Stars: Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Jack Davenport, Angelica Houston
Writers: Theresa Rebeck
Director: Michael Morris
Network: NBC, airs Mondays
Original Telecast: May 15, 2012

My biggest regret of the entire 2011-2012 TV season – sticking with NBC’s Broadway musical series SMASH to the bitter end.

And it’s been a hard pill to swallow. It’s a show that started off strong, and then, through a series of bad decisions and one awful storyline after another, destroyed the show’s entire existence.

The story was all about finding the right Marilyn Monroe for a new Broadway production – and the internal machinations behind it. That was the interesting part. There was experienced chorus girl Ivy (Megan Hilty) who was a shoo-in, but was constantly getting kicked in the head by her egomaniacal director Derek (Jack Davenport) and later to the curb when they needed a star to take her place Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman).

Then there was green Karen (Katharine McPhee) whose luck was consistent throughout the series – constantly using her naiveté to trample all over Ivy and anyone that got in her way (even though she was oblivious to what she was doing).

Now, with the previews show in Boston in a disaster because Duvall has dropped out, the question becomes should the show BOMBSHELL go on with inexperienced understudy Karen or seasoned Ivy.

It’s a no brainer where “Bombshell” is heading and it wouldn’t be spoiling things to say that Karen gets the gig – even though in the real world it would be highly improbable because Karen is not ready for the role. And in all the scenes that showcase her on stage during this episode, it’s clear Ivy was the better pick. In fact, every character hammers this point home, yet they let Derek walk all over everyone and instate Karen is Marilyn.

It’s one of the more frustrating parts about SMASH. McPhee is quite good, but the writers didn’t do much to prop her up as more than just a lucky girl. Then they tried to make Ivy the villain (and continued to do it throughout this episode to make their point), when that argument just doesn’t stick. Plus, there’s that horrible confrontation between Derek and Ivy where he tears her apart on why she isn’t Marilyn.

The rest of the episode is about Derek’s ego, Karen finding out that Dev (Raza Jaffrey) slept with Ivy and more relationship angst between Julia (Debra Messing) and her husband. Plus, it looks like Ivy is going to take a bunch of pills to commit suicide (oh, the drama and the cliffhanger!).

There’s also an unfinished song that Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia are working on at the last minute to end the show (it ends up being poppier than the rest of the show).

The end result is depressing – very, very depressing. A show with so much promise, tried so hard to hit home a mission statement – Karen is a star – and failed to build up to that properly. I would have had no problem with Karen taking the role if she was given the material to justify it and the character juice to make this pay-off worth it. Instead, and surprisingly, Karen ends up looking more spoiled than Ivy. Ivy did some horrible things, but it always felt like it was thrown in there to make her appear bad, when deep down, she’s not a bad person. She’s damaged, yes, but her actions seemed to be dictated by lazy writing, not by the layered character Hilty was playing.

So tell me – what did Karen do to earn the role? Hanging out with Duvall and shopping? Did it take getting cheated on by her boyfriend to give her the depth to play Marilyn? That’s a horrible reason for the show to give for Karen’s character. If SMASH did its job right, it would have shown Karen, all along, fighting for survival and doing everything she could to earn the job. Instead, it’s given to her, which is the flaw of the series.

So where does SMASH go from here? In many ways, NBC probably should have cut their losses and ended it here. Waiting midseason for the second season doesn’t bode well and it’s hard to correct course on a train wreck. Tons of work will have to be done to get the series back on track and the most important one is finding a way to bring the characters we liked so much the first part of the season and rebooting them for Season 2.

If they don’t do that, Season 2 is going to face some substantial hurdles. SMASH could have been a fantastic, breathtaking show about the making of a Broadway musical. Instead, it died a slow, unfortunate death leading to one of the most unsatisfying Season 1 finales in some time.

The “Bomb,” in “Bombshell” is sadly there for a reason.


Related Link: Interview with SMASH star Katharine McPhee on the first season of SMASH

Related LinkTV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Previews”

Related LinkTV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Publicity”

Related Link: TV Review: SMASH – Season 1 – “The Movie Star”

Related Link: Exclusive Interview with SMASH star Megan Hilty

Related Link: TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Understudy”
Related Link: TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Hell On Earth”
Related Link: TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “The Workshop”
Related Link: TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Chemistry”
Related Link:TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Let’s Be Bad”
Related Link:TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “The Cost of Art”
Related Link:TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Enter Mr. DiMaggio”
Related Link: TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “The Callback”
Related Link: TV Review – SMASH Series Premiere

Related Link: Exclusive Interview with SMASH executive producers Justin Falvey & Darryl Frank

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ArticleTV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “Bombshell” – Season Finale

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  1. Must be a great show if the critics don’t like it. I’m sold and love it.

