The SMASH Reality Index (S2, EP5)

The SMASH Reality Index (S2, EP5)
March 5, 2013 DAVE Q


By NineDaves and Linda Buchwald

This week on SMASH, we come to yet another crossroads with Bombshell. Julia and Peter finally finish the book – which has been a total disaster up until this point – and the gang gets together to have a good old fashioned read-through. Spoiler alert – the book’s great. But Jerry doesn’t want to produce the new version because he fears it’s “too good” and would therefore, not recoup. Tom somewhat agrees, and sums up his conflict with Julia’s book concisely: “You’ve written an incredibly rich story about the men who created Marilyn. I’ve always been more interested in how Marilyn created herself.”

We’re then presented with a conflict far more interesting than that ‘Team Ivy’ or ‘Team Karen’ nonsense from Season 1: Should Bombshell be “a sexy provocative insightful musical about Marilyn and the men who made her,” as Julia wants, or “a lush dazzling still insightful spectacle about a girl who became an icon,” as Tom wants? It’s a poignant debate: Art versus Commerce. And if you’ve ever paid attention to the New York theater season, you’d see it’s something that the entire industry struggles with year after year. Bravo SMASH. You finally found a topic that strikes a solid chord.

Too bad it’s the only one you hit this week. Your other plot point was straight up recycled from last season. Remember how Ivy Lynn got cast in that Liaisons musical? Well her partner is Hollywood funnyman Terrence Falls (Sean Hayes), who is so dense, he doesn’t even know Liaisons is supposed to be a drama. Playing every scene as if it were a comedy, Terrence is SMASH’s way of reminding us that celeb-casting is ruining Broadway. Producers may cast celebrities in shows to bring in audiences, but all celebrities are buffoons who will ruin your show. Just like Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman) taught us last season. Terrance is even addicted to pills! Stay away, Hollywood!

Guess we can’t get many ‘Totally True’ moments without those ‘Oh Hell No’ plot points, huh? Here’s how everything else fell into place this week:

Totally True!

  • The read-through of Bombshell is happening at The Belasco, which Tom says contains “all the great hopes and crushing failures.” We lean towards crushing failures. (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, anyone?)
  • This “Public Relations” number includes multiple Christian Borles! All our dreams coming true! (Except in our dreams, Ivy Lynn is playing Marilyn.)

