Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crush Week Continues: Smash/Crush

Despite the dip in SMASH's ratings from the premiere, I thought, on the whole, this episode was a step in the right direction. Here's what went wrong and what went right with the show I can't help but have a crush on. 

The Goodish
All of the creative conversations and little moments on the street and in restaurants feel real now. And not just because Jordan Roth shows up (but huzzah for Jordan Roth!) In the pilot, I bought lyricist/composer friendship (obvs Deb Messing knows the Will & Grace schticky dynamic. Ugh, sorry, I just still hate her.) but in that scene, I felt the artistic collaboration. The number of times I've lounged on the couch, around a bulletin board or a piano with Steven, moving numbers around, just freestyling or chewing at the edges of what we're trying to do. 

And my favorite moment of the episode-- hands down-- they're talking about criminal checks on adopting a baby vs. writing a musical. Messing says, "And let me tell you there are a lot of people who should be stopped from writing musicals." And Borle's cackle/laugh/gesture "uhhuhI'm aware." I much prefer Borle as a gay man. 

(PS- my second favorite is when Anjelica Huston tells the twitty girlfriend of her ex, "we've met" and she responds, "I don't think so" and then Huston says all Huston-y "I dooooo!")

Also, I think Julia's right (fine, fine, I looked up her character's name)-- as least based on what we know so far-- that "Let Me Be Your Star" is a better opener than an act break. That song is also growing on me. I still hate the lyrics "Norma Jean's gone/She's moving on" but...what are you gonna do? 

Thanks for showing me some Savannah Wise, Jessica Lee Goldyn, and Katie Webber in this version.  

The Badish
The adoption plot is sort of already boring. Leo's speech? (In the BACKYARD!) I was completely disengaged. I kept thinking... did they recast him from the pilot? Or did his face just get plump? 

And then I kept thinking... BACKYARD!? And then... Brian d'Arcy James is a SCIENCE TEACHER?! 

So, listen. The feminist in me is like, good job, Theresa Rebeck. You don't cop out and make her married to a banker or whatnot. But... the realist in me says, ALL THAT brownstone was bought with musical money? With that backyard and crazy red walls and monstrous industrial sized refrigerator? Just.... 

On the realism front, I also gotta say this. Don't get me wrong; I like Raza Jaffrey as Dev. But as someone with intimate, tedious knowledge of the UK/US Work Visa system, especially with regards to public sector jobs like, say, the Mayor of New York City's office, I find it, well, impossible that he has that job. 

I haven't seen a genuinely Marilyn or Norma Jean moment from Kat McPhee. Even all dressed up, she doesn't look like her, she doesn't feel like her. I like Kat McPhee, and perhaps it's part of the punch they're trying to pull for the moment, but I don't see it. (Speaking, also of WTF on "not seeing it" why does the otherwise plugged in director keep going back to Scarlett Johansson?!? Please don't make me explain why that's wrong.) As far as production numbers go, I think "20th Century Fox" is a much less tired idea than the baseball number

The Bottom Line
The original music is improving. But it was Megan Hilty and a song not by Shaiman & Wittman, nor written for the Marilyn musical, that in my o-pinion delivered the most satisfying musical and emotional moment of the show to date. And that was the stripped down version of George Barry Dean, Troy Verges & Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams."

Megan Hilty and Tom Kitt turned a song I never paid much attention to into a very present and applicable baby-tear jerker. I never cared for twang of the original. But Tom Kitt was at the piano for the number, with a nice montage over it. And I'll bet 10 bucks the man Kitt did that arrangement. He can arrange any song into brilliance. (Where was his Tony for American Idiot? No, seriously.) Sometimes less really is more. 

It was a good way to end the ep. because it's a reminder of how many little steps there are along the way. And how big each one feels. Even the reading. Even the workshop. Even if it's probably going to get recast and rewritten. But every day you get up to do it again is a little bit more of a dream continuing to come true.  I liked this episode for the same reason I like the show in general. Because it makes me feel like if I'm not part of something-- you know, really part of something-- that I'll just die. You gotta have that feeling every day. Every day without that feeling is scarier than any prospect of failure. 


  1. "The adoption plot is sort of already boring. Leo's speech? (In the BACKYARD!) I was completely disengaged. I kept thinking... did they recast him from the pilot? Or did his face just get plump?"

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on this point. This plotline does not belong in this show. It is a cliched device that is used in just about every TV show that involves high-profile parents or the emerging success or comeback of one parent, while the other is left behind to take care of the child they both agreed to adopt.

    The real reason that I used the above quote, however, is to point out something that, up until I found your article, I thought only I had noticed. I recall, while watching the pilot episode, that I did not care for the line delivery from the actor who played their son. There was something about his scene in the kitchen, just before the adoption agency rep arrives, that really bugged me. Then, when he enters for this backyard scene in the second episode, I thought to myself, "Wow, they replaced the actor . . . with someone WORSE!" And I found myself wishing the original actor would return. In the second episode (or first, for those who do not count the pilot as an episode), the actor's face is fuller and his body seems a bit larger (i.e. more filled out); also, his voice is a bit deeper and more nasal (and quite a bit more annoying). Much to my surprise, IMDB lists Emory Cohen as the actor who plays Leo Houston in BOTH episodes.

    I don't trust IMDB (the Innacurate Movie Database), but cast listings usually come directly from the studio press package, so I wonder if we're just crazy or if someone does not want us to know that the actor has been replaced.

    Please update if you find the truth.

    1. It is him in both episodes. Im 100 percent positive.

  2. I'm starting to think it really is the same actor... I'll let you know if I find out anything else. Thanks for reading!

  3. I thought you might be interested in this excerpt from an article I found at "A Man. And His Blog." (

    "The side arcs were okay. I was annoyed about the adoption plot though, especially when Leo (Emory Cohen) came around the corner and was all dramatic about the decision Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) made (basically for himself). First, I was surprised how a son can be emotionally involved like this. I mean, a teenager, who should care about drugs, girlfriends, and computer games, is rather interested in getting a sibling from China? That feels off and so not from this world. Second, the emotions coming from Leo, while talking to Julia, felt pretty fake. Like the story. Not that Leo is one of those ugly kids characters in a TV show, who is not getting any worthy storyline to talk about. In addition I was thinking that Leo was recast in this episode. I watched the pilot three times, and still couldn’t believe that Leo looked pretty “mature” and different from his stint in the pilot, even though this wasn’t the case."

  4. thanks 4 sharing this post with us


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