  2. No question that Ivy has paid a lot more dues than Karen and is probably more right for the part. Still you tend to trash Karen a little too much to build your case that Ivy should be Marilyn. First, Karen didn’t “trample all over Ivy” in any way, shape or form. You tried to make the point that she did it without knowing she was doing it, which really doesn’t make much sense. Karen did not do anything underhanded to “steal” the role of Marilyn away from Ivy. Ivy, however, lied repeatedly (ex: the cell phone message to Karen telling her she was done for the day), slept with Derek to give herself an advantage over Karen, slept with Karen’s boyfriend and then told her about it in the hope that that she would not be able to perform, and generally treated Karen like crap. So it wasn’t so much that Karen deserved to play Marilyn. It was more a case of Ivy didn’t deserve the role.

    You mentioned that Ivy really isn’t a bad person. Good grief! What does she have to do to be considered bad – push Karen in front of a speeding taxi? Yes, she has some serious mental issues, but that can’t excuse all the terrible things she has done. I will agree that SMASH should have focused less on the behind-the-scenes melodrama. The new person in charge for next season is supposed more of a Broadway theater type person, so maybe the show will become less -soap opera-like.

    I did enjoy seeing Ellis the snake get fired, although I’m sure he will be back to wreck havoc in some way in S2. And I also enjoyed hearing Michael tell Julia that his wife had taken their son and moved out when he told her about the affair. Given that he was clearly the agressor in that sordid affair, it was good to see he had to pay for his mistakes even more than Julia (although I thought Frank giving her another chance after finding out she had cheated on him not once but twice was a little unrealistic). One possible S2 development that was hinted at which I hopre doesn’t happen is Karen hooking up with Derek. Anyway you look at it, Derek is a real scumbag. He is that last guy that karen should rebound with after her break-up with Dev.

    [Editor’s Note: I agree, Ivy has done bad things and isn’t a very good person, but she was a good person at the beginning of the series and the writers trashed her character. And the harder they tried to trash her character, it never felt authentic. It felt forced and a different show. SMASH should have been about two worthy girls (the pro and the newcomer) and how each should have been deserving of the part. It makes no sense that if they were going to send Karen on a journey to be a star, that they didn’t showcase her struggles and her own desires to make it. — Carl]

  3. Ilove the show & so does my husband. It’s fun ez to watch…..I just want MORE…

  4. Totally disagree with this article. They have panned it all season, so it’s no surprise that this should fit in with the rest. I’m thankful it was renewed in spite of their reviews.

    [Editor’s Note: If you go back and check the earlier reviews, we were raving about SMASH and were loving everything about it. But then, around Episode 5 or so, the series started to derail. There were bright spots, but it never fully recovered. As the reviewer, I wanted a show about the underdog, but the writers made Ivy the underdog throughout (despite making her do crazy and irrational things) and forgot they needed to show growth, development and desire from the Karen character as well). Plus, they ruined the Julia character with her philandering and turned Derek into a brilliant grouch to a total a**. Just my two cents. — Carl]

  5. Great review, Carl. Thanks for your honesty. I agree with you, the producers have an almost impossible task to haul this thing back uphill. They should just pretend that Derek flipped out due to the stress of tech, hallucinated the entirety of the last two episodes, and have him wake up with Ivy leaning over him in the psych ward, concerned.

  6. I will agree that they didn’t do enough to make Karen feel deserving of the role (she was in no way “better” than Ivy.) but they did do a good job of making us hate Ivy. I don’t really get where you think that originally Ivy was a “good person” From the first episode to the end she was a narcissist that used everyone to get what she wanted. So really it was just that Ivy didn’t deserve the role (being the underhanded ***** that she was.)

  7. Ivy is played by Megan Hilty, not Megan Ivy, as stated in paragraph 3; Tom is played by Christian Borle, not Christian Odom, Jr., as started in paragraph 9.

    I agree that the show should get back to the behind-the-scenes making of a Broadway musical, but there still needs to be some personal story lines along the way. And I agree with Bill- Karen didn’t steal the role, and while Ivy may be more experienced, she doesn’t deserve it. Actually, Ivy is lucky enough to be back in the chorus of Bombshell since she screwed up royally in her one show of Heaven on Earth. (Remember when she got drunk and fell on the stage?) That is why Karen was given the part of the understudy in the first place; Ivy lost that opportunity on her own. Karen’s not spoiled, she’s talented & responsible.

    I do think it would be interesting, though, if Karen ends up with Derek. I think Derek is smitten with her and maybe if he ends up with her, he will simmer down a bit in the scumbag department.

    As with all shows, some plots in SMASH are less interesting than others, some are stronger and more entertaining, but I’m excited that NBC picked it up for a second season and can’t wait to watch more SMASH!

