On Saturday night, I felt a great disturbance in the Force. As if 1.908 million voices suddenly cried out in glee and were suddenly silenced. I feared something terrible had happened. After viewing SMASH the next morning, I can honestly admit that my greatest fear had been realized. SMASH was good.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Did you snort some of Jimmy’s stash and pop a few of Ivy’s pills in the Marilyn Yourself powder room?” Maybe… But, after enduring countless hours of a show that might as well be renamed, The Magical Karen Cartwright, SMASH served up an episode that had moments befitting of what we would expect from that Broadway themed HBO pilot directed by Kathryn Bigelow that didn’t happen.
I bet you’re under the impression I’m going to gush about SMASH this entire recap. Well, not so fast George Banks, there were still plenty of SMASHtatsic moments in this episode and the Force was balanced by the return of Julia’s son, the Jar Jar Binks of network television…
Top 10 Times SMASH Didn’t Give a Shit and Other Things I Loved: “Opening Night”
1.) NBC Can’t Make Tuesdays at 10pm Werk: SMASH’s Tuesday night replacement, Ready for Love (or as I have previously called it: Gabby Solis Presents The Bachelor on the Deal or No Deal Set) was prematurely canceled after two episodes. LOL.
Parenthood, SMASH, and Ready for Love have all failed to thrive at 10pm on Tuesday night. Before the Leno/Conan debacle of 2009/10, the now troubled time slot was dominated by Law & Order: SVU in the 2000’s and Dateline in the 1990s. Could it be that audiences are just pissed off they aren’t getting their Tuesday night episodic crime solving fix? Well, NBC, a few weeks ago I came up with a spin-off suggestion that I now firmly believe could solve all your problems…
In the Broadway community, the position of an offstage cover is considered especially boring. In New York City, the two dedicated detectives who choose to investigate vicious felonies between “half -hour” and fifteen minutes before curtain call, are members of an elite squad known as the Special Witnesses Investigating Narcotics, Gangs, and Stuff (S.W.I.N.G.S.). These are their stories…
2.) Julia is the Worst Brainstormer: Julia obviously don’t give a shit about Bombshell if the first things she brings up to Tom right after the last preview are horrible suggestions for musicals they could write together. Gulliver’s Travels? The Lord of the Flies? I’ll bet Julia is pissed someone beat her to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. What’s her obsession with books? Doesn’t Julia know there are movie titles out there in desperate need of re-commercialization? I’m starting to think Julia should completely ditch Tom and start working with Frank Wildhorn. They could polish off my high school reading list by musicalizing Maus, Catcher in the Rye, Snow Falling on Cedars, and One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I thought Julia was being sarcastic when she suggested musicalizing The Very Hungry Caterpillar. No. She was dead serious. She thinks it would be a good project for Julie Taymor. Isn’t Ms. Taymor busy doing pre-pro on Good Night Moon?
3.) Nail the Noir! : This section was originally intended to discuss how ridiculously awesome it is that Tom casually gets thrown big Broadway directing projects like he’s some kind of Rob Ashford, that the producer tried to spell out how directing is a full time job like Tom has the mental capacity of Julia’s son, and that I have this sinking feeling the City of Angels revival cast is about to get seriously Funny Girl–ed, but then I went into the kitchen to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and got distracted by the original cast recording of RENT that occasionally plays on a loop in the back of my brain (#LongestRunOnSentenceEver).
SIDEBAR FROM 1996: Have you ever spoken any of the lyrics in RENT aloud without the melody?
EXAMPLE: “I don’t own emotion. I rent.”
I said that on my last date and the other person was like, “Is your emotion controlled or stabilized?”
4.) Eileen Rand Don’t Give a Shit About Richard, the Times, or her Panties: Eileen gave the most subtly emasculating dig at a man’s bedroom skills on opening night of Bombshell. Richard said, “I’ll stand around like a prop while you pretend to enjoy yourself” and Eileen responded with, “I’ve been doing that for weeks. What’s one more night?” BURN! Remind me never to sleep with Eileen Rand, for she may hop over to All That Chat and write about how I have half the grace of my predecessor.
I would like to thank Daphne Rubin-Vega for making me picture a sixty-one year old woman in a knee length pencil skirt without wearing any underwear. Thank you for that, Ms. Rubin-Vega. While we’re at it, I want you all to do a Google image search for Fran Weissler and imagine that she isn’t wearing any underwear in all of those photos… You’re welcome.
Eileen wore an understated garment to the opening night of Bombshell. I was disappointed. I prefer my Anjelica Huston like this…
5.) That Awkward Moment When … : SMASH was awesome. Full disclosure: there have been plenty of times when I’ve honestly enjoyed SMASH. I do not choose to share them with you because they make me feel dirty and ashamed. However, I can not let Ivy’s opening night in Bombshell pass by without stepping out of character and acknowledging how truly remarkable it was.
At last, we got to witness Ivy sing “Don’t Forget Me.” I was concerned when the male ensemble surrounded her and Ivy gave a very “on the nose” turn to JFK on the lyric about singing “Happy Birthday” to someone you love. However, when the men faded into the images of all the people who paved the road to that moment in Ivy’s life, I found myself overcome with the forgotten emotions of that seventeen year old who chose to tap dance instead of [insert any career choice that could actually pay my rent].
Everything clicked. Ivy’s true conflict is not something as base as becoming a “star.” It is about universal vs. parental acceptance. I realized that Ivy’s story is an allegory for SMASH. Something striving so valiantly to appeal to an entity that will forever find itself superior. That is what Ivy was to Leigh Conroy and that is what SMASH is to the theatrical community. It’s not that SMASH doesn’t give a shit. It’s that SMASH cares so much. For that reason alone, I can’t help but love SMASH.
