209 The Parents and 210 The Surprise Party 211 The Dress Rehearsal.
By: David Sheward
Smash has limped to its new berth on Saturday nights, but in the same week it played its final Tuesday slot. Two episodes of Smash in one week? What do you think I am, NBC, a martyr to hate-watching? You’re just lucky there was no Amazing Race this week because of the Country Music Awards, otherwise I would have waited and crammed three blogs into one. On the Tuesday show, Bernadette Peters as Ivy’s mother Lee Conroy joins the cast of Bombshell and Karen’s father visits from Iowa. See, the episode is called "The Parents" and both leading ladies have mommy-daddy issues… get it? On Sat., Ivy is pissed at Tom so Tom invites Liza Minnelli to sing for Ivy on her birthday. Sure, Liza does that sorta stuff all the time.
On Tues., we open with Karen just waking up (but she’s always groggy and bleary-eyed like this so how are we supposed to tell the difference?), having spent a fantastic night with Jimmy. Evidently, the roommate Ana was out all night celebrating getting the role of Diva, which bizarrely involves acrobatics and fabric (but more on that later). So the sex with Jimmy must have been so good Karen entirely forgot her father was in town from Iowa for a conference. Jimmy discreetly leaves by the fire escape as Dylan Baker as Karen’s dad enters.
Tom, Julia, and Eileen ambush Ivy to inform her that her overbearing mother will be playing Marilyn’s mom Gladys. And what is Sam doing at a Bombshell rehearsal? I thought he was going to try to get his Book of Mormon touring job back after Tom told him there was no room for him in Bombshell to play Nat King Cole? Did Tom get him a chorus position? Eileen wouldn’t approve that, she told Tom and Julia last week there were no more parts available–at all. Is Sam just visiting or is he there so he can find out that Tom wanted Lee in the show and he could tell Ivy?
Meanwhile over at Hit List, we finally learn about Jimmy and the crackhead from several episodes ago. From what I can discern from the cryptic dialogue, Jimmy owes the crackhead money for something, drugs probably. Said crackhead evidently does not use social media or he would have found Jimmy earlier.
Back at Bombshell, we learn that Lee has starred in revivals of Anything Goes and The Sound of Music–roles Peters would be wrong for. The NY Times Arts Editor is willing to write a front-page profile of Ivy and Lee just because he wants to spend time with Eileen. When did that happen? I guess since the bartender went up the river, Eileen is ready for action again. At the benefit for Manhattan Theater Workshop, Ana keeps it simple with her big number wherein she is lifted in the air, twirls around on a huge strip of satin while a bunch of chorus people slink around like felines. JUST A MINUTE–this has got to be the craziest number Smash has done since last season’s Bollywood fiasco. This is supposed to be for a small Off-Broadway production and all of sudden it’s Cirque du Freakin’ Soleil? What happened to "Keep it simple, Derek. Let the material speak for itself"? Hit List should be called Hot Mess.
Julia is at the benefit for no good reason other than to have Scotty guilt her into polishing Hit List’s storyline. What? But, as Julia points out, the damn thing is sung-through. I would have had her say, "Fix you own damn show, bitch! I’m going to Broadway!" But she caves and sets up a big future confrontation with Derek, Jimmy, and Kyle (still don’t know what he’s doing with the show since Jimmy writes ALL the words and music and there’s no book.) Speaking of Jimmy, he acts like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend and is reduced to stealing from women’s checked coats to pay off the crackhead. Derek discovers him and lends him the money to pay off Jimmy’s debt. The episode ends with Jimmy paying off the crackhead but taking some junk from him and Ana impressing the NY Times guy so much, the boys have to write her more material. This will no doubt cause Karen to be upset. Maybe she will bat an eyelash. Oh and Bernadette Peters and Megan Hilty sing a beautiful number by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, but it’s totally lost in the chaos.
On to Saturday, Ivy is in tech, goddamnit, and acting all snarky because Tom agreed to cast Lee as her mother–BTW Bernadette Peters is missing for this episode. If the role of Marilyn’s mother is so goddamn important, where is she? Maybe one hour could not handle both Peters and Minnelli. Sam is still hanging around–is he in Bombshell or what? That’s totally unclear. Over at Hit List, management is cool with Julia dramaturging, but is the show sung-through or not? There seems to be plenty of dialogue as we see in the introduction to a new number called "Be Original," which advocates imitating Lady Gaga in order to become famous.
