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.

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