This past weekend Smash came to end, bringing to an end a two-year saga that chronicled what it takes to get a musical to Broadway.
I myself am a big Broadway lover. Each year, I make several trips from DC to New York and binge-view three shows over a weekend. I'm able to do this thanks to an old student I.D. or a general rush policy. I don't make the kind of money it takes to see these shows full price.
All this to say, I was likely the target audience for the show; beyond my love for the great Great White Way, I'm also in the highly coveted 18-34 demographic.
Unlike many, I never hate-watched Smash. Sure, some episodes were better than others, but overall I was entertained every week. The big question many journalists and pop culture bloggers are asking themselves is "What went wrong?" How did a show with one of the strongest pilots in history, a plum time slot after The Voice, and great buzz thanks to a Stephen Spielberg producing credit crash and burn in a little watched Saturday time slot?
There are many theories out there and I want to throw my two cents in on the issue.
CastingI know I'm going to put myself at the risk of some hate messages, but casting Katharine McPhee as Karen was a mistake. Sure she can sing and dance (somewhat), but her acting remained one-note regardless of her circumstances, whether that be awkwardly declining a marriage proposal ("I'm in tech!") or hanging out at her apartment. Her face rarely changed. This was a big problem as a central premise of most of the show was who should play Marilyn Monroe in the show within the show Bombshell. Megan Hilty as Ivy killed it every week (her performance of "Let's Be Bad" was a watershed TV moment in my opinion) and it was ludicrous to me that this question spanned almost two seasons.
The show also seemed to severely struggle with casting love interests for its characters. Tom (Christian Borle) never got a love interest he had an ounce of sexual chemistry with until Patrick Dillon (Luke Macfarlane) and he didn't show until the last episode. Same goes for many of the men they paired with Julia (Debra Messing).
Unrealistic Plot Points/Uneven WritingI stared at my screen with utter shock when Karen quit Bombsell to join Hit List because she essentially felt Tom, the director of the musical as of mid-season 2, liked Ivy's jokes better or something. I mean really, you leave a Broadway show, for a show off-broadway that was in a glorified basement. Totally ridiculous.
I also felt no sympathy for Sam (Leslie Odom) when he made the hasty decision to leave a starring role in a touring production of The Book of Mormon when his ex-boyfriend Tom said he may be able to give him a glorified ensemble role in Bombshell, a promise Tom quickly rescinded but by that point Sam was out of a job.
A lot of people had a problem with the character Ellis from season 1. My biggest problem with his story, besides that he was supposedly straight at some point, was the story line where he dumped peanuts into Rebecca Duvall's (Uma Thurman) smoothie so that she was would have an allergic reaction severe enough to force her to leave the show for good. Isn't that attempted murder? All he got in the form of punishment was fired by Eileen (Anjelica Huston).
The Michael Swift/Julia affair story line was really weird. When she tried to break things off, he started giving off this "I'll kill your family and myself if we don't stay together" vibe. Imagine my surprise in the final seconds of the finale when the two reunited.
The character of Jimmy was really irritating. While his portrayer, Jeremy Jordan, is a very talented singer, they gave him the character of a petulant child that was always in a bad mood, and declining any sort of advice whatsoever. By the time they started to introduce some redeeming qualities to his character, it was too little to late as few gave a damn about him at that point.
The songsIn season 1, there was amazing song after song that I would add to my MP3 player each week. These included the aforementioned "Let's Be Bad" as well as "Let Me Be Your Star," "Smash," "Don't Forget Me," "Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking," and "Touch Me," I know I'm probably in the minority for liking the latter Ryan Tedder-penned number, but it's good for cardio at the gym.
This season, all the songs were snoozes and instantly forgettable with the exception of "Broadway Here I Come," which by the end of the series ever character and their mother got to sing.
Even with these issues, Smash was one of the few shows I had to watch almost immediately each week while other shows pile up on my DVR. I'll miss it, but I'm glad the show's writers wrote a very strong ending in which many of the characters got a happy ending, or at least a hint of one. Now that the stage lights are out on this show, I hope people heed the plea of the Marilyn in Bombshell and won't forget this unique though sometimes frustrating series.