It’s official. Smash is dead. Just like Kyle Bishop (Andy Mientus should be happy he got out early). Sure, there are a couple episodes left, but NBC made the move Friday that everyone saw coming. After just two seasons, the Steven Spielberg-backed project that was initially supposed to bring a Marilyn Monroe-inspired musical to the real life Broadway is over. And while the move was shocking to no one, the real question on fans’ minds is how it ever got to this point?
NBC Cancels Smash >>>
The first season of Smash was widely criticized for some seemingly unbelievable storylines and obnoxious characters, while a few people got sick of Bombshell and wanted to see another side of Broadway (even though Bombshell was in Boston and hadn’t yet reached the Great White Way — and dramatic pause — would it ever?). So executives ousted creator and executive producer Theresa Rebeck, who was apparently wretched to work with, and brought in Gossip Girl‘s Joshua Safran to be the new showrunner. Or as I call it, mistake number one.
As Smash joins pretty much every NBC show in the trash heap and fans are left wondering why, oh, why they will forever be denied Jeremy Jordan’s most God-awful and unlikable character in TV history voice, I’ve come up with five explanations behind the show’s failure. Let me know if you agree or disagree, and if you think the show somehow deserved to be renewed (and keep in mind, I’m as disappointed as the rest of you).
1. The Gossip Girl Effect
When Safran came on board, he promised a few things. Gone were some extraneous and possibly annoying characters like Ellis and Michael Swift, tacky add-ons like Julia’s scarves and Eileen’s drink-throwing tendencies (except apparently the viewers missed that one) and songs that seemed to have no place in the show, like Karen’s Indian wedding song and dance. In their places, everything was to be about the Broadway show(s), because THAT’S what people liked about the first season.
Only Safran got distracted by his own CW past. Instead of character development and cohesive plot lines, Smash delved into the emotional tribulations of every 16-year-old girl in America like the show was the second coming of Dawson’s Creek. Karen Cartwright, who spent the better part of her adult life pushing for her dream of appearing on Broadway, became enamored with the new bad boy in town. She gave up everything, I say EVERYTHING, to fall in love with a guy who treats her like absolute sh*t and uses his own self-loathing as proof he is not self-absorbed.
Outlandish as the plot points of season 1 were, they were still more believable than what we got in their place. I can believe that two passionate people in the entertainment industry with a romantic history might rekindle the flame when they work together again. And I can believe that might end a marriage (people really do some messed up stuff in the real world). I can believe the soon-to-be fiance of an aspiring musical theater performer might struggle with the changes that come with her sudden rise to stardom, especially when his own once-promising career hits a snag. I can believe that man, suddenly feeling neglected, could be drawn in by another woman’s attention, and I can believe he’d even get drunk and sleep with his girlfriend’s recently-ousted rival if the circumstances played out that way.
But I can’t believe that anyone would give Jimmy as many chances as he got, in his love life or career. I can’t believe that a budding star with no previous success would give up the role she fought so hard for and finally won to chase a punk to an indie show. I can’t believe a big-time director would somehow lose his confidence and focus over his apparently unawareness that he treats women like objects. Feel free to add to this list, because it could go on for days.
The conflicts in season 1 were almost exclusively related to putting together a Broadway musical. Karen and Ivy fighting for the lead, Eileen desperately trying to find funding, Tom and Julia struggling to structure the show and write the book and songs, all were Bombshell related. Hell, even Julia’s affair with Michael, Dev’s tryst with Ivy and Ellis’ evil deeds were all portrayed in regards to how they affected the show.
But the conflicts this season all served as a distraction to the various musicals. How many times did Jimmy quit his OWN show? How many of Karen’s decisions were based on her career, and how many were stupidly inspired by childlike emotions? The Karen of season two would’ve given up all her dreams for the Indian wedding of her lousy restaurant fantasy.
2. The Pace
Smash simply took too damn long to get where it was going, and it lost viewers along the way. I get that Safran was trying to eliminate what he considered the pitfalls of season 1, but there’s just no way it should’ve taken seven weeks of almost nothing happening before the stage was set for the second half the season. I repeat, it took more than a month and a half to get Karen and Derek on board with Jimmy and Kyle in Hit List, and Ivy, Tom and Eileen set up, minus Jerry (sort of), on Bombshell (with Julia somewhere in the middle). And this all so they can square off against each other at the Tonys, which still took another six episodes of nearly nonsensical exposition to prep for (and as of this writing, Hit List has not opened on Broadway, yet all its stars are being considered for awards).
I will admit that after the first seven episodes finally lined everyone up in their proper places, Smash DID get more tolerable. But with the emphasis more focused on the emotional Gossip Girl-esk interactions than the meat of the shows themselves and the conflicts regarding the characters in relation to said shows, the accelerated pace seemed distracted. There were more lovey-dovey eye-roll moments than I can count.
3: Too Much Going on at Once
It may seem contradictory to say that a show was both too slow and too frantic, but somehow Smash accomplished both. We went from trying to follow the path of one show to following three, and the whole situation was completely disjointed. One of the episodes was called “Musical Chairs,” and that’s exactly what the first half of the season was. Only when the music stopped, it was the viewer left without a seat.