To patch things up with Ivy, Tom writes a song for her in an afternoon and Liza Minnelli learns it in an hour, plus Michael Riedel shows up to hear Minnelli sing it. The best part of the whole episode was Riedel’s flummoxed expression as Minnelli wiped her hands on his jacket. Julia and Scott, who had an unexpressed thing for each other years ago while working on a play about Amelia Earhart, rekindle their emotions while working with Kyle on the book of Hit List. Evidently, it never occurred to Kyle to use index cards instead of napkins and post-it notes.
Derek discovers Jimmy and Karen have been making out in the wardrobe room and takes his revenge by agreeing to Kyle’s changes in the show–which means beefing up Ana’s part and lessening Jimmy and Karen’s roles. YAY! Eileen and Richard from the NY Times agree to take it slowly as Derek seeks solace with Ivy. The episode ends with a promo for Ready for Love, the new dating reality show NBC has given Smash’s former Tues. time-slot.
You can tell the Peacock Network has given up on Smash because they’re not even showing next-week promos at the end of the episode anymore.
Smash Episode 211 The Dress Rehearsal
This week’s episode of Smash was directed by Mimi Leder of ER and Deep Impact fame and I feel like I’ve got a hangover from all her revolving shots. Leder loves to spin her camera around actors to create a sense of drama and she did it twice here. First with Julia, Tom, Eileen, and Linda frantically conferring over the open dress rehearsal of Bombshell and then at the end of the show where everyone was reading Richard Francis’s ridiculous New York Times article unfavorably comparing the show with Hit List. Okay, I know the Smash people are allowed a little dramatic license, but come on. First of all, the Arts Editor of the most important paper in the city would not write anything about theater. He’d assign it to the drama critic or a feature writer. Secondly, he would not write about a show wherein he is dating the producer. Thirdly, he would not write anything in the form of a review about a show which has just started previews and another that is still in rehearsal. After they both open, fine, yes. And another thing, Derek and Scott would definitely NOT let anyone in the press, particularly the Times, into a "stumble-through" of Hit List.
As long as we are listing what would never happen in the real world, let’s continue in that vein:
So far, we’ve got
1. Richard Francis’ cockamamie feature comparing the two shows.
2. Julia dramaturging for Hit List. She’d be too busy at the Lily Hayes with Bombshell. And who the hell is Lily Hayes anyway? Up to now they’ve been using real names of Broadway theaters, why make up a fictional one all of a sudden?
3. Ivy’s nudity. She would have to make up her mind before the show starts if she’s going to keep the nudity. The stage manager and director wouldn’t allow her to improvise onstage during a performance.
4. Derek changing the beginning of Hit List just before the "stumble-through." You don’t reconceive the entire show just before a run-through for a major arts editor. Derek would have to block it and run through it. That takes more than a couple of seconds as depicted. (I wonder if anyone in the TV audience knew what he was talking about when he referenced All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard?)
5. Sam quitting Bombshell just before opening. "I’d rather be unemployed than work for you," he told Tom, his former lover. People in this show don’t seem to have rent or food expenses.
6. That whole thing in the audience with "Dig Deep" to cut short the intermission. What was that? The actors took up too many seats, plus you’d never want to crawl all over audience members. Plus if the idea is to speed up the transition into "Public Relations" in order to get the airplane on stage, I don’t see how that works. Ivy and the whole chorus now has to frantically race backstage and change costumes. And is it a reprise of "Dig Deep" as opposed to the whole number? If so, it doesn’t make dramatic sense. If not, the number is thrown away. At least Henry Stram who plays Lee Strasberg will get some money out of it.
But there were things I really liked about this episode
1. Karen and Jimmy getting told off to fuck off by Ana and Kyle respectively. I absolutely love that these two are getting their come-uppance. It was great when Dead-Eyed Karen whined about losing yet another song to Acrobatic Ana and Ana told her shut her piehole about it.
2. Ellis appearing in Tom’s nightmare.
I guess that’s about it. NBC is clearly reducing care for this patient. Just like last week, they refused to spend money on making a promo for the next episode. This week we got a sneak peak of that sci-fi show about a future with no electricity which is where Smash is headed.