Smash: Workshop

Posted on March 20, 2012

Ten hours later and with a full night of sleep behind us, we still don’t quite know what to make of this episode. It felt like – and the writing pushed this quite hard – this was supposed to be the Big Moment; the point at which it all starts coming together, and considering all the various plotlines in the air, we (probably wrongly) expected there would be a lot of emotional fireworks to go along with the jaw-dropping musical numbers we were sure (again, probably wrongly) to be treated to. Instead, we got some family drama and a shit-ton of romance drama to go along with the scintillating tales of busted boilers.

We can’t honestly say we were disappointed, though. It wasn’t quite the episode we thought it was going to be, but the show did a good enough job of convincing us that the stakes were high and this could be a make-or-break moment for several people. Of course it wasn’t quite that. The workshop seems to have gotten panned pretty badly, but except for Derek having one brief moment of drama queenery, no one really considered this anything but a slight bump in the road. The show will go on, but of course we knew that.

Actually, what took us right out of the story were two things that felt so left-field we spent too much time wondering if they were retcons of a sort (which doesn’t bode well for a show barely through its first season): the revelation that Ivy’s mother is a Tony-winning Broadway legend and the revelation that Tom didn’t know that Ivy’s straight-acting chorus boy is gay. Regarding the latter, we could have sworn he knew this already when he was hanging out with both of them in Ivy’s apartment after she lost her voice. Regarding the former, wasn’t there a phone call home where Ivy’s mother seemed more interested in the mundane news of other family members than Ivy’s career news? Does that really make sense once you find out how entrenched her mother really is in this world?

As for the mama drama, it’s very much a cliche and we suppose one could take the charitable approach and assume that the creators were more than aware of this when they gave Bernadette Peters the rather too on-point “Everything’s Coming up Roses” to sing (although perhaps we should be grateful they didn’t give her the far more on-point “Rose’s Turn”). Oh, and considering how reverential everyone is toward Marilyn, we couldn’t do anything but roll our eyes at Ivy calling her a drug-addicted mess because her mother didn’t love her. That line was groan-worthy.

Still, we find ourselves liking Ivy just a bit more each week, even though she’s histrionic and something of a bitch to anyone who can’t further her career. We think the pill-popping subplot is getting a little heavy-handed and it’s forecasting where the story’s going to go just a little too obviously. Who at this point doesn’t assume that Ivy’s going to take a fall so Karen can fill Marilyn’s shoes in her place? Although it looks like Ivy’s biggest rival right now will be some famous actress to be named later, because there’s considerable noise being made right now that the only way to get the show financed is to put a big name in the cast.

And speaking of Karen, she’s terribly undeveloped given how much screen time she gets and how much the story seems geared to make the audience love her, but we did find her somewhat wide-eyed awe at watching the show she’s been working on come together for the first time to be charming. It’s one of the first really meaty character bits she’s been given. She’s not looking to take the role away from Ivy – in fact, Ivy’s talent is one of the things she seems most in awe of – but she’s clearly blossomed into a Broadway baby, who’d rather do a non-paying workshop than meet with a record producer who’s interested in her. This is good, because there’s been a whiff of the dilettante about her up until now.

The thing that disappoints us about the show is that far too many of the developing subplots are romantic in nature and now we’ve got Eileen making cow-eyes at a bartender. Between Derek & Ivy, Tom & his new boyfriend, Tom & his obvious lust for the chorus boy, Karen & Dev, Julia & Michael, and now Eileen & her bartender, we’re starting to think the writers don’t know how to produce drama without injecting sex or mothers into the equation. And let’s face it: those are both fairly easy and well-trod methods of stirring up drama. 

We did love seeing Eileen cut Ellis down so efficiently, though. And it rang very true to us because really, how shocked would anyone in this world be at some behind-the-curtain adultery going on?

And speaking of Michael, we suppose we should feel bad that he’s getting fired from the show essentially because he slept with Julia, but considering how incredibly creepy he’s been about the whole thing and considering how unprofessional the two of them have been acting, we can’t really work up a lot of sympathy for him. Not that we can work up any for Julia, although props to Debra Messing because her scenes after being confronted with Michael’s wife momentarily lifted the acting level for the show.

