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”Smash” episode 6 – ”Chemistry”

March 14, 2012

Karen wows 'em at the Bar Mitzvah...

I’ll leave the recap to others, as usual. Here are the thoughts I had on this episode, though. What? Of course I have thoughts!

I’m increasingly unhappy with the Michael/Julia relationship. I don’t see it as authentic, or romantic, or even as something that helps create tension in the plot threads. I just find it…uncomfortable.

According to this show, there is no professional behavior to be found on Broadway: directors sleep with performers, lyricists sleep with performers, the producer is out in some bar with a bunch of kids – see how much respect you get after doing that in reveal life – the composer has his own personal agenda in promoting one performer over another, the “star” just automatically assumes she has enough power to get another performer fired. I could go on. Is there anyone in this bunch in whom an investor should trust? Especially with a couple of million dollars?

The Karen character is beginning to annoy some people in the blogs I happened to read yesterday. The doe-eyed innocent bit is wearing thin with some folks, I think. TV and movie audiences aren’t very patient nowadays. Watch a film or television program from thirty or forty years ago and see how slowly it is paced compared with today, even that action shows. We are used to a sort of ”plot shorthand” from years and years of watching TV and movie plots compressed into anything from forty minutes to two hours.

This collectively-understood shorthand translates into a kind of suspension of disbelief of its own. In a situation comedy we don’t expect characters to change or grow. That’s why ”The Simpsons” has been so successful for so many years. The characters never have to age. As far as we know, it’s still the same year it was when the show started.

In dramas, though, we expect some development of the characters. I like to credit this to J. Michael Straczynski and his groundbreaking story arc concept, Babylon 5. It wasn’t the first show to us an arc – heck, ”The Fugitive” had a sort of one decades before – but the show was sold to the fledgling PTEN network with that intention: 5 years, no more. The story would be told in 5 years. To hell with the generally-understood plan back then that seven years of episodes were needed for successful syndication. (Of course, DVD and Blu-Ray season boxed sets, as well as secondary sources like Netflix, have changed that playing field a great deal in the last decade.)

”Smash” was intended, from what I have read, to become a multi-season show by creating a new musical each season. It won’t take five years to get ”Marilyn” to the stage. However, this interview with creator Theresa Rebeck says otherwise. Also from what I’ve read, this season is 12-15 episodes. I expect the show will be on the stage for the out-of-town tryouts at the end of this season. I may be wrong about that, of course.

So…we expect some development in our cast members. Last week’s episode showed Karen being a bit sneaky and seductive and non-Midwest good girl to get information for Dev at a dinner. This week she’s so babe-in-the-woods that she can’t even figure out that she should ask someone what to do before going out to sing at a bar mitzvah for the first time. I don’t buy the bit that she’s just too preoccupied, waiting to hear if Ivy has lost her star gig. Which is she – street-smart or not?

On the upside, ”History Is Made At Night” may be the best tune in the show so far. It has a great melody, great harmonies, and great lyrics. The arrangement is skillfully done as well. (Get it on iTunes so you can hear the whole thing without the distraction of the action in the show and the dopey looks between Julia and Michael.) I really hope there will be enough of a book put together so that, at the end of the season, there could really be a ”Marilyn” show.

I love Katherine McPhee’s voice, I really do – but I must say that Megan Hilty, as a singer, is doing a damn fine job sounding the way I think Marilyn should sound. Maybe Katherine can do it just as well – I expect we’ll find out, eventually!

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