Smash: "The Cost of Art"

Unfortunately, I am going to have to backtrack on what I said last week. While I admire Smash for its breeziness, the show seems to be phoning it in and getting complacent on its early ambitions. I have a feeling that will be the show’s downfall…you can’t pile on this quiet character moments and competently performed, but uninspired musical numbers when the audience’s overall effect is insipidness. At some point, you just have to unleash and play a scene up for an impact.

Not that this number was not good, it was VERY good. But that mostly came from the entertainment factor of the staging - a makeshift performance featuring the vocals being tossed around and some snazzy (does anyone even use that word?), attention-whoring choreography. What’s not to like?

I has a sad. I'm just like you...except taller.
But my biggest issue, other then the performances barely reaching par for the course (if they do), comes down to this whole Ivy vs. Karen thing. Look, music and performing is subjective and I understand that. There is no scientific formula or statistic sheet proving one performer is better thean the other…but c’mon already. Pitting Megan Hilty against Katherine McPhee for the role of Marilyn Monroe, taking account each character’s natural looks and performance history, is akin to Rachel and Mercedes competing for the role of Anita in West Side Story on Glee. You can suspend your disbelief, tilt your heads and squint your eyes all you want…but if the performers are of relatively similar calibers, one person wins on looks and ‘feel’ alone.

That’s fine; I am suspending my disbelief week after week that Karen was (and still is kind of) in the running or a viable threat. But do they have to tell me how amazing and awesome she was when I would have come to the opposite decision myself? Make it stop already. The decision of Ivy being cast as Marilyn came down to, essentially, Ivy sleeping with Derek. Hey, that is great television and a perfectly acceptable ‘answer’ sotospeak. Team Karen does not get upset that the show itself took a side by casting Ivy and Team Ivy gets their victory even amidst the controversy. But why does the show go out of its way to edit Ivy down and Karen up?

Jazz hands in back; sex-kitten vamping in front.
Think about it…Ivy was mostly an insecure bitch this episode whereas Karen is working that underdog diva schtick. As far as the former, I love her growing insecurity because it is a totally believable character trait considering her bedtime mate. The problem? She’s now the bitch of the show with her demands in the rehearsal space. Compare that to Karen, who was victimized sidelined throughout rehearsal, only to get a “why don’t you like me” speech and a posse giving her a wardrobe and attitude makeover. Oh, COME ON ALREADY. Karen is no more likeable or cheerworthy in response to her saintly boyfriend and three sassy BFFs, so why does Smash frame her story-arch as a greater push for ingĂ©nue star on the rise?

Believe me, I have been hoping for weeks on end for Savannah Wise to do something other then…you know, exist as a sounding board for Ivy. We even have Wesley Taylor and his gyrating hips into the picture (LOVE him)…but joining Team Karen (literally) does not excite me because Karen is easily my least favorite character on the show and that jump to her defense came out of nowhere, seems unearned and is too convenient.

Hey, wasn’t the purpose of this to not out-shine an ensemble? Guess that went out the window. And by the way, I think Smash should avoid dipping in the Glee pool because not only does this version not even hold a candle to Adele’s original one, but Amber Riley and Naya Rivera also nailed an Adele mash-up a few months ago that casts a huge pall over McPhee’s version.

As far as the other number of the night…

You know what, he was not half-bad. I am way too hard on him for his ‘performance’ (if I can even call it that) of Marius in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables, but hand him something in the Link Larkin school of vanity and it suits him better.

I don’t have much to add in many other regards of the show. One thing I will point out that I am responding well to is that through this Marilyn musical and the personal storylines, each character is developing and interacting in believable manners, but also with a handful of other characters. Even last week, Karen’s boyfriend got a scene with Derek and as unusual as that dynamic was, I appreciate it on the grounds of two people coexisting whom may have never met if it were not for this Marilyn musical. I could watch the “Julia and Tom Show” all day long (Debra Messing and Christian Borle are so grounded in these roles, right?), but we see each of them interact with the other name players on the creative side, the performing side, their personal lives…I think it is smart that Smash build these bridges now, for all of its characters, just to keep their opportunities open down the road when they start making power plays (hopefully).

But seriously, step it up on the performing front and stop trying to make me cheer for Karen. She has a boyfriend, Wesley Taylor and Savannah Wise in her corner and an entire legion of people in the show singer praises about her…she still has to earn it from me.

Video Credit: NBCSmashOfficial
Photo Credit: Smash/NBC
Screen Grab Credit: NRNW

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