By the way, that “52nd and Lexington” song was the first one in the production that we really hated. To our ears it sounded way too modern when all the other songs had a slightly retro feel to them that suited the story much better.

It was a good episode, but not quite the episode we thought we were going to get. We only really have one request of the creators going forward: For God’s sake, don’t give that kid any crying scenes. He’s easily the worst actor on television right now.

    • Liz Norris

      Michael = bunny boiler. Hide your pets, Julia.

    • Lilithcat

      Although it looks like Ivy’s biggest rival right now will be some famous actress to be named later, because there’s considerable noise being made right now that the only way to get the show financed is to put a big name in the cast.

      And that is absolutely realistic.  There have been plenty of situations where an actor who made a show got kicked to the curb when it went to Broadway because he or she wasn’t a “name”.

      • bellalozza

        It sure looked like Ivy’s mom (Bernadette) wanted the role! With enough plastic, it could be hers. 

      • DaveinAlamitosBeach

        I think this is my favorite part of the show.  It feels “modern” that the real issue for Ivy (and all of them) is keeping your job once you get it.  Forget the whole Karen/Eve Harrington thing, Ivy’s got people wanting to steal her job coming at her from every angle.  No wonder Ivy is falling apart!

    • suzanne77

      I’m sorry, I totally cried when Bernadette sang “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”. I guess I am still the Broadway nerd I was when I was 15.

      • allisankelly

        I knew she was guesting, but didn’t know she’d be Ivy’s mom. I had goosebumps every time she was onscreen and shed more than a couple tears when she sang.

        • suzanne77

          If they have Patti Lupone on at some point I will just lose my mind. I saw her and Mandy Patinkin on Broadway right after Christmas and it was incredible. INCREDIBLE.

      • vmcdanie

        I wasn’t much interested in watching this show but your description of Bernadette singing alone is choking me up. I may have to Hulu this after all.

        • suzanne77

          It starts off slow, but by the 3rd episode I was hooked.

    • Brian @ PWYJudges

      “52nd and Lexington” sounded like a total Act II filler song—the one that’s maybe one or two after the entr’acte that you skip over on the soundtrack to get to the great mid-act ballad. I was shocked to see that Julia, Tom, Derek & Eileen thought it would make a great ending to the show.

    • Annie Leung

      Ugh Ellis, I’m glad Eileen threatened him with theater blacklist! Ivy’s “I’m just like Marilyn” thing is getting a little annoying, not every actor has to have a similar upbringing or backstory as the people they portray, in many cases they end up getting more recognition for playing roles that are nothing at all like themselves. Think about January Jones as Betty Francis, everyone thinks she’s just like Betty and it doesn’t do her any favors. I think I like Derek more and more with each week only because he seems like the only one who’s main focus is the show and while he cares for Ivy, their relationship is only second tier in comparison. If everyone in the show gets too caught up with romantic relationships and forgets why they’re together in the first place we’ll end up with . . . well Glee.

      • Cate

        Totally agree abuot Derek. It really stood out to me during the scene where Julia walks out after the wife comes in, that Derek is really the only one being entirely professional about the whole thing. His main focus is the show and making it great. When you think about it, he’s keeping the whole thing together while everyone else goes off on their sexy-time tangents.

        • YoungSally

           I think Derek had the best line of the whole episode in that scene….something along the lines of “that’s the least insensitive thing I’ve said all week”

          • Cate

            lmao. yea, that cracked me up.

      • J. Owen Dickson

        Not every actor has to have a similar upbringing or backstory as the people they portray, but lots of actors discover themselves in the characters they play, and vice-versa.  Marilyn is very much like Ivy…  And Karen…  And Julia…  And probably Eileen too.  If you were devoting your life to playing Marilyn Monroe, I bet you’d find lots of ways that Marilyn was just like you, too.

        • Meredith M

          That sounds like a much more interesting set of routes to pursue in this series than the hackneyed ones they’re currently treading! I buy the Ivy/Marilyn comparisons in part because I can’t make myself feel much for Karen, one way or the other. Karen is too perfect. Even her credit card debt is lower than everyone else’s.