Christian Borle

  • We usually deduct points for dream sequence musical numbers, but if they all star Christian Borle, we’re ok with it.
  • The show needs to let Christian Borle show more of his comedic song-and-dance man side. The dude won a Tony for it and he’s brilliant in this number. He deserves more chances to do just that.
  • This new song “Public Relations” is not our favorite Shaiman/Whitman Bombshell number, but it is a solid Act 2 opener.
  • Hey Krysta Rodriguez! We almost forgot about you! Plus 10!
  • Derek tells Karen that he wants to take advantage of the buzz coming off of Jimmy and Kyle’s big song at last week’s Veronica Moore concert. The theater community doesn’t feed off overnight success like other industries, but we give him credit for thinking this way.
  • Derek says that a fringe festival is a “place to throw up a work in progress and see if it plays for a few days.” Sounds about right.
  • Ivy says Terrence Falls is a big movie star and Liaisons wouldn’t be happening without him. Plus 20 because revivals often don’t happen without big stars. Just ask Sean Hayes and his 2010 Promises, Promises revival with Kristin Chenoweth.
  • “The work just flowed. It was easy,” says Julia about writing with Peter. We’re guessing that’s a euphemism.
  • Leo still exists! And we don’t have to see him! Plus 100.
  • Playwright Jon Robin Baitz (Other Desert Cities) appears as himself! And we learn he used to date Tom. That must have been after his 12-year relationship with Joe Mantello ended. But plus 10 because the man has taste.
  • Jeremy Jordan in a wife-beater. We repeat – Jeremy Jordan in a wife-beater. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE.
  • Karen decides to have a read-through of Hit List because she just learned what read-throughs were 10 minutes ago from Derek.
  • Karen says that people like to be a part of new work, which we have to admit is actually a smart thing to say. Well done, Iowa.
  • Jimmy had a girl over. Which he would. And which makes Karen upset. Plus 20.
  • Ivy and Tom eat at the Shake Shack at Madison Square Park. Plus 10 because that place is hella good.
  • Ivy claims that they’re turning Liaisons into Spamalot. Plus 100 because theater people use bad shows as shade all the time. Don’t believe us? Look at every SMASH Reality Index we’ve ever written.
  • Also, Ivy is clearly still as bitter about Spamalot beating Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for Best Musical. As we are.
  • Ana says Jimmy kissed Karen because he was high. Plus 20 because that’s the only way anyone can tolerate her.
  • “Why do I care so much?” Karen wonders, about Jimmy. “Because he’s hot and talented,” Ana replies. Plus 50 cause it’s like Ana knows our dating history.
  • Derek’s loyalty to Eileen is cute.
  • “Don’t talk to me like that,” Eileen barks at Derek. “I’m not one of your actresses.” Plus 100 because even without a drink in her hand, Eileen is still HBIC.
  • “I felt so inspired by his commitment to his project,” Julia says about Peter. Another euphemism?
  • OH HEY NIKKI BLONSKY. This is the closest you’ll ever get to Broadway!
  • Spring Awakening poster! Plus 1,000!
  • Ana wants to talk to Karen about something and Karen says that everything is taken care of. Because obviously Karen assumes that every conversation is about her problems.
  • “What part am I playing?” Jessica asks at the read-through of Hit List. Spoken like a true actress.
  • Plus 100 for this speech from Eileen: “I’ve been involved with the show since its inception. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to be taking tea while its course is being set 10 blocks away. I lost one love and I’m not going to lose another and if anybody has a problem with that they can take me out in handcuffs.”
  • Terrence decides to make all the actors in Liaisons match his tone and play the material as comedy. We’re pretty sure theater actors dumb their shit down for Hollywood actors all the time.
  • Jeremy Jordan is singing “Caught in the Storm” and it’s so much better than when Karen sang it. Also, we love it when they do songs we’ve seen before on this show because when you work on a show, you need to work on songs more than once.
  • Everyone hates the Hit List book. “The concept’s cool,” Bobby tells the room after the reading. “But the dialogue and the characters? Come on guys – I can’t be the only one who sees this.” Wait, is he talking about Hit List or SMASH?
  • Kyle can’t handle criticism, and storms out, claiming everyone just didn’t “get it” because “it’s not Broadway.” Apparently he studied at ‘The Julia Houston School of Musical Book Writing.”
  • Also storming out of the room? Terrence, who freaks when Ivy plays her scene dramatically. Apparently he studied at “The Rebecca Duvall School for Hollywood Actors Who Want To Do Broadway.”
  • The new Bombshell book is “brilliant,” according to Derek. GOOD JOB PETER. Now call us because we have a few shows currently running on Broadway we think you should fix.
  • “How can you be so bad at something that you love so much?” says Kyle, in one of the more realistic moments of the season.
  • Ana talks about some of the disastrous readings she’s been in, including “the one that took place on a subway but it was really purgatory, or the one where the US soldiers switched bodies with Iraqis, or Towering Inferno the Musical.” Plus 500 because we’re pretty sure we’ve seen some of these (except for Towering Inferno the Musical, which we hope someone is writing right now).
  • “You’re not as bad a guy as you try to seem,” Ana tells Jimmy. We die.
  • “This version might win some awards but it’s not going to put asses in the seats for years and years to come,” Jerry says, explaining why he won’t produce this version of Bombshell. This is definitely something producers have to consider.
  • Jerry lists off good shows that didn’t recoup: Follies, Grey Gardens, Ragtime, and Sunday in the Park With George. He clearly knows his theater history.
  • Karen mentions that Rent started out as a book musical, but became sung-through by the time it got to Broadway. Plus 15.
  • Tom and Julia want to tell two different stories. We don’t like to see Tom and Julia fighting, but we do like where they’re going with the storyline—showing the complicated side of composer/lyricist relationships.

