Good news for folks who loved Season 1 of Smash — and for those who loved to hate-watch it.
The show’s Season 2 premiere (as previously reported) flushes away the unholy troika of Ellis-Michael-Dev (and sometimes Leo), but gives us a young composer so full of Brooklyn-hipster loathesomeness that he thinks he can woo a gal by telling her she “could actually be cute” if she weren’t so dang clenched.
It’s got several dazzling new ditties — Prediction: You’ll still be humming “They Just Keep Moving the Line” come Thursday afternoon — but yet indulges in a baffling musical fantasy sequence that looks like found footage from a decades-old Robert Palmer video shoot.
And it gives us plenty of great Tom-and-Julia bonding, delicious Derek-and-Tom sniping, a feroshe dash of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, and (thank goodness) more sassy bon mots (i.e. “Everybody knows Rebecca Duvall would sleep with a followspot operator if it meant more light on her downstage!) from chorus boy Bobby (a minor character whose patented brand of bitchery is worthy of series-regular status). The only thing truly missing, really, is Eileen tossing a cocktail in rat-fink Jerry’s face. Yet for all its heightened, thee-ay-ter goodness, Smash still serves us an occasionally cornball groaner like, “Bombshell is under investigation, and as such, is frozen — along with the remaining funds.” Uff da.
Nevertheless, while Smash may not yet merit a Cats-like, now-and-forever run, I’m undeniably hooked on its inconsistent charms. So here’s hoping initial ratings for the Season 2 premiere give Smash a chance to let all of its myriad stories play out — for at least a few seasons, yes? Speaking of those stories, let’s get to recapping ‘em…
A BOMBSHELL FOR BOMBSHELL | Okay, let’s try to condense the exposition, shall we? Bombshell‘s got problems — and not just because it didn’t cast the right leading lady for the role of Marilyn. (Sorry, Karen fans, you know I’m a rabid Ivy-ist!) Actually, okay, Ms. Cartwright won raves in Boston, and so did Tom’s score, but Julia’s book got eviscerated by the critics. (If you didn’t have time to press pause, the New York Post‘s damning article noted, “Perhaps the biggest problem, more than superstars, sex scandals or money woes, is [Julia] Houston’s diagrammatic book. In her unfocused hands, what should be a peek behind the curtain becomes an inch-thin picture show.” Ouch!)
Back in New York, Eileen worked on securing the St. James Theater for Bombshell‘s Broadway run, while the creative team tried to figure out how to approach fragile Julia (who claimed she hadn’t read the reviews) and deal with the show’s plot woes. Jerry, naturally, wanted in on the promising project, but when Eileen told her ex she’d rather slap him in the head with a martini, he sent an ominous text to one of his minions: “Time to move forward with the plan.” Dun dun dunnnn.
Later, at a cocktail event to drum up press for Bombshell‘s Broadway run, the St. James’ owner was a no-show, and while a duet between Karen and Beautiful star Veronica Moore (Jennifer Hudson) provided a nifty distraction (and an Idolgasm for fans of Fox’s reality singing competish), Eileen soon discovered the production was being investigated by the authorities for taking dirty investment money from her bar owner boyfriend. (Whoops!) Oh, and if that wasn’t enough bad news, departing moviestar Marilyn (aka Rebecca Duvall) accused Derek of making unwanted advances, then a half-dozen dancers came out from Derek’s past to claim he’d sexually harassed ‘em, too. The latter scandale has some interesting potential: Derek, in his eternal arrogance, approached one of his accusers outside the gym where she teaches pilates, and pointed out he’d never touched her, only asked her for a date. “You don’t get it: You’re a big-shot director,” Daisy astutely snapped back. “You’re in a position of power from the minute you wake up in the morning, and you don’t treat that power with respect. Or did you really think women said yes because they actually like you?” Way to torch his ego, girl, and point out the central conundrum of Derek’s standard operating procedure: It’s not okay to mix business and pleasure — at least when you’re still in the hiring stages.
Bombshell‘s mini-collapse led to another of those Tom-Derek-Eileen meetings, and some choice sniping between the colleagues/enemies: “Boys, there’s nothing to be gained by turning on each other!” Eileen pleaded. “But it feels good!” retorted Tom. Later, though, Derek got in the last (and most delicious) barb: “Oh Tom, did you pack something warm for your trip to the moral high ground?” (Derek is really at his best when he’s P.O.’d, no?)
But like the leper in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Marilyn musical is “not dead yet.” Despite being dis-invited from an American Theater Wing gala, Eileen decided to crash the party with her creative team, and engage in some gloriously between-the-lines bitchery with ATW’s Miriam Abramson (Margo Martindale, please be recurring!). “I’m so sorry no one in New York will get to see what you lost everything for,” smiled Margo, asking Eileen to hit the road. And hit the road Eileen did, but not before calling on Ivy Lynn to take the stage and give an “impromptu tribute” to Miriam via an incredible song from Bombshell, “They Just Keep Moving the Line.” Ivy’s performance (embedded below) was downright revelatory — when she belted “make friends with rejection, straightened out my spine,” was I the only one getting Liza-in-Cabaret vibes? — and come to think of it, Eileen will take that check from Jerry. “I’ll have my lawyer draw up a contract,” she told her ex. “I don’t want to owe you anything but money.”
“SOMETHING ELSE” HAPPENS | With Bombshell in jeopardy, Derek encouraged his muse Karen to find “something else.” After a meet-obnoxious with bartender Jimmy and a meet-awkward with his gay pal Kyle (“I have this collection of programs from failed musicals…”), Karen returned after closing and overheard the former playing an intense and catchy tune, “Broadway, Here I Come,” then promptly dialed Derek to let him hear it over the phone. (Shades of Nashville‘s Rayna listening to that Gunnar-and-Scarlett duet?)