          I know the Glee comparisons are endless, but does anyone feel like in contrast to Glee, the musical numbers outside the, well, musical are arbitrary and forced? Glee is far from perfect but sometimes the songs the cast performed expressed their characters’ feelings and were moving, or just watchable (like Mike and Tina performing “Sing!”) and on occasion even (in the case of “Black Bird” in Season 2) moved the plot a little further along. Karen singing in this episode’s beginning? I was bored. Of course, that is just me, and I freely admit that on a lot of levels I don’t connect with this show.

          • EliseC

            Totally disagree about the opening number w/ Karen.  I found that one completely mesmerizing.  And, I love the way they intersperse popular songs that have some connection to the show, with the original Marilyn musical numbers.  

    • Edwina

      Your mother is a Tony award winning actress; how did that fact not open some doors for Ivy? Wouldn’t that be buzz-worthy for the potential donors?  I didn’t buy this plot line at all, although Bernadette Peters is always a welcome sight.

      I am so distracted by Angelica Huston’s face, a woman who was always so uniquely beautiful. Her acting seems so stilted, is it the writing or the limitations of a new face? If they make Julia become pregnant, I will definitely stop watching this show but I think that’s where it’s headed.

      Totally agree about 52nd and Lexington being bad, maybe that was intentional to show how some songs don’t make it to Broadway.



      • SewingSiren

        Angelica Huston now looks more like Snape than Alan Rickman in full on Snape costume.

        • lilibetp

          I KNOW!  I think her hair’s too long or something.  Something about the proportions is just off there.

          • Ogden1990

            Like Snape in drag.

            • Meredith M

              Snape in drag. Another potential plot route I think this show ought to pursue. I think it would be a lot more interesting than a Julia lovechild.

      • CozyCat

        I think Momma’s connections didn’t open any doors for Ivy because Momma didn’t really want them to.  After the way she constantly underminded Ivy, couldn’t you just hear her say:  “I would help you, BUT…”

    • Kimi

      I loved that, during the scene where Ivy’s mother is singing for everyone, Ivy is just standing there petulantly, literally holding a ton of baggage – her mother’s, no less. So obvious, writers, but fun nonetheless.

      • GorgeousThings

         Yes, but one of those pieces of baggage was a Birkin. Loved. That!

    • Shoelover1512

      I loved Eileen that cut Ellis down, I’ve been waiting for someone to tell him he is like a meedlesome old lady. He was grating my last nerve and someone needs to smack him upside the head.

    • Terence Ng

      Apparently Uma Thurman has been cast as a Hollywood celebrity looking to be part of the production, so I’m guessing that Uma’s going to be Ivy’s big actress rival.

      • Clydette Wantland

         Uma Thurman?!  I hope not.  I don’t think she can sing either, certainly not like Ivy.  Isn’t Uma freaky tall too?

        • AnneOnymous

          She’s had singing and dancing experience on screen already. She played the role of Ulla in The Producers. 

          • Democracy Diva

            That doesn’t exactly require “singing”, though. More like “looking hot and Swedish.” :)

            • MilaXX

               Agreed. Uma can carry a tune, but she cannot sing well enough to carry the lead in a musical.

            • tignor

              Ulla does require great singing and belting skills. Uma — while she had the character down — didn’t do the singing justice, that’s all.

    • lordandtaylor

      Eileen is stealing the show. Love that Ms Houston. Can we get rid of IVY soon? Replace her with ANYONE.
      Let’s see, the black chorus boy can’t be gay because he likes to watch sports? Seriously? Now let us talk about the whole malfunctioning boiler as a device to hold the episode together…
      The Derek character has softening a bit and they are styling him a bit better so he is hotter with every episode.

      Glad to know Bernadette Peters can still get work.

    • VicksieDo

      The final scene was so strange.  The boy sobs and his mom just sort of hugs him?  No apology for her outrageous behavior?  WEIRD.  

      • lilibetp

        I cried almost as hard as he did.  Not because his mom was a shameless hussy, but because his acting was so execreble.

    • ellabob

      Tried to watch again – truly unrealistic when it comes to theatre… I so wish the writing was better!  Oh – and the acting…

    • Girl_With_a_Pearl

      Ellis=Eve as in All About Eve

      • suzanne77

        That is it precisely!

    • Jaspreet5

      I dislike Julia and her storyline so much. But nothing offends me as much as her wardrobe! 

    • FunButNutz

      Isn’t it ironic that the worst part of a show about a musical with a book that needs work, is that the music works, but the scripts don’t?

