If we’ve learned one thing about Broadway from SMASH, it’s that the creative process requires a lot of collaboration. Producers, directors, choreographers, book-writers, actors, critics, publicists – everyone seems to want a say. The dance is, you have to be able to have a director driving the ship, listening to everyone’s suggestions and making the right choices without pissing off the personalities.
It’s a hard thing to do. But most directors on Broadway do so – usually to great success and without much drama.
You wouldn’t know that’s possible, however, by the way SMASH depicts their Broadway directors. Because in the world of SMASH, it’s pretty much impossible to find any competent director. (The same can probably be said for actor, writer, and producer too, but I’m gonna focus on the director problem since that seems to be the main focus of this episode).
Derek Wills certainly isn’t competent. He has a dated creative vision, and will scream and yell at anyone who even tries to discuss it with him. Tom’s got the opposite problem. He isn’t sure how to steer the ship without letting the entire Bombshell crew voice their opinion first. The Liaisons director wasn’t much better. Dude let his cast run the rehearsals! And change the number up on opening night! He was the worst of them all!
Of course, if there wasn’t conflict, there wouldn’t be anything for us to watch each week. But the problem isn’t that SMASH is trying to insert conflict into the story where there’s not conflict. It’s that none of their characters are smart enough to settle the conflict alone. Give us someone to believe in, SMASH. We’re dying for that.
Hey, speaking of a lack of collaboration – I’m solo tonight since Linda is out celebrating Passover. So what follows is a gentile’s view on the Totally True and Oh Hell No moments of episode eight – “The Bells and Whistles.” Hopefully I’ll do a better job at making decisions than our aforementioned directors …
- SHIRTLESS JEREMY JORDAN. IN THE FIRST SCENE. NOW THAT’S A WAY TO START AN EPISODE! PLUS 100!
- Jimmy and Derek start fighting immediately about the way Jimmy is playing a scene. “I guess we see the moment differently,” Derek says. “No, you see it wrong,” Jimmy barks back. We may be tired of the Jimmy and Derek fighting, but at least they’re debating something worth debating. Like character objectives.
- Ivy is back as Marilyn, rehearsing for Bombshell and singing “Let Me Be Your Star.” Live. It’s like all my dreams have come true.
- “I forgot how great she is,” Eileen whispers to Tom. “I didn’t,” Tom responds. Plus 20.
- Julia’s phone rings during rehearsal. Apparently she’s that asshole who needs to be reminded to shut her ringer off before the show. I’m oddly not surprised.
- Julia keeps checking her phone, waiting for Scott (Jesse L. Martin) to call her back. Apparently they were best buds in grad school and then had a falling out. “That was 15 years ago, he can’t still hold a grudge,” Julia wonders to Tom. “Grudges just don’t go away,” Tom responds. “They get bigger.” It’s like Tom’s a member of my family!
- “There must be something I’m just not getting,” Julia wonders, about Scott. “Yeah, the hint,” Tom responds. Plus 50.
- “If you don’t mind – I could really use a break in Act II,” Ivy tells Tom. “I’m in every scene.” Ironically, on the Bombshell “Original Cast Recording” audio commentary track, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman said that if they actually made Bombshell into a musical, it would be impossible for any actress to play Marilyn for this very reason. So nice bit of reality there, SMASH.
- OH HEY DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA! PLAYING AGNES THE SASSY PUBLICIST! PLUS 20.
- Plus another 20 because Jesse L. Martin is in this episode too. Rent OBC reunion, y’all!
- “Ivy looks amazing here,” Eileen tells Agnes, looking at a press shot of Ivy. “She’s got her mother’s face.” “And her wrack,” Agnes responds. Minus 10 on the face comment, because they definitely don’t look alike. But I can’t say the same complaint about the wrack. Plus 50.
- Agnes seemed to get all the best lines in tonight’s episode. “I’m aging here Shawn,” she yells into the phone. “I just hit menopause while on hold.”
- “No one is friends in this business,” Agnes tells Eileen. Plus 80 because even though these theater people act like they’re all one big happy family, I know there’s tons of dysfunction. Also, a two-time Tony-nominated director recently told me, “This is a ruthless business. It’s not enough that someone should succeed, but you have to fail.” So yeah.
- Kyle, Karen, and Ana are looking at the audition list for Hit List. “Love her, love her, love to hate her,” says Kyle. See point above, then Plus 10.
