Sunday, March 4, 2012

Smashing Just Isn't What it Used to Be

  Derek, the arrogant, womanizing director of the Marilyn musical ends up having a passionate affair with Ivy, the ambitious young star of said musical, and surprise surprise, he's kind of just using her and doesn't care about her as much as she does about him. How shocking. 
It's 4 episodes into Smash (2012 - ), and I'm really started to get riled up, which is very cute to everyone around me, but I can't help feeling personally offended somehow by this show. Bare with me. 
As someone who knows entirely too much about Marilyn Monroe, and I'm talking about the real Marilyn-Norma-Jean-Miller-DiMaggio-Baker-Mortensen-Monroe, and not the two-dimensional poster child that Smash keeps making her out to be by stating asinine things like 'they never paid her as much as she was worth' and 'she said she didn't want to be made into a joke', barely scraping the surface of the intensely complex and layered character that she actually is, I am consistently annoyed that this show can't hire just one Marilyn historian, or at least do a couple hours of homework reading a biography or two. 
Look it's all fine to skim the surface when creating a Broadway musical about your subject and take creative liberties in order to punch out spectacular numbers with plenty of pizazz, but don't try to get serious by cramming in scenes between the writer and producer in which they lament over how sad Marilyn's life was over drinks like they've lived it. Please. 
Listen I haven't lived it either but I don't pretend to. 
Moving on, it's kind of a bad sign when by episode 4 you already hate every single principal character. They have been shoving all of their imperfections down our throats so blatantly that you can't help but be completely annoyed by all of them. Even the characters with whom we are all supposed to identify; Karen Cartwright the unlucky outsider, Ellis Tanchereon the lowly insignificant intern with ambition, Julia Houston the awkward but successful loner unlucky in love, and so on and so forth, but they have become the most repulsive characters on the roster. 
And now, they've brought in Nick Jonas and squeezed in a couple of Adele songs to make it more catchy, but it can't mask that the show is royally failing, just like it's musical. 

Ivy later seduces Nick Jonas, who plays this hot-shot teen star named Lyle West who's musical is worth 80 million dollars. She was feeling jealous that Derek inevitably reverted back to his womanizing ways and so it made it ok for her to have sex with a 15 year old. What?
Overall, this is supposed to be a show about the dog-eat-dog yet alluring world of the Great White Way and everyone in it; from the chorus to the star. It's supposed to be some kind of satiric tell-all about this business we call show, and how people will do anything, and anyone apparently to get to the top and stay there. It's trying to be the new television juggernaut that breaks down barriers by giving its audience an in to an otherwise exclusive atmosphere, but even the flashiest gimmicks cannot mask the terrible and trite writing and execution of this show. It is trying so hard to be a combination of All About Eve (1950) and A Star is Born (1954) through the All That Jazz (1979) filter, but it just doesn't have the originality, sincerity, and if you'll forgive me, gaul that its predecessors used to make themselves so memorable. 
And let me point out something extremely lacking and also extremely important to the whole scope of this series; Marilyn's raw sexuality. Poor Megan Hilty (who is cast as the titular character in the fictitious Marilyn musical) is very talented, and is a showbiz veteran, i'll give her that, but imitating Marilyn's high raspy voice, and sultry seductive movements is just not enough. It's just another notch in the doomed pastiche of television's fascination with musical theater. 
There is simply nothing sincere in any sexual scenario that is presented in Smash. Do impressionable ingenues sleep with producers for a part? Yes. Are busty blondes appealing to most audiences? Yes. Do affairs make it awkward for one to work with that same person later? Yes. We get it. You're not teaching us anything new Smash, and you're certainly not capturing the sexual spirit of Marilyn. 
If there is one more karaoke-bar scene, this show is going to officially pass into the kitschy fluff, And with lines like 'go back to the chorus, there's nothing safe about being a star' had me gagging on my chocolate chip ice cream. 
I'm going to give Megan Hilty an 'A' for effort, but it's going to take a lot more than a pearly white smile and tight-ass sweater to endear her character Ivy to the audience, and even more to make us believe that she can pull off Marilyn.  
I was going to let that 3rd episode slide, but now that we're on our 4th and you still haven't shown us anything really sincere or genuine about Marilyn or the world of Broadway, I'm going to go ahead and give you a second strike. One more left, hope you nail it. So to speak.  

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