Jimmy is handsome but all kinds of awful. “If you stop clenching your jaw like that, you know, you could actually be cute,” he said directly to Karen’s face, during their first extended conversation, right before trying to get her to “hang out” with him. (And yes, I think he was using “hang out” as a euphemism.) Long story short: Jimmy’s a serious artiste who doesn’t want help from anybody (because Broadway shows tend to spontaneously grow out of cracks in Manhattan sidewalks, fertilized by pigeon droppings and old bits of discarded Shawarma.) Nevertheless, Kyle leaked some of Jimmy’s A Beautiful Mind-like “sheet music” (scrawlings) to Karen; Karen’s new roomie figured out how to play one of the tunes; Karen and her posse headed to Jimmy and Kyle’s party at their Brooklyn loft (do they make six figures as waiters to afford that place?); and after some hostile flirting, Karen belted out Jimmy’s “Caught in a Storm” to the delight of everyone — except the cranky composer. “I don’t need your help! I write for myself!” he screeched (yep, that bartending gig has to be paying him $100K minimum) but Kyle reminded his childhood pal/”selfish prick” that it had taken two to write their musical. (You see, Kyle is the Julia to Jimmy’s Tom.) And thus, the two-hour extravaganza ended with Jimmy dropping off recordings off the entire unfinished score at Karen’s apartment.
A couple of questions: There’s no way Karen — coming off such lousy treatment by Dev — is going to go for a guy that disses her looks, mocks her musical tastes, and seems interested in only a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of relationship, is there? And how come Kyle was so curious to know if Karen might’ve thought it seemed like he and Jimmy actually were a couple? (Please, writers, don’t give the out, gay, twentysomething New Yorker an unrequited crush on his straight roomie!) I leave the discussion to you.
JULIA AND TOM | Julia’s marriage to Frank crashed and burned — spectacularly — after stage-manager Linda told Frank she was happy the duo was trying to work things out, Frank realized everybody on the show’s creative team knew of his wife’s affair, and he loudly slapped a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest (so to speak) in front of the entire Bombshell press event. I liked how Julia laughed through her tears telling Tom she thought he’d wanted to tell her about the Bombshell reviews (which she’d secretly read), not that he’d spotted Frank getting cozy with some brunette in the street. This led to a sweet exchange about Julia’s Bombshell book/her entire life:
Julia: What if I can’t fix it?
Tom: I’ll help you: I’m your partner.
Sam, meanwhile, got a gig in the Book of Mormon touring company, and so even though he and Tom had started coordinating their outfits (Tom in navy and violet plaid shirt, Sam in a violet blazer — dazzling!), Tom encouraged his boyfriend to take the opportunity and run. So now Julia is homeless. Tom is flying solo. Why not move in together? It’ll be like old times. Or a sitcom! (Does Will & Grace exist in the Smash universe? Discuss!) The whole Tom-lying-to-Julia-about-a-speech-to-get-her-off-the-foldout-couch subplot was ridic, but so what? These two are the heart and soul of the show, at least from where I’m sitting. Plus, Tom offered this piece of crucial advice/brutal honesty: “It’s time to retire the scarves.”
I’LL TAKE “BROADWAY SHOWS THAT BEGIN WITH ‘B’” FOR $100, ALEX | Derek brought Karen to a showing of Beautiful, starring his old pal, Tony winner Veronica Moore. (Interesting how the show transitoned from Ivy asking Sam, “What’s a star?” to Hudson/Veronica’s rip-roaring rendition of “Mama Makes Three.”) Alas, though Derek’s bad press bumped him out of consideration for directing Veronica in a revival of The Wiz. But either way, Ronnie had some advice for Karen that sounded like it might’ve been a metaphor for Smash‘s very existence: “Protect the work: Someone’s always waiting to take you down, but if the work’s good, they won’t be able to.” Oh, also, their duet on “On Broadway” was a delight for an Idoloonie like me: Kat McPhee all breathy seduction in that insanely hot red dress with massive front slit; J.Hud roaring and growling her way through the familiar pop oldie. Let’s hope that’s not their last pairing!
KAREN AND IVY | Look at Karen, growing a backbone and getting Ivy fired from Bombshell. (Well, if there was a Bombshell to be fired from.) Ivy Lynn, though, was cool with it. She finally apologized (at Julia’s advising) not just for what she did, but why she did it: She was jealous. And petty. And Karen was right to get her ousted, even though said rival was about to get kissed by Derek as Ivy Lynn walked into the room. It seemed like Karen bought the apology — and was about to tell Derek to take Ivy Lynn back before news of the Bombshell money scandal interrupted her — but all is not totally kosher. Nuh-uh. Did you notice how when Ivy showed up at Derek’s apartment in that final scene, and her performance at the ATW gala came up, Karen sneakily noted, “I was on the subway when they called me.” Oh BURN! Ivy Lynn might’ve suspected she wasn’t Eileen’s first call, but now she knows for sure.
Still, Ivy Lynn’s entitled to being on the receiving end of a little coldness, having slept with Karen’s fiance just a few weeks back. It doesn’t look like the ladies are headed for another love triangle, though, as Ivy shut Derek down hardcore when he showed up for sympathy on the stoop of her apartment. “I don’t think you’re a monster,” she offered, before Derek leaned in for a kiss. “Nope,” she snapped, “Not gonna happen!” Way to show some self-respect, sister!
Anyhow, what did you think of the Smash Season 2 premiere? Grade it in our poll below, then hit the comments to expand on your thoughts!