- Jimmy and Derek fight over the idea of casting a celebrity in Hit List. “The point is to come out of nowhere and take them by surprise,” Jimmy says. “You cast a celebrity, it overshadows everything.” But Derek clearly has a retort, and it’s a pretty good one. “The Diva character is supposed to be the biggest superstar in the world,” he says. “If we cast a real star to mirror that, that will be a real coo.” Again, this Jimmy and Derek fighting is soooo annoying. But these are the sorts of obstacles that really appear during the creative process. And they can actually be compelling for us viewers. (If only the dialogue here were a little less cliché).
- At Tom’s party, Sam finds the sheet music for a song from a musical Tom and Julia were working on about Vegas in the 60s. “We didn’t finish the show because it blew,” says Julia. Yeah, that’s probably true.
- Sam performs aforementioned song, with Wes, Jessica, Tom, Julia, and the rest of the cast performing too. “(Let’s Start) Tomorrow Tonight” (by Shaiman and Whitman) is pretty damn catchy, and sounds like a song cut from Catch Me If You Can. Plus 50.
- Derek is getting LED screens from Japan for Hit List, much to the chagrin of Jimmy. “We’re low-fi,” Jimmy complains. “Last time you put so many bells and whistles all over everything that no body noticed the show had any problems before it was too late. The show doesn’t need opening up. It needs to be true to what it is.” Plus 500 because Jimmy it’s about time someone called Derek out for his lazy directing skills.
- Tom and Sam hook up. Plus 10 ‘cause awwwwww.
- Also, Plus another 10 because SHIRTLESS CHRISTIAN BORLE.
- Jimmy complains to Scott about his problems with Derek. Unprofessional? Yes. But bringing your problems with your director to the to the artistic director of the theater? That shit happens all the time.
- Eileen and Julia finally make good points, arguing against adding “(Let’s Start) Tomorrow Tonight” into Bombshell. “This show is about Marilyn, not JFK,” she says. “I can’t have two songs about him.” “I agree,” says Julia. “And ‘Our Little Secret is the one actually about Marilyn.” What, did they both wake up and take smart pills this week? Bravo.
- Jimmy and Kyle have some boring conversation about Jimmy fighting for a chance with Karen. Meanwhile, Ana and Karen have some boring conversation about Ana fighting Derek for a chance to audition for the Diva role. And the whole time, I don’t care at all because they’re in front of La Mama, and there’s a random Peter and the Starcatcher billboard reflecting in the window. Plus 10.
- “What are we doing down here?” Tom asks Julia, as they walk downtown. “Are we buying pot? I haven’t tried that in years.” Apparently Tom is so rich that he has a delivery guy now. WE CAN’T ALL BE ROCKEFELLERS, TOM!
- Julia takes Tom to go see Derek to teach him about making tough decisions. I’m not sure Derek’s the person I would go to for advice about making tough decisions, since every time he has to make a tough decision, he storms off yelling like a teenage girl. But hey – props to Julia for speaking some sense here.
- In yet another disagreement about the LED lights, Jimmy finally breaks down the basic faults of Derek’s directing. “[The scene is] some kid walking across the stage to tell a girl he loves her,” he explains. “If we can’t get an audience to care about that on it’s own, one of us isn’t very good as his job. You hide behind fancy screens because you have nothing else up your sleeve.” I haven’t loved Jimmy this much since he took his shirt off. Also, TAKE YOUR SHIRT OFF!
- Karen sides with Jimmy and tells Derek the LED lights aren’t right for Hit List. Derek then calls everyone pathetic and walks out. See what a great example of someone making tough decisions, Tom and Julia?
- Julia confronts Scott about ignoring her, and apparently he is indeed holding that grudge. 15 years ago she promised he’d be able to direct her first play at Vineyard. But then Lincoln Center wanted the play and offered her Mike Nichols to direct, so she went in that direction. Scott’s reputation was apparently so tarnished that he couldn’t work for a year and it took him 15 years to get back on top. So while that play launched Julia’s career, it almost tanked Scott’s. Yeah, I’d probably hold that grudge too.
- “You realize having them respect you is more important than having them like you,” Derek advises Tom. A good life lesson for us all.
- Tom reminds Derek that they’re pretty similar people. “You were worse when you were his age,” Tom says. “Arrogant, stubborn, full of huge ideas. Nobody believed in but you, but you were right.” Wait, so the only thing that’s changed is that Derek’s no longer full of huge ideas and no one believes in him anymore and he’s wrong all the time? Did I get that right?