Let’s try to follow along with the constant twists and turns that inevitably landed us in more or less the same spot we started. When the season began, Karen had just beat out Ivy for the lead role of Marilyn Monroe. The show was coming from Boston to New York, with Eileen as executive producer and Derek as director. Seems pretty straight forward. But wait…
When Bombshell is temporarily derailed by legal issues for both Eileen and Derek (which miraculously disappeared, by the way), Karen hears a guy singing in a bar and offers to help make him famous. But he wants nothing to do with her, until his gay savior Kyle points out that this is, duh, the best opportunity anyone has ever offered anyone ever. But Jimmy’s dickish personality gets in the way of him being, I don’t know, a decent human being, and he thwarts his own success every chance he gets.
Eileen spends weeks going back and forth wrestling with her ex-husband, first losing her EP position to ensure from the federal government that the show could go on, only to find out from Ellis’ beard ex-girlfriend that the evil one was helping Jerry all along.
And even after Bombshell is resurrected, Karen continues to go out on limb after limb to help Jimmy and his stupid show and awesome voice catch a break, but when she finds out she’ll have to quit her dream role to perform in his silly little festival, is he understanding at all? Nooooo. So HE quits his own show! That is of course, until Karen risks getting fired from her legitimate shot at stardom to perform in Hit List, but it’s okay because she’s thinking about quitting Bombshell anyway.
And once Eileen is on to Jerry’s devious ways, she is determined to get Bombshell back (again). Only this time, Tom is her director, which ensures Julia is staying on after she almost skips town with the Dramaturd. But now that Derek has moved on to Hit List, Karen wants to latch on to that and give Ivy back the role of Marilyn. And once THAT happens, Jerry steps back in and offers Derek full control over “Bombshell” again, which he declines.
Confused? Annoyed? Wondering why the show was canceled?
4. Character Roulette
The second season of Smash was a textbook of out with the old, in with the new. Minus, of course, any character development or emotional investment, because anything you cared about in season 1 didn’t matter anymore. Were you Team Karen or Team Ivy? Who cares! They both have their own lead roles and Tony nominations now! And Ivy has TWO! Because that crappy show Liaisons, which wasted our time for weeks and served only as a holdover until Ivy could get Bombshell back, garnered her a best supporting actress nod despite a run of only a week. But it’s the stock characters who got us there that really helped ruin stole the show.
There was Jennifer Hudson’s four-episode arc, which served to offer guidance to Karen in her newfound stardom (which she only paid attention to when it came to getting Ivy fired, the rest she ignored) and to introduce the musical world to the music of Jimmy and Kyle. And of course, to show off J-Hud’s superior voice. Then, of course, she up and vanished like a fart in the wind (Thanks, Warden Norton).
There was the dramaturd (Daniel Sunjata), arguably the second most annoying character on the show — we’re saving Jimmy for last — seemingly sparking a love connection with Julia only to sorta try to steal her show before saving it, then vanishing across the Atlantic with nothing more than an invitation for her to join him to “collaborate.”
There is Scott Nichols (Jesse L. Martin), who holds a grudge against Julia for screwing him over 15 years ago, then makes out with her for a few weeks while guilting her into following through on a promise to save his career, then using her as a scapegoat for going on after Kyle’s death when he literally has no reason to do such a thing.
And don’t even get me started on Sean Hayes’ role as Terry Falls, wanker lead in Liaisons. Or the relatively (get it?) surprising appearances by Karen’s dad, Kyle’s parents (really? They care about Jimmy?) and Jimmy’s weird druggie older brother (who dates Karen’s roommate?).
It is so hard to care about what happens in the plot when you literally no longer care about any of the characters. It really makes you miss Brian d’Arcy James and whoever played Leo Houston, because at least they made Julia seem like a real person.
I could go on and on and on about Jimmy, but I’ll do my best to keep it to a few paragraphs. I can’t think of a single character on television as unlikable as Jimmy who was meant to be sympathetic and not a straight-up villain. It’s a shame, too, because I would argue that Jeremy Jordan has the best and most pleasant voice of anyone who ever appeared as a regular on the show. I’m not sure I can put him up there with Jennifer Hudson, but he’s close. Dude can sing.
Still, while I can’t say his character single-handedly ruined Smash, he was definitely responsible for all the times I yelled at the TV or rolled my eyes (with Karen’s help, of course). If a person like Jimmy existed in real life, he’d be unemployed, homeless and almost certainly dead. Yet, this guy keeps getting fourth, fifth and sixth chances that no one in reality would ever get. Even his inevitable redemption won’t be believable, because the guy is such a dick you actually WANT him to fail.
When he tells Karen that he’s the reason Kyle died? Yeah, he’s right. And when Karen mumbles that she’s somehow in love with him, and he says he doesn’t deserve to be loved? Spot on, chief. The fact that Karen even chases him after the cast breaks the news to him and spends hours searching for him is reason enough to cancel the show.
There isn’t a single “Jimmy fan” among anyone who watchesed Smash, and that’s a bad sign for the guy who is basically the male lead of the show. I mean, more people like Ellis than like Jimmy. But hot damn, can Jeremy Jordan sing.
So those are my apparently extensive reasons behind why Smash failed. I can only hope that people who cared enough to waste their time watching the show will care enough to read my elongated ramblings. And here I thought this article would be short.
What do you think? Is my reasoning on point? Or am I totally off base? Do you think there’s anything I missed? If so, let me know in the comments section below. Would love to hear why you think Smash fulfilled all its dismal prophecies this unfortunate season.
You can watch Smash (for a few more weeks) every Saturday at 8pm on NBC.
Want to add Smash or any other show to your very own watch-list? Download BuddyTV Guide for free for your phone.
(Image courtesy of NBC)