Last week was full of personal drama, and two minutes into this week’s Smash, we see how it can screw up a perfectly good show – both the musical and the TV series.
The workshop starts in this episode, although Derek’s annoyance is obvious as he tells everyone that the musical’s book is still “in flux.” He obviously woke up on the wrong side of the bed, even for him. Julia feels awkward working with Michael, while Eileen finds that her husband has frozen most of her money. Meanwhile, Ivy is swanning around like she’s queen of the joint, which I must admit bothers me; yes, she won the lead, but one of the things I liked about her in the first three episodes was that she didn’t seem stereotypically stuck-up. Ivy’s complaining gets Karen drop-kicked throughout this episode, and drops my interest in Ivy quite a bit.
After Karen finally has a meltdown in front of one of her fellow ensemble members, the girl has a “come to Jesus” moment and three of them step out to help her. This is an opportunity to give these heretofore unestablished people names and personalities, which is appreciated. I can’t say any of them are memorable, but it’s nice to know who they are, especially if they’re going to be around for the rest of the season.
Derek stops being a pain long enough to be throwing a birthday party for Lyle West (Nick Jonas), someone else that apparently everyone loves. He’s also another chip in the Tom vs. Derek rivalry, as they both claim to have discovered the kid and set him on the path to becoming a huge TV star. The party provides a setting for everyone to run into everyone else, however awkwardly. Eileen brokers a deal with Lyle for the extra money she needs, which involves staging one of the show’s numbers to prove the play’s legit. Afterward, Ivy spies Derek getting handsy with Ellis’ friend Cynthia, and so they have a fight which lasts all of a minute and a half, which is a missed opportunity for legitimate tension.
The problem I have with “The Cost of Art” started with “Enter Mr. Dimaggio,” and that’s my apathy towards any of these personal subplots. I don’t care for them and I certainly don’t want to see them mess up the part of the series I do have interest in. It’s actually hampered other aspects of the show for me. Sure, Ivy and Karen were never going to be best friends, but in this episode Ivy descends into being a spoiled brat and Karen’s back to being the outsider, which feels very one-note and cliche to me. We don’t need the “stuck-up star” and the “doe-eyed newcomer.” We had two characters who weren’t stereotypes, and now they both feel like they’re heading that way.
There’s another nagging point here and it’s that there seems to be so much history that the audience gets dropped on us in a hurry. We saw it happen when Michael entered the picture last week, and again this week, everyone seems to adore Lyle and go way back with him, but we’re just meeting the kid. It seems like a lot of telling instead of showing, and it creates the feeling like being on the outside of the social circle, instead of being a part of this world.
And can someone please give Raza Jaffrey something substantial to do? Please? I’ve seen this guy do some really impressive work in Spooks, and I feel like he’s being wasted thus far in Smash.
That said, I have to admit that not being a fan of the Jonas Brothers, I was pleasantly surprised by Nick Jonas, whose appearance felt legitimate and not one of those “we’re trying to shoehorn a celebrity cameo” moments. And Debra Messing getting a chance to sing during the USO number was neat as well, even if it was in a background capacity. I’m not sure how it would work, but I’d be interested to hear her again.
As someone mentioned last week, it’s becoming clear that Smash is less a show about a Broadway musical and more about the lives of the people who are making it. I’m not sure how I feel about that, because there are only certain characters I enjoy, and I’m not really invested in anyone’s personal problems. Yet this is only the fourth episode, so I’m willing to be patient and hope that the show matures and the characters with it. There’s no doubt this show has something different about it, and I refuse to give up on that just yet.
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.