      Plus, the fact that NO ONE EVER knew that Bernadette was Ivy’s mother.  Let’s just assume that she is supposed to be as big a legend as Patti LuPone or Bernadette Peters is now. All of these producers and lyricists, and songwriters and ensemble members and directors had NEVER met her before, and that they’d never HEARD of her before?  Her mother never came to her earlier shows? Her mother never let her tag around backstage at other productions? Nobody noticed HER LAST NAME?  Comnon!

      Last observation.  I’m not going to see Marilyn the musical if the only characters are Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn and some chorus people.      There are some many other things they could do with other characters but we’ve seen none of that yet…..

      • els8383

         I think Ivy and her mom have different last names? Regardless, your point still stands.

        • Edwina

          Another plot point that strains credulity in a show that is has too many suspensions of disbelief already. Being the child of a famous performer would at least get you in the door, you still have to produce but it certainly runs counter to the picture of Ivy as an unnoticed chorus girl scrapping her way to the top. Most likely, Ivy would have met many theater people growing up with Bernadette as her mother.

          • Alison Sigman

            I think I took the Ivy/mother situation as her mom didn’t want Ivy in the industry so she may have not had the opportunity to meet people & get a leg up that some people get when they are offspring of stars. 

        • MilaXX

           Liza Minelli
          Judy Garland

    • Alison Sigman

      Maybe Michael will be replaced with a “name” and they’ll get their money that way. Surely there are some Tony award winning actors who could take up television for a few. 

      • Ogden1990

        Orrrrr….maybe it will be Nick Jonas!!!! :-(

    • Amy

      Episode aside, I could sit here all day and listen to Derrick make snarky remarks. He is by far my favorite just for making me laugh so hard. Oh yeah, and I like the music too. :)

    • StillGary

      It was enjoyable enough, but it bugged me that here Ivy had all this clout and she didn’t use it in 10 years  — c’mon, did that ring true? They made it look like she was clawing her way out of the ensemble — that and the fact her director-lover didn’t know her mother was a Broadway legend, made it a weaker episode.

    • donnaINseattle

      Julia & Michael are dumb enough to be on “The Walking Dead”

      • Meredith M

        As zombies.

    • Democracy Diva

      Thanks for hating on the Lex & 52nd song. I’m a musical theatre geek and I’ve really enjoyed every original song from the show so far – the music feels like other great shows without feeling like it was *stolen* from other great shows, which is an important distinction. But that Lexington song was painful to sit through, and not just because Michael is a creeper.

    • GorgeousThings

      For God’s sake, don’t give that kid any crying scenes. He’s easily the worst actor on television right now.

      I know, right? That kid is the second coming of Tyler Evans. And the world didn’t need the first. Yuck!

    • royinhell

      When they were mentioning names for possible ‘star’ casting, the last one was ‘Sutton Foster’, to which Christian Borle cringes and says, “NO!”
      Christian and Sutton were married for several years and divorced in 2010. 

      • YoungSally

         Shit — Talk about having my gaydar outta whack….but if it’s good enough for Hugh Jackman then it’s good enough for Christian.

    • CarolinLA

      They are throwing so many cliches at Ivy but props to Megan Hilty.  I think she is so specific in all her choices, even when she has to make bad scripted ones like pill-popping.  

    • Joan Roseman

      Why does Hilty’s character keeps trashing,or at least distorting, the real Marilyn’s character to suit her own ends?  Ivy has said, twice, that Marilyn would have gotten Karen fired.  The actual Marilyn had many insecurities but she is not known to have pulled
       rank like that.  Then Ivy tells her mother that Marilyn’s mother did not love her.  Not true.  Norma Jean’s mother was troubled — as in mentally ill and fragile — but Marilyn’s real issues were always about her father, whom she never knew.  For most of her life
      Clark Gable was her fantasy father, but all her relations with men, particularly older men, were always colored by her sense of abandonment.  So Ivy’s mother issues have nothing to do with the real MM, something Ivy — whom we have seen doing extensive research on her subject — should know.  Hey, she should tell the writers….

      • donnaINseattle

        Thank you!

