Previously on Smash: Covering episodes #1 - #4
The show starts out with Karen and Ivy auditioning for the same role, though they don’t meet, and neither lands it. Across town, Tom returns from London and talks to Julia about the desire to create a new musical; overhearing, Tom’s assistant pitches the idea for a musical about Marilyn and the idea begins to form inside Tom and Julia’s minds. After making a small demo recording, Ellis leaks it to his mother who in turn leaks it on the internet and suddenly everyone is looking forward to the musical even before casting has occurred. Inspired by the anticipation, Eileen offers to produce the project, and wants to bring Derek on board as the director despite his previous bad association with Tom. Not long after, Ivy and Karen both audition for the role of Marilyn (twice), though Ivy eventually ends up with the part.
Julia and her husband (Frank) attempt to adopt a child from overseas, but are told that the process could take more than 2 years to finalize. Feeling as though he’d be too old to raise a child in two years, Frank wants to go back to work, even though he was adamant about Julia not working on new projects during their adoption process. Julia takes out some of her stress on Ellis, which leads him to think that she’s out to get him.
Dev (Karen’s boyfriend) is becoming unhappy with the amount of time she is spending in rehearsals and practices, especially after she ends up standing him up for an important dinner with work colleagues. It doesn’t help that Karen’s parents also believe that she’s just chasing a dream without any practical outlook on life—that is, up until her father sees her sing when she comes back to Iowa for a baby shower. Now, with the help of some of her fellow chorus/ensemble members, Karen feels as though she can give Ivy a run for her money, despite no longer being considered for the role of Marilyn.
Eileen is faced with a growing shortage of capital and funding, so she tries to sell her Degas sketch, but can’t because it legally belongs to her husband. Finally, she’s able to persuade a young TV star to invest in the project, with the condition that she gives him profit points from the proceedings. She’s not entirely happy about the situation, but it allows her to have a cash flow for the production costs.
Julia Houston (Writer): A successful writer who has a passion for the theatre, Julia promised to take a year off from any new projects to help with the adoption case. An idea sparked by Tom’s assistant has her delving back into the world of musicals while trouble at home crops up.
Derek Wills (Director): A self-important man that has worked with Tom and Eileen in the past, Derek initially scoffs at the Marilyn idea. He comes across as a “player” in regards to women, especially the two lead actresses trying out for the top spot.
Karen Cartwright (Waitress/Actress): A struggling actress from Iowa, Karen is one of two people who try out for the role of Marilyn. She is considered the outsider by her peers due to her relative inexperience in the industry and her young age.
Tom Levitt (Writer): Julia’s writing partner, Tom has a tenuous working relationship with Derek. Very much invested in the Marilyn musical, and finds his assistant cute.
Ivy Lynn (Actress): Veteran stage actress with several years of experience, Ivy is one of two people who try out for the lead role. A close friend of Tom’s, she establishes a close relationship with Derek regardless of his position as director.
Dev Sundaram (Karen’s Boyfriend): NYC’s deputy press secretary, Dev’s job takes up a lot of his free time. He tries to be supportive of Karen’s dreams, but finds himself being more and more regulated
Frank Houston (Julia’s Husband): A teacher, Frank took time off from work to work on an adoption that is taking longer than anticipated. Supportive of Julia, but not entirely behind her ventures.
Ellis Tancharoen (Tom’s Assistant): The person who gave Tom and Julia the idea as an offhand comment. Initially, he idolized the pair, but then starts to indirectly sabotage their work on the musical. Doesn’t enjoy being around Julia.
Eileen Rand (Producer): Soon-to-be-divorced older woman who has a passion for theatre but with not practical background. Eileen gets behind the Marilyn musical as a way to show she can be in the game without her husband Jerry taking care of business matters.
The idea for the show was what really drew me in, especially given the fact that I’m a huge musical enthusiast. The behind-the-scenes mentality really pulls me in, allowing me to see the step-by-step process of just how a musical in NYC is made. It also gives a bit of a spark in terms of realism—the theatre world can be rather cutthroat and unforgiving (most artistic endeavors are), and it is displayed quite well in the episodes and character interaction.
A major problem that I have with this series is that there are just too many clichés that pop up throughout its progression: Karen has to “audition” privately for the role of Marilyn, Ivy sleeps with the director and suddenly gets the part (much to her innocent claims), and there’s quite a bit of backstabbing and manipulation going on. It’s a drama series, I get that—but the clichés are just too much. Theatre can be a dog-eat-dog world, but not everyone is going to be like that; there are going to be some good experiences, too.
The show also tries a bit hard to be a copy of Glee, and while the addition of musical numbers can be spectacular, they don’t (in my opinion) compare to the ones seen on Glee. There’s no real humor to the show, even of the dry wit variety, and comparing the two shows is a disservice.
The main question I have concerning the show is what exactly is going to happen between Karen and Ivy now that Ivy has the lead role? There was so much buildup concerning the two trying out for the lead that, at first, I thought this was going to be the main subplot of the series, but it was quickly resolved by the end of the second episode. I suppose the creative team could make it so that Ivy ends up being injured and Karen has to take over, but that would—again—create a bit of a cliché and an unrealistic situation (unless it was done by the Phantom of the Opera). The other subplots concerning Karen’s, Julia’s, and Eileen’s relationships are rather obvious to see; however, now to just wait for them to come to fruition.