Oh Hell No!

  • Jerry is telling Eileen what she can and cannot do, and we hate that. Minus 10.
  • Why are they doing this read-through at The Belasco? They don’t usually use Broadway houses for these things, right?
  • Tom says Julia’s always nervous before a reading. We’d say this is totally true, but we’re pretty sure this is the first reading Julia has ever been a part of.
  • “Jerry’s made it perfectly clear he’s got no problem pulling the plug if [the read-through] doesn’t go flawlessly,” Derek tells us. We’re pretty sure Jerry wouldn’t have spent all the time scheming to take control of Bombshell to walk away after one bad read.
  • “We can’t afford for you to stumble again,” Derek tells Julia. “And neither can your career.” Um… Derek. 20 minutes ago, you couldn’t get a job because of all your sexual harrassment charges. Those in glass houses….
  • Ana Vargas and Karen Cartwright are taking a kickboxing class. It’s 2002!
  • Winter Fringe Festival is not a thing.
  • Terrence Falls in Liasons is “like getting Jim Carrey to play King Lear.” Maybe in a few years, we could see that.
  • “You came all the way out to Greenpoint to tell us that?” Jimmy asks Karen. We were wondering the same thing, and then we remember the Gossip Girl showrunner is in charge now, and just like on that show, people travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn like it ain’t no thing.
  • Jimmy’s one-night stand from the night before comes down from his lofted bed in her matching underwear to get a cup of coffee. Minus 100 because this is Greenpoint and that girl did not have nearly enough tattoos or facial piercings.
  • We’re taking points off for those horrible opening credits every time until they decide to cut them. Minus 10!
  • “You don’t hire a comedy star and ask him to play it straight,” Tom says to Ivy, referring to Terrance Falls. Apparently Tom forgot about Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. Or a thousand other references we could bring up right now.
  • “You’re having a read-through of a book you didn’t read?” Ivy asks Tom. Are we sure he read the first version?
  • “Karen said we should only do one act in Fringe,” Kyle says. “Leave people wanting more.” Yes Kyle. Great idea. Trust Karen Cartwright. SHE’S HAD SO MUCH EXPERIENCE AT THIS.
  • Okay people. For the last time. THE FLATIRON BUILDING IS NOT A REHEARSAL STUDIO. It’s a publishing house. We know this because one of us works there. And believe us – THEATER PEOPLE LIKE TOM AND JULIA AND IVY LYNN ARE NOT HANGING AROUND THERE ALL THE TIME. Unless, of course, they’re filming SMASH.
  • “This show had people weeping when it was first done,” Ivy says of Liaisons. Are we sure she wasn’t talking about Dracula?
  • Ivy tells Terrence that Liaisons is actually a tragedy. He seems shocked. “What a challenge!” he later says. Look, we get that they’re trying to make Terrence the Dumb-Hollywood-Comedian-Trying-To-Do-Broadway character, but we just don’t believe that anyone would be THAT dense.
  • Karen Cartwright sings Death Cab for Cutie’s “Some Boys,” a song we used to love but now will hate for the rest of our lives. THANKS FOR NOTHING, SMASH.
  • Also, another fantasy sequence musical number? The second of the night! Man, for a show about musicals, they don’t have any fucking idea how to incorporate a musical number into the show, do they?
  • Stop smelling Jimmy’s clothes, Karen, you stalker.
  • Julia learns that Peter has passed on his own Bombshell script to Jerry. Said script apparently includes a Liz Taylor sequence that Julia wanted to cut because it “didn’t fit in with the theme.” Minus 50 because we would have given anything to see that.
  • “Why’d you change the title?” Jerry’s assistant Margo (Nikki Blonsky) asks Julia and Tom. “I really liked Bombshell.” Congratulations, Margo. You’re the only one.
  • Bobby hits on Kyle in the most blatant and slutty way ever. Minus 50 because gay guys aren’t all that obnoxious. And minus another 50 because sometimes, they are.
