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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