    • fridacormorant

      Michael is creepy enough to take some twisted revenge after he’s fired. The book of the show focuses on Joe and Marilyn and reduces the whole big sweep of Marilyn’s story into a tiny domestic drama … poor, poor Joe … WTF?  Initially, I thought the banal book was intentional so that Julia would have a big breakthrough and expand the story to something more fitting.  Now I realize the banal book is the result of banal writers on the Smash team.  They probably think it’s fine. Smash is turning out to be pure cartoon, but I’ll keep watching for moments like Ms. Peter’s singing.  Wow.    

    • Karen Walsh

      Yeah, they made us hate Michael so much that none of us are sorry to see him get fired.  But I still love me some Ivy and especially some Derek!

    • ssssssssf

      THANK YOU. My roommates and I still can’t believe how bad of an actor Debra Messing’s son is. He like is so distractingly bad and forced – really brings the caliber of acting to a low on the show.

    • rowsella

      I think they are making Ivy less likeable.  It’s a shame.  She is turning into an insecure whiny mess.  Julia is definitely less likeable, hopefully firing the stalker will refocus her work ethic.  Karen — I don’t know, she’s coming off as kind of dumb.  I loved Bernadette Peters. 

    • MilaXX

      LOVE Bernadette Peters. I think I’m having a love/hate affair with this show. Hate that they are shoving the tragic Marilyn comparison onto Ivy so hard. Hate the affair and the guy whose name I can never remember who plays DiMaggio. Color me surprised that we were supposed to think that Tom had no idea that sports!gay dude was gay.

      As for the kid, can’t disagree with you there. Hey the kid on Awake doesn’t suck so far.

    • mike__tv

      That son is easily the most confusing character ever, I don’t understand him at all.I laughed my pants off when he burst into tears, it seemed really out of place; just like the “moooom yooou proomiissed meee a liii’lllee siiiisteeerrr”. 

      • marywv

         Uhhh… I just FF’d through that mess. What a poor excuse for a morose teen. Ick. PLEASE DITCH THE JULIA FAMILY DRAMA!

    • bellafigura1

      That 52 and Lex song was absolutely horrible.  Especially considering that 52nd and Lex is, like, one of the most uninspiring spots in Manhattan.

      Bernadette Peters looked Absolutely Fabulous.  Amazing how as soon as she takes the set, everyone else seems kind of smalltime and stilted (except Angelica, of course). But that song, as you so astutely point out, was so ham-handed and Obvious, I was cringing during the cutaways to Ivy.  OK, OK, we get it …

    • EliseC

      Wow.  I loved this episode.  I loved the music.  I loved watching Ivy’s mom watch her daughter as the mix of emotions came across her face.  I loved the back-and-forth between Ivy v Karen as Marilyn.  This is definitely my new favorite show.  

    • EliseC

      The only characters I don’t like right now are the son and ESPECIALLY  Ellis.  He has got to go.
      (p.s. I don’t understand the dislike for 52nd and Lexington.  LOVED that.  And am sad to see the actor go… if indeed they are firing him.  He’s incredible).  

    • CassandraMortmain

      This show is really starting to piss me off.  Ivy is being handed more woes and problems than Job, while Karen keeps having amazing opportunities fall into her lap.  And can the bitch at least be professional and stop showing up late for every single thing?  I’m talking about Karen, who was late for the bar mitzvah gig and then is inexplicably late for the meeting with the big producer.  And throws out a lame excuse about the trains.

      I get that Derek is crazy talented (and also crazy sexy) and that he’s all about The Work because he’s a Serious Artist with an Amazing Vision.  But he’s also an abusive asshole who is really treating Ivy appallingly.  It’s really starting to make me uncomfortable.  And I’ve gone from being pretty neutral about Karen/K McPhee – I’ve never watched Idol and to the extent that I was aware of her at all I always thought her very pretty with a great pop voice but also bland  as mayonnaise.  But the show is making me actively dislike her and root against her.  I don’t think that’s the response they’re going for. 

      And Michael/Will is creepy.  And unattractive.  With stupid tats.  And completely wrong for DiMaggio, so I’m glad they’re firing his scrawny ass.   If Debra/Julia is pregnant (and I’m pretty sure that’s where they’re going) I may have to bail on this mess.

      Bernadette Peters is awesome, but she’s had so much work done that it sounds like she can barely enunciate.

    • Emily Wilkerson

      The kid always sounds like he’s just gotten his wisdom teeth out.