Top 10 Times SMASH Didn’t Give a Shit and Other Things I Loved: “On Broadway”
1.) Karen and Ivy at the Elevator: The episode opens with Karen and Ivy pressing the elevator button at the same time. It is only after their fingers touch that they even notice each other. This is called, “dramatic tension.” That moment alone deserves an award from the Writer’s Guild of America. I love knowing that Ivy and Karen were so completely stuck in the musical in their mind, that they were able to walk the entire length of the building’s lobby before locking eyes on each other. Call Matthew Weiner because those “grounded in reality” elevator sequences on Mad Men are BORING and devoid of this kind of imagination.
2.) Desperate Housewives Music: The hit ABC show went off the air last season and SMASH wasted no time jacking their plucky underscoring. I’m glad they did, and I don’t think anyone noticed. Surely the gays and middle-aged single ladies that made Housewives a hit do not belong to the same demographic watching SMASH. But, even if they did… SMASH don’t give a shit.
3.) St. James JuJu: Tom and Julia are excited that Eileen wants to book the St. James for Bombshell. We are told the St. James has, “good JuJu.” This is fact. Some of the more recent tenants of the St. James include: Finian’s Rainbow, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Leap of Faith. The St. James has fierce JuJu.
4.) Ana: Krysta Rodriguez plays Karen’s new (Spanish?) roommate. We don’t know much about this girl, but I freakin’ love her. Let’s dissect how we are first introduced to Ana. It’s practically broad daylight outside and this girl is pouring herself a glass of wine, in what appears to be a cognac glass, to drink alone. She is full blown Victoria Grayson.
Is Ana trustworthy? Good question. She explains that her previous roommate left to do a cruise ship. This is very disconcerting. No self-respecting Broadway actress has friends that leave town to work on cruise ships. I can only imagine Ana got rid of her roommate in a much more devious way. Like… A Victoria Grayson way.
5.) Eileen, Jerry, and Jordan Roth: Eileen is at Butter, with a menu in front of her face, waiting to meet with Jordan Roth. This scene is a master class in how to direct a scene for cam-er-a. We are first led to believe Eileen cannot sense the presence of Jerry sitting down in the chair in front of her. The director then makes sure that a martini glass is visible in every single shot, because the “Eileen Martini Toss” is about as infamous as Julia’s scarves. We want her to throw that martini. We need her to throw that martini. But she doesn’t! Just when we think SMASH is capable of an understated, yet effective reference to season one, Eileen verbally acknowledges she will not be throwing he martini. Well played! Subtlety is overrated. I prefer jokes to be one thing: on the nose.
The scene ends with Jordan Roth offering Bombshell the St. James, Eileen walking one direction to make a phone call, Jerry staying at the table, and Jordan awkwardly trailing off camera left to..um…go to…the bathroom? Who knows. Who cares? It’s nearly Scoresesean.
6.) Beautiful and Bring it On: SMASH doesn’t take place within its own universe. It exists in our own. Harvey Fierstein, Jordan Roth and Michael Riedel prove that theory in this episode alone. The show introduces Veronica Moore (Jennifer Hudson) starring in Beautiful at the St. James. Near the end of the episode, Ivy attends an audition at the St. James, where Bring it On is now playing. I know what you’re thinking. People don’t notice details like that. It’s SMASH. Maybe the two shows are paying in rep. Either way, in this episode, the St. James Theatre saw more action than [insert joke about someone who has a lot of sex].
7.) Karen the Muse: At some point, Karen says to Derek, “I’m your muse. It’s what we do.” This line is Shakespearean. I don’t know what it takes to be a muse, but I want to be one. What exactly is a muse’s job? Does Karen get paid hourly? Is there a union? Are there health benefits? I need to figure this out because I seriously don’t know the last time I worked twenty weeks in a four-quarter period.
8.) Sam and Tom: Touring is hard, y’all. Poor Sam booked one of the forty-seven Book of Mormon tours and is apparently forced to end his relationship with Tom. This seems like the best possible option for the couple. I mean, it’s only a full production contract with per diem, and Tom’s one hit show on Broadway can’t be pulling in too much in royalties. There is simply no way for these two to stay together. How is Tom supposed to visit Sam on tour when The Book of Mormon is only in cities for two to six weeks? Tragic. End it now. If the tour goes SETA, then maybe they can talk.
9.) Ivy’s Audition: I want all of my auditions to be like Ivy’s audition in this episode. It took place in the St. James Theatre* (duh), so the study of deductive reasoning would suggest this is a Broadway casting director. And boy, is she professional. She smack talks Bombshell like it was Rebecca, Spider-Man, Scandalous, High Fidelity, Lestat, Smash, In My Life, Anything Wildhorn and then rolls her eyes after Ivy defends her experience. I love when a casting director sasses my resume. Man, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard, “Oh, you worked with that Tony Award winning director? How was that experience….?”
Also to be noted, Ivy doesn’t need to explain the tempo of her song to the accompanist. He plays it flawlessly. Where has this guy been all my life? Apparently at the St. James, not playing “Everybody Says Don’t” and every uptempo in my book as a power ballad.
*FACT CHECK: PSM Linda (Ann Harada) has pointed out to me that Ivy’s audition takes place at the Jujamcyn offices next door to the St. James Theatre. Jujamcyn owns the St. James. While the location may be different, it doesn’t change the fact that the woman running this audition sucks.
10.) Smash to the Future: I wasn’t alive in the eighties, but my parents watched a lot of Turner Classic Movies when I was growing up, so I know a Back to the Future reference when I see one.
At the end of this episode, bartender Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) leaves his friend Kyle (Andy Mientus) to do all the closeout and side work alone, so he can play “Broadway Here I Come” on the piano in the back. Karen (Marvin Berry) calls Derek (Chuck Berry) and holds up the phone so he can listen to Jimmy (Michael J. Fox) rock out. Was it a reference to Back to the Future? Probably not. Was it a conscious rip-off? Who cares? The trilogy was on HBO GO all last summer. Perhaps it inspired a few of the writers. If so, we can only hope that later in the season we’ll see Jerry get covered in manure as Eileen escapes on a hoverboard, Ana chased by Libyan terrorists, and something happen to Jennifer Hudson involving the Wild West… wearing THIS.
I’m ecstatic SMASH is back. It continuously teaches me that anything in this business is possible. I am #SoBlessed and #SoGrateful for that.
Check back later for my Top 10 Times SMASH Didn’t Give a Shit and Other Things I Loved: “The Fall Out” edition. I would have written it already, but last night was a blizzard. In New York City, the word “blizzard” is defined as “an excuse to get embarrassingly shit-faced and spend way too much time on Facebook.”