    [Editor’s Note: Those notes are fixed. Thanks for the heads up.]

  8. YOUR AN IDIOT!!!! Thats why there are caps
    the show is fantastic and u know nothing about showbiz

    [Editor’s Note: Yep. That’s my middle name – Carl “Idiot” Cortez. Don’t wear it out. As I’ve said before, I loved the show when it started and still feel there’s potential, but so much damage has been done, the show needs to bring back the fun and less of the daytime soap opera melodrama.

    • The daytime soap opera is what makes the show! Wow….go watch something else dude…..

  9. I love the show.Love Karen thought she desevered the role of Marilyn. She’s great

  10. I guess that is why there are so many tv shows on right now….not everyone is going to agree. The finale show had me in tears it was soooo good! This was just one crazy bad review after many good ones I’ve read!

  11. Carl, I agree with a lot of what you say about the trajectory of the show but disagree about the finale. I was looking forward to the series as a more serious look at the making of a Broadway musical and I really hated the melodrama that later ensued. But I liked the development of Karen. I felt duly sorry for Ivy, with all of her issues and disappointments, but she was going after stardom with the assumption that she had to sleep around to get anywhere. Karen has a more current and workmanlike approach to her career. But I also see how she is a more interesting Marilyn. She has that innocent hope and trust that I think Marilyn had and her sexuality is less blowsy and more nuanced than Ivy’s. That’s actually what I think Derek likes and sees in Karen. Karen has a lot going on under the surface and brings out that part of Marilyn which is the girl with the dream who wants to be taken seriously. ivy seems more like the good-time girl who is always “on”
    [Editor’s Note: That’s actually a really great assessment of the series and the characters. I think what I felt worked so well in the first two episodes was how well drawn all the characters were. They had a voice. Ivy was grounded and actually quite likable despite her flaws and Karen was a perfect contrast. I felt like you should be rooting for both of them being Marilyn and I liked how they didn’t make Ivy an outright villain initially. But then her actions became worse and worse and she went down a very slippery slope. I wanted to root for Karen too, but they spend so much time building up how horrible Ivy was, they didn’t spend enough time showing how strong, grounded and deserving Karen is. Again, great comment – thanks for the thoughts. — Carl]

  12. I think we watched two different finales, because I thought the finale was epic and I was in tears with the last song. I think Ivy should have gotten the part, but Karen did give a great performance from what we saw. I don’t like some of the story lines either especially the upcoming pregnancy for Debra Messing’s. Will someone take her to a clinic before season 2 ?

    I’m glad they didn’t end it with one season, because I can’t wait for Season 2 and they have added a new producer, he’s from Gossip Girl, but I’ll give him a chance. You might want to check out the SMASH FB page so you can see how in love with the show the fans are.
    You have the right to your opinion and we’ll see if Season 2 impresses you more.

  13. Who is that person? The one that told me I just watched a bomb…he should get out of town and stop writing.
    [Editor’s Note: Yes, Carl has been shipped out of town and is now writing about dancing rodents in Panama. Everyone gets their wish.]

  14. I am eagerly anticipating season 2! I have a few favorite series and this is by far the best new one in a long time! Bye Desperate Housewives–hello Smash!

  15. Enough with the Karen bashing already. The talk that she doesn’t have a “broadway voice;” what is that? You prefer Ethel Merman? Sorry, I hate that kind of voice. McPhee has plenty of power and can belt them out like nobody’s business, and she can also do subtle and heartbreaking and all points inbetween. I’ve watched “Don’t Forget Me” more times than I can count and it makes me cry every time. She really makes me feel it.

    I am NOT dissing Hilty…she has a powerful voice as well and is undeniably talented (Loved her singing and dancing in the National Pastime number). I was rooting for them both in the beginning, thinking, why can’t there be a way for BOTH of them to be Marilyn?? But her character has an ice-cold mean streak reminiscent of the bitches I knew in high school, and her final act of not only sleeping with Karen’s fiance, but TELLING her about it on opening night was unforgivable.

    And don’t forget that the arrogant, infuriating, yet in-demand (for a reason) director SEES Karen as Marilyn. He’s all about his vision. Can you say with certainty that an egomaniacal director has never pushed for his vision and insisted on a performer that no one else believed in, with the end result being a hit with a breakout star? Even if it never has happened, it’s nice to think it could.

    Whatever. At the end of the day, the truth is this: it’s TV you’re watching. Not Broadway. And television, even “reality television,” is 180 degrees from reality. If you want the reality of the Broadway experience, WORK in Broadway. Or watch a documentary.

  16. I wanted Megan Hilty to be Marilyn…but after Katherine McPhee performed I cried everytime I watched it! This show is amazing and if they are gonna do a reboot next season I will look forward to that too..but I don’t agree with this review..


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