clearly broken up about you; your kid loves him; just have a mature adult conversation about things, and if that isn't enough to break some of the tension, well, you already know what I'd advise.

- What good is having a doorman if they don't stop people from barging upstairs and banging on your door? See, New York, this is why you can't have nice things!

- Drunk Ivy's voice sounded a lot like sad Karen's voice. I'm not sure if that was intentional or if it's a statement about just how similar these women actually are or what, but it was a little distracting.

- Wow, Dev, cold. I take it back; Ellis may not be the worst after all; Dev may be the worst. Ellis will crash a party with his girlfriend, but Dev-- well, Dev will parade his girlfriend around as eye-candy until it comes time to sit with the bigwigs and then she's ousted to the mistresses and whores table.

- I need to know, does Leo go to private school or Stuyvesant? I would love it if it was Stuyvesant. Then I could picture him as a burner on the wall by the bridge.

- Karen has such confidence with strangers. I don't understand why she can't be that way with those in her life to whom she needs to stand up. I'm hoping that's her journey, but she's taking a little longer to get there than I'd like. Also, why is the Press Secretary at the shitty table? Is that a statement on how little those in government respect the press? Because I get enough of that in my daily life, but I guess it's nice to know it's the same across all industries?

- Aaannnd Smash stole a shot from my own pilot, too. At least a show like this is cracking the door for studios to be more receptive of mine?

- Okay, I don't know what to do with Tom and John's relief that the sex was bad. Now they're just going to be friends or are they going to try again? Maybe now Tom won't be so threatened by Sam's niceness and may actually return the favor. I think they'd make a cute couple. Apparently I'm just like Tom's mother: I have a need to pair off all characters.

- Derek the tortured artist is a weird look on him. For some reason, I feel like him creeping downstairs in the middle of the night to flip through papers is much more about not wanting to be too "coupley" with Ivy than anything else. Yet if it were Tom or Julia huddled over their respective coffee tables in the wee hours, I'd probably equate it to a deep love of the craft. Call it a double standard if you want, but writing inspiration strikes at the oddest of hours, and when you really take pride in what you do, you work until it's finished pouring out of you, even if it's at inconvenient times. I'm just not sure I can say the same for Derek.

- YEA! The mature adult conversation! He's like a little boy. That should make this weird, but it doesn't. Of course, when such a well-intentioned conversation gets interrupted by a serenade, it's easy to lose one's head. Michael may be pushing things along for his own selfish reasons, but all of Julia's hesitations seem to be aimed at the societal implications. If Frank (Brian d'Arcy James) weren't in the picture, which he clearly isn't, at least physically, a lot of the time, she'd have nothing stopping her. Well, assuming he wasn't married, either. That should tell her, and the audience, a lot. But I fear it will be all for naught as once Frank returns and learns what went down, the dutiful wife and mother who doesn't want anything to upset her current plans will be more likely to back off what her heart is telling her and be "reasonable."

- I'm not gonna lie: I'm a bit bummed NBC spoiled the kiss with their episode promo photos. I mean, I would have seen it coming the minute he stopped at the door to the car, but still...

- Oh, Leo; you're 16. Get a life.


Free_Derek said...

A PERFECT, perfect summary of my own reactions, too. Especially about Sam and about the final "holy crap, OMG, MAAAN GET A LIFE" moment. That kiss was ALL sorts of incredibly hot (the photos made it look like a small teeny weeny little kiss and it was anything but that so in the end, while I expected it, I didn't think it would be ANYTHING like what we saw, and the photo didn't ruin much). Too bad stalker Leo was looking on, ruining the end of the super romantic and hot moment. COME ON! Don't you have online friends to stalk, Leo?

Now onto the thing that bothers me. WHY are promos so much ahead? In the promo for episode FOUR, after episode 3 aired (so two weeks ago) we saw Frank punching Michael (noooo! NO touching that super handsome face! Go away Frank, go teach!), so we knew something big was going to go down right there, except I didn't expect it to be because freaking Leo doesn't have a life! (and will clearly tell dad about it). I'm extremely bothered by how out of order the promos are, they're all at least two weeks ahead instead of just showing stuff from the following episode, but never mind, in this case there's a VERY interesting implication about this. Actually one major implication: Ellis the weasel doesn't have ANY leverage against Julia anymore. Leo knows and Frank will know because Leo tells him, so my NOT dear Ellis? The leverage you thought you had is GONE. And that may be why Julia finally manages to crush you. I frankly find Ellis a useless expense for production. He isn't a compelling character, he isn't useful, he's just annoying, scratch that, he's hateful. And the actor isn't nearly as good as the others. Get rid of him yesterday, please.

So, all that beautiful tension between Michael and Julia in last night's promo that Michael pushed to solve? Michael telling Julia if she doesn't talk to him he's going to make a scene? I think it may go down two episodes from now. Meantime, as you very well said in your story, Julia will try and cut out Michael once again because Frank is back and punches him and she needs to fit back into the "normal" life.

Free_Derek said...

Clearly Michael won't be nearly as bothered by the punch as Julia, seen as he's so in love with her and so trapped in the life he picked after she ended things and he was forced to try and forget (I'm 100% sure that's what happened back then, especially since HE wasn't married back then, she's the only one who was) that nothing can prevent him from trying to get what he desperately wants. Yet, his having a family now of course makes him go "Nobody has to know" in the promo. Oh, the complications. And it's very real. I don't think his feelings are of the selfish kind, I think he just knows he can't leave his son and at the same time he can't live without a real love, and his real love is Julia and not his wife. So he's trying to make it work by having Julia on the side, which clearly won't work. Main problem here remains Julia though, she should have realized a marriage isn't meant to work the moment you have an affair that is so big and emotional... which happened the first time she was with Michael. SHE could have had him back then as he wasn't married, and I'm quite sure regret will play a big part in the unfolding of events in future episodes.

And this is also why Smash is so great. They don't use hours of flashbacks or worse, exposition, to explain. We saw ONE beautiful flashback scene with Julia and Michael on the Brooklyn bridge, and that was enough to explain how BIG the deal was, how big the feelings involved were, and how clearly that was going to have serious repercussions on the present. I hate shows that burden me with hours of exposition and flashbacks to explain things. This is much more realistic and much more efficient story-wise. All I needed to understand Julia and Michael's relationship was that flashback... the rest, we can see every time they are interacting. And Will Chase and Debra Messing do a fantastic job at it (maybe because real life imitated art, in their case?)

Also, not buying Ivy's woe me drunken scene for a minute. Derek clearly isn't into her, that scene of him leaving her in the middle of the night was all about him not wanting intimacy and being focused on work (completely agree with you again). And Dev? You don't stand a chance and you were a major jerk. Now that Derek sees Ivy slipping and not being up to par things are going to get interesting, because Karen? You're doing the right thing, but something tells me you DO want Derek. Not going to happen before the end of the season, because you're the anti-Ivy, but eventually...