  • The reading for Bombshell ends with everyone raving about it but we didn’t see any of it. Why don’t you ever let us see book scenes from Bombshell, SMASH? Why?
  • Jimmy assumes Kyle would be a good book-writer because “He eats, sleeps, and drinks theater.” If that were reason enough, we’d have written dozens of books to Broadway shows by now.
  • Karen tells Kyle that she had to work hard for her success. Um… you may have taken some acting, singing, and dancing classes, Karen, but in the grand scheme of things, you got a pretty fucking big break here. You’re not exactly a long-suffering actress. So telling Kyle he “can’t exactly wake up one day and write the next great American musical?” Yeah.. STFU.
  • Eileen goes to see Nick in prison and blah blah blah no one cares. Seriously SMASH. Let this storyline die.
  • “She’s a really special person,” Ana tells Jimmy. Um… no.
  • She also tells Jimmy that Karen’s been through a lot this year. Like getting the lead in a musical going to Broadway? WHAT A HARD LIFE.
  • Jerry refers to Julia’s book to Bombshell as “a major accomplishment” and “an artistic triumph.” Derek goes on to say it’s “some of the best writing for a Broadway musical he’s seen in years.” Okay, let’s be real here. It can’t be that good.
  • Jerry says he’s going to produce the workshop version of Bombshell he has that Julia wrote 7 months ago. We’re pretty sure that version didn’t have half of the songs in it, including “Don’t Forget Me,” “Our Little Secret,” and “Public Relations.”
  • “If you want to take it The Public Theater, I won’t stand in your way,” Jerry says, implying that The Public is not concerned with making hits. Hair anyone?
  • Terrence is so inspired by Ivy that he decides to go off his meds.
  • “There are plenty of shows that got better as they went along,” says Ana. “Rent, Next to Normal, Bombshell.” LOL.
  • The Hit List gang decides to scrap Kyle’s shitty book and have Jimmy write the show as sung-through instead. “If you work fast enough, you could still go for Fringe,” Karen says. Minus 50 because that basically means Kyle does nothing and we so want him to overcome his problems, not run away from them.
  • Uck. Jimmy tells Karen she’s “pretty cool.” Then he almost kisses her again. BARF x100.
  • Kyle tells Jimmy that Karen is dating Derek. We’re not sure whether he’s lying or just has the wrong information, but we don’t like how pathetic the writers are making his character.
  • In the end, we’re left with two different Bombshell scripts: one that Julia/Derek like and one that Tom/Jerry like. The gang agrees to let Eileen make the tie-breaking vote to choose which script they go with. We appreciate that sentiment. But would Jerry, after all the plotting and scheming to take over, really be giving her control like that?
  • And also, can we talk about how Eileen complained about not being a part of Bombshell anymore in the beginning of the episode, and now she’s basically totally in control again. Damn that was fast!
  • “From an audience standpoint, what would you spent $200 and give 2-hours of your time for?” Derek asks Eileen, of the two Bombshell books. Um… we’re all going to do the $30 lotto, right?

So how’d we do this week? Anything else you add? And is it just us or is the story arc for the rest of the season totally obvious. Here’s what happens: Karen and Derek leave Bombshell for Hit List. Liaisons falls apart/closes early because of Terrence, so Ivy is unemployed again. Tom steps up to direct Bombshell and casts Ivy as Marilyn. Both Bombshell and Hit List open on Broadway and are huge successes. They, as well as Karen and Ivy, face off at the Tony Awards. The season closes before we know who wins. Unless NBC cancels the show, in which case, we find out the winner. Crystal clear, right?

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