Once I reached my tearful epiphany, I turned off the TV and retired to my bedroom where I gave myself fifty-lashes to the revival cast recording of Sweeney Todd.
6.) Does Julia’s Son Have Asperger Syndrome? : No. Really. This is a genuine question. I honestly believe Julia’s son is meant to be played with Asperger Syndrome. I have to think this, because I love Telsey & Co., and refuse to believe that this actor made it through a prescreen if the role of Leo Houston was written any other way.
Asperger’s Syndrom Symptoms:
- Not being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking. (NOTE: JULIA WAS TRYING TO TALK ABOUT MOVING OUT OF TOM’S APARTMENT WHILE LEO CHOSE TO WALK INTO ANOTHER ROOM AND RANDOMLY PULL THE GREAT GATSBY OFF THE SHELF.)
- Be preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he or she may be very knowledgeable about. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are overly interested in parts of a whole or in unusual activities, such as designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes… (NOTE: LEO’S OBSESSION LAST SEASON WITH ADOPTING CHILDREN FROM CHINA.)
- Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized. (NOTE: LEO BEING VOCALLY EXCITED TO SEE IVY NAKED.)
- Avoid eye contact or stare at others. (NOTE: THE ACTOR’S CHOICE TO IGNORE BEATS AND LISTENING SKILLS.)
- Teens with Asperger’s are typically uninterested in following social norms, fads, or conventional thinking, allowing creative thinking and the pursuit of original interests and goals. (NOTE: LEO CAME UP WITH THE NEW MUSICAL IDEA FOR TOM AND JULIA. HE GOT THE IDEA IN TOM’S LIBRARY, WHERE APPARENTLY ALL MUSICAL INCEPTIONS TAKE PLACE RE: ELLIS & MARILYN: THE MUSICAL)
- Not pick up on social cues and may lack inborn social skills. (NOTE: DURING THE OPENING NIGHT TOAST, EVERYONE RAISED THEIR GLASS AND THEN TOOK A DRINK. LEO DID THAT IN REVERSE.)
Many Asperger Syndrome cases remain ignored or undiagnosed and carry on without treatment. I believe this to be the case with Julia and Leo. The blatant denial of Leo’s condition is one of the more layered stories on SMASH.
7.) Ana Vargas: the Convenient Slut: When Ana isn’t easily pulling focus from Karen, she is confined to near prostitution to further another character’s plot. The Jimmy Collins backstory was moving at a glacial pace until Ana Vargas went and slutted it up with Jimmy’s brother. Ana was like, “For the love of God, Karen… I’m living a string of one night stands just so you and Jimmy can stink up our bedroom with intercourse that most likely resembles what would happen if a jackhammer mated with an hour of C-SPAN … Now I have to whore it out with Adam just so the audience can understand why Jimmy is written so one dimensionally?” Karen should back the fuck off and let Ana sing whatever she wants to in Hit List.
8.) Too. Many. Cameos. : Donna McKechnie and Edward Hibbert played those loud theatre patrons who want everyone on the street to know how much they hated the show. Professional show haters, such as myself, know how to communicate our disdain through stealth knee nudges and calculated eye-rolls. Edward Hibbert was not having the fact that Ivy’s bio revealed she had been, “knocking around the ensemble for years.” I guess when you’re the star, you get enough words in your bio to specify the ensemble track you had in each show. Anything over thirty words sounds luxurious to me. My last bio was restricted to fewer characters than my last tweet.
9.) The Most Masculine Broadway Opening Night Party Ever: The opening night party for Bombshell rocked. PSM Linda wasn’t invited. But other than that, the party was awesome. The event took place at the Hotel Carter and I had no idea the interior of that rape villa was so gorgeous. I decided to do some research on the glorious Hotel Carter…
Murder? Haunted? Bed Bugs? Who cares! The Hotel Carter was giving us an all night audition for Julia Houston’s The Great Gatsby. Even Karen Cartwright showed up looking like an F. Scott Fitzgerald wet-dream. But she slowly transformed into the gothic chick who sat behind me in my eighth grade pre-algebra class.
There was a lot of awesome masculine showboating going on between Kyle, Adam, and Jimmy, but that eventually got extinguished by an ice bucket and a completely unrehearsed duet between Karen and Ivy.
Karen kept saying her Bombshell situation was like going to an ex’s wedding. This would be the moment in Ms. Cartwright’s mind where SMASH turned into My Best Friend’s Wedding and Karen became Julia Roberts to Ivy’s Cameron Diaz with Bombshell as Dermot Mulroney. Except, instead of kissing the groom and hijacking a bread van, Karen ruined the wedding with her vocals.
Ivy surely must be as naive as Cameron Diaz’s Kimmy. First she invited the other woman to sing with her, making her the maid of honor at her party, and then she sweetly assumed her new best friend wouldn’t find a way to take her Tony away from her. LOL. Have fun with that on the season finale.
10.) The Return of Daisy the Pilates Instructor: I wonder who took a bong hit and suggested bringing back an “under five” from twelve episodes ago. Enter: Daisy the Pilates Instructor. I was a big supporter of Daisy way back during “The Fall Out” episode, but now I smell shade. Who invited her to opening night? Why was she alone? And more importantly, why was a pilates instructor galavanting around Times Square at all hours of the night when she has to be at New York Sports Club by six in the morning?
Derek got borderline neanderthal around Daisy. The second Daisy said she felt remorse for taking part in the lawsuit against him, he went straight to, “You… Me… Sexy.” How SMASH could follow something as pure as Tom’s pursuit of a hookup younger than the scotch he was fueled by with Derek’s booty call approach that was one step above homo habilis is beyond me.
BOTTOM LINE: I trust Daisy the Pilates Instructor for about as long as I can hold a v-sit.