- “Derek is kind of a sleazeball,” Kyle says to Ana. “I don’t get why Karen hangs around him all the time.” I DON’T GET WHY YOU HANG AROUND KAREN ALL THE TIME, KYLE. COME BE MY BOYFRIEND!
- Ana encourages Kyle to stop crushing on Jimmy and start focusing on the gay guy on the tech crew who clearly wants to hit it. Every gay needs a good hag to tell it to him honestly.
- Jimmy says that, in his experience, what gets in the way of his love is other people. He’s probably referencing that restraining order he has out on me.
- Derek restages “I Heard Your Voice in a Dream.” Gone are the LED lights, and instead we get a slew of contemporary dancers, preventing Jimmy’s character from making it across the stage to see Karen’s character. It’s a way better number – and the choreography is beautiful. But it still looks a little SYTYCD-knockoff.
- Props on the song though. Good job Andrew McMahon!
- Though Jeremy Jordan is not a dancer. Couldn’t they have brought Ryan Steele in for this number?
- Karen tells Ana that seeing Jimmy perform in Hit List made her realize she’s “crazy about him.” Gurl if you think that’s good, you should have seen him in Newsies. At Paper Mill! Or in that goddamn bathtub in Bonnie & Clyde. Or on the big screen in Joyful Noise. Be still my beating heart.
- Oh hey they’re at Sugarland. Plus 10.
- Tom finally takes control of his directing, shutting down Ivy and bossing Julia around too. ‘Bout time too!
- When Eileen tells Tom she’s found a casting for Marilyn’s mother, Tom asks “LuPone?” Plus 500.
- Inspired by her own experience of banning with her daughter to save the show back from Jerry, Eileen decides to cast Lee Conroy, Ivy’s mom, as Marilyn’s mom. Ivy will probably be pissed. But it’s a damn good idea.
- “Bobby! Stop texting,” Tom yells. Plus 10.
- Tom tells the cast to try the show from the top, sans mistakes. “I just paid $134.50 twice and a babysitter,” he says, pretending he’s an audience member. I wish more directors on Broadway thought that way!
- Kyle makes out with that dude. Plus 20.
- SHIRTLESS JEREMY JORDAN AGAIN. CLOSING OUT THE EPISODE. THANKS SMASH!
Oh Hell No
- Although Jimmy was shirtless in the first scene, he was unfortunately in bed with Karen. Minus 10.
- Tom provides the Bombshell cast with “coffee and croissant from Balthazar.” While I appreciate the callout to the SoHo brasserie, I’m removing points for the pretentious way Tom said “croissant.”
- “Whatever instincts you have, I want to hear about them,” Tom tells the Bombshell cast. “If you have thoughts or feelings about your character or about the text, share them. I believe that actors have something to contribute apart from just doing what they’re told.” Minus 50 because even though we think this makes Tom seem like a nice person, we can already tell this whole episode is going to be about this one line backfiring and Tom being taken advantage of. And even if it is Tom’s first time directing, and some of these actor’s first time acting, people would know better than to turn this into an issue.
- Agnes tells Eileen that Tom’s name does not fill the seats as much as Derek Wills does. “Unless we drum up some excitement, you’re going to be walking around Times Square in a sandwich board.” Minus 50 because we still don’t buy this shit that Derek Wills’ name matters and minus another 50 because I would KILL to see Eileen walking around Times Square in a sandwich board and we know they’re not going to give that to us!
- “The only press on Bombshell is what a hot mess it is,” Agnes tells Eileen. “We have to turn that around.” Though that’s totally true, there’ve been plenty of shows that went to Broadway on the buzz of the show being a hot mess. Sure, they want to turn that around. But a good publicist knows how to capitalize off that.
- Agnes mentions she’s been pitching a story to Richard Francis, Head of the New York Times Arts Section. Minus 50 because she clearly meant Scott Heller.
- Sam is back, visiting from the Book of Mormon tour. He somehow runs into Ivy outside of the Flatiron building rehearsal studio, with his suitcase in tow as if he got directly off the bus. Minus 25 because there’s no way Sam would have been in that location with all his stuff, and randomly run into Ivy. This scene clearly should have taken place at Schnipper’s.
- Jimmy is pissed about the Hit List audition list. “Lea Michele? Lea Michele?” he barks at Derek. “You say it one more time and she magically appears,” Derek responds. PLEASE JIMMY DON’T SAY IT!
- “It’s my show, “ Jimmy says, storming out. And the audience collectively rolles their eyes.
- “I’ve worked with a lot of kids,” Scott tells Derek. “I’ve found listening to them more effective than ignoring what they have to say.” Has he babysat my 5-year-old nephew? Cause if he did, he might encourage that ignoring thing.
