I think I can say it outloud: I love musicals.
I guess everyone pretends to hate on Glee, but secretely they watch it every week. Or so I like to think. It pissed me many times, with unflattering song choices and bad covers, but at times it was simply amazing. Also, it opened a door for me to find out about new bands and I can’t be ungreatful for that, right?
But this review isn’t supposed to be about Glee; it’s about Smash. The TV show was officially cancelled on May 10, 2013, with the finale airing on May 26. I’ve watched it several times since then (the whole second season, to be more specific) and I still miss it.
I watched it back in 2012 because of Jack Davenport (Derek), Anjelica Houston (Eileen) and Debra Messing (Julia), while taking Steven Spielberg’s word for granted, as he served as one of the executive producers. I needed a new show, so I thought „Meh, a TV show about producing a Broadway musical about Marilyn’s life, maybe it’s fun”.
There were a lot of characters I despised, including Ivy, Karen’s boyfriend, Rebecca Duvall (played by Uma Thurman), Julia’s son, husband and lover (those are 3 people there, don’t understand differently, please!), Eileen’s ex-husband, and many more.
Personally, I think that the first season had very poor written characters, the story was as badly written as the characters, there was no development and no dynamic in there. I’ve seen that people point the finger at the playwright and showrunner Theresa Rebeck, but I’m not familiar with her work, so I can’t say a thing on the matter. Only that the second season, when she wasn’t the showrunner anymore, was much better. That’s why last days I’ve been watching only the second season.
Smash started out as this story about a group of people, writers, directors, producers, actors and singers and dancers, who try to tell us the story of Marilyn Monroe. At times, it annoyed me greatly the way they insisted on Marilyn the icon, Marilyn the human, Marilyn the used and abused, but maybe that’s partly because here, in Romania, she doesn’t seem to have much impact (only if you count lost little girls that quote her at every second).
The second season sees Bombshell running into legal and creative troubles, so there’s space for a second show to develop. Karen gets the Marilyn role, under Derek’s supervision, and there are sparks seen there often. But after the boat starts rocking, Karen and Derek leave Bombshell and go on working on Hit List, a show created by 2 unknown geniuses, and Ivy takes Karen’s role as Marilyn in Bombshell.
There are love triangles all over the place. Karen starts falling for Jimmy, one of the creators of Hit List, while still having some kind of feelings for Derek who, because the unrequited-something-he-feels for Karen, turns back to Ivy for comfort.
Eileen goes back and forth with her ex-husband, with her lover and with some New York Times reporter.
Julia is seen flirting with a playwright, an artistic director and later she is seen going back to her first love from season 1, the actor who originally played Joe DiMaggio in the initial Bombshell workshop.
Tom Levitt is seen making out and breaking hearts, I don’t even remember all the men he had sex with this season.
The second season impressed me with better songs, all of them covers or written for Hit List. Even though the characters or the story didn’t improve much, the music was a great step up for me. I wish they could keep Smash and cancel something else, but I guess this has been a wreckage for too long. I’m glad that at least I got to keep a few good songs and I got to root for some of the characters.
I’m glad they de-vilified Ivy, in the end, even though I hated her storyline, her stringing along by Derek and her pregnancy, so stupidly written, and her happy ending with Derek, which seemed not only improbable, but simply impossible.
I’m glad they thought of Hit List, it would’ve been an awesome show. But I hated Jimmy, the songwriter, and I loved his partner, Kyle. I also hated Jimmy’s relationship with Karen and I think they would never workout in real life, while I loved his relationship with Derek. It made me think Jimmy was a younger Derek, with more spunk in him and a little more rebel. (I have to admit I love Derek more).
I really loved Eileen this season, she seemed more powerful than ever. I hated her publicist, she was nosy and annoying. I also hated Julia, in the first season she seemed more grounded. I also hated Tom, with his sleeping around and his thoughts of grandeur, thinking he deserves it all.
All in all, the second season brought more songs, more entertainment, more development, more characters. And it made me want to see a Broadway musical, sometime in this life. All I’m left after Smash are the beautiful songs in Hit List.