- Sam tells Tom and Julia and Ivy he regrets taking the role in the Book of Mormon tour. A lead in the hottest show on tour right now? You’ve got to be kidding me.
- Tom offers Sam a role in Bombshell for no reason other than he wants to get some tail again. Minus everything, including Tom’s dignity.
- Eileen Rand walks to see Richard Francis at his New York Times office. I saw that Times documentary. This office looks way too big.
- Tom is locked in his bedroom at his own cast party, going through the script, trying to find a place in Bombshell for Sam. A good gay would never abandon his party when there’s champagne and showtunes happening in the other room.
- “Everyone wants to sing,” Ivy tells Tom. “Come on – play for us.” Oh god. Not this singing at a party shit again. I’m having season one flashbacks already. HELP!
- Karen takes Jimmy’s t-shirt, and puts it on, like an asshole. Minus 10.
- This move by Karen inspires Jimmy to add a part in the show where her character does the same thing to his character. Barf.
- “You still got it,” Ivy tells Sam, after his big performance. Dude is starring in a major national tour, Ivy. Pretty sure he didn’t think he no longer had “it.”
- In the matter of seconds, Tom decides to put that song in the show – in a scene that doesn’t make a lick of sense to the story – and Sam quits the Book of Mormon tour. Fails all around.
- Jimmy is upset with Derek’s use of LED screens in Hit List. Why didn’t this come up last week when Derek used those LED screens to get Scott to agree to produce the show?
- Minus 10 for not showing us anything of that Tom and Sam hookup.
- Scott is unhappy with the direction Derek is taking the show. “The most important thing in the show is the chemistry with the two leads,” he tells Derek. “I don’t want [the LED lights] overshadowing them.” Again, I agree with Scott here. But those LED lights are what convinced you – and the board – to take a chance on Hit List in the first place. You should have known this was coming.
- Eileen yells at Tom about changing up the rehearsal schedule and trying to put a new number in. Just then, Agnes appears with Richard Francis, who agrees to wait outside while the fight finishes. “A disagreement in front of the most important arts editor in town?” Agnes scolds. “Great reboot, guys.” She’s angry. But she really shouldn’t be. And Francis shouldn’t be running away from that fight. This is great material for the story. WHAT KIND OF JOURNALIST ARE YOU, FRANCIS?
- Tom and Julia tell Sam they cut the number, and Sam complains that he quit his job. WELL THAT WAS STUPID OF YOU NOW WASN’T IT, SAM?
- “There’s no new story here,” Richard tells Eileen. Again, it may be more of the same, but more of the same is still a good story, Richard. Even for the New York Times.
- The LED screens aren’t working because “the files are too big for the system and it keeps crashing.” Look, I don’t like these LED screens more than the next homo. But any competent lighting operator would have figured this shit out by now.
- Tom is really impressed by the way Derek handles conflict. “The way you talked to those actors – it was awesome,” he tells Derek. “You really don’t care what they think of you, do you? How do you sleep at night knowing everybody hates you? I’m seriously asking!” Oh Tom. No matter what you do, I can tell you no one will hate you as much as Derek.
- Derek admits it’s “hard to think outside the box.” Maybe for you Derek, but some of us are real good at it.
- Jimmy explains that Hit List is about “two people falling in the love, and what gets in the way of that.” We’re this many episodes in and we still haven’t figured out what Hit List is about?!?
- Some of the action in Hit List takes place in Greenpoint and UGH.
- Julia goes to see Scott and apologizes and snoooooooooore.
- To audition for Derek, Ana starts singing Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy.” The band at the bar just happens to know the song somehow. And apparently, they’re totally fine with Ana getting up on the bar and dancing in Derek’s face. If this is what a Diva is supposed to be…
- And weren’t these “songs in bars” thing supposed to be left behind in season one?
- Tom tells Sam he can’t put that number in Bombshell. Again. “I left my job for this,” Sam says, before running off to try and get it back. Um… Sam. Tom told you this like, seven scenes ago. Why are you so surprised?
- Somehow that ridiculous audition of Ana’s gets her the part as the Diva. Groan.
- Karen buzzes someone up to her apartment, thinking it is Derek. But she never lets him talk on the buzzer. And she opens her door without looking at who it is! Like, luckily it’s Jimmy. But shit – she could have been raped! You live in the city, gurl! You gotta be safe!
Okay, SMASHers. How’d I do on my own this week? Miss anything?
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