I have yet to meet a regular viewer of "Smash" who watches it because they love it. So why do we continue to tune in?
The show's legion of "fans," if you can call them that, simply love to hate it. And just when you think you can't stomach another minute of it - another song, another tantrum, another cheesy scene that fills you with shame, scrambling to lower the volume lest your neighbors discover your secret Monday night habit - something happens right before the credits roll that keeps you coming back for another fix.
The pilot episode was spectacular. It seemed to have everything I want in a television show - a quest for stardom, a New York City-setting, Marilyn Monroe, plenty of drama, back-stabbing, and the ever-sassy Angelica Huston, tossing martinis into the faces of deserving gentleman. I couldn't wait for the next episode.
After Monday night’s finale, it’s impossible not to return for “Smash” season two — but I hope that some of the characters won’t follow suit (especially Ellis, far right).
Episode two was awful. I decided to give "Smash" another shot the following week. Episode three was even worse. It was all downhill from there. Occasionally, however, there were redeeming moments - just enough to watch next week - but I've done a lot of fast-forwarding to make it to Monday night's finale.
What really makes it hard to unabashedly love "Smash" are the lack of redeeming characters; the high volume of extraneous, eye-roll inducing story lines; the atrocious dialogue, the dream sequences, the details that simply don't make any sense within the context of the show.
The worst - aside from deranged, ambitious assistant Ellis - is the main character, Karen Cartwright, a small-town newbie trying to get her big break. We're supposed to believe she's something special and possesses something that her rival, Ivy, doesn't have, but I find her to be about as appealing as a stale loaf of bread. I'd use the same comparison to sum up the acting prowess of Katharine McPhee. She's wooden, vacant, and I'm guessing the show would be better had they cast a real actress instead of an "American Idol" runner-up. When she's dressed up as Marilyn, she looks cheap - it's like a McDonald's hamburger masquerading as filet mignon. (Check out Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn" to see a praiseworthy portrayal).
The other portions of the program that are the most vomit-inducing involve Debra Messing's character, writer Julia Houston. Just to make sure that we understand that she is no longer "Grace" of "Will & Grace," they put her in the most fake-looking pair of glasses I've ever seen, likely scooped up on clearance at a suburban mall. This is not "Superman" and Messing is not Clark Kent; no one is being fooled. Her scenes contain the most poorly-written dialogue in the show, and when they begin, I cannot wait for them to end. I'm not interested in her strained marriage, which clearly needed to end eight episodes ago; nor do I care about her attempts to adopt a child, her ne'er-do-well son who underscores exactly why said adoption is unwise, or her ridiculous, rekindled affair with the guy playing Joe DiMaggio. And honestly, could they have made a poorer casting choice for the DiMaggio role?
However, there are a few elements that I do enjoy: Ivy (who should clearly be starring as Marilyn), her poor choices and taste in men aside - she's one of the only complex characters on the show; the constant conflict backstage, as there is no drama like backstage drama (see: "All About Eve," "Being Julia"); and the musical itself. I would see "Bombshell." Could many of the songs - and certainly that hastily-rewritten final scene - be improved upon? Absolutely. I am a huge Monroe fan, though, and there's nary a biography or dramatized biopic that I can resist.
The conclusion of Monday night's season finale was a perfect example of why I'm going to be obligated to watch at least the first episode of season two. Who will end up playing Marilyn on Broadway? (They're obviously going to change their minds a few more times before it actually opens). What will become of Ivy?
Since it won't be returning until 2013, perhaps producers can take fans' feedback into consideration and make some improvements. Here are my suggestions:
1. Kill Ellis. I don't care that his threat to return will be empty. There are a lot of things that have happened on "Smash" that were never revisited (like the adoption I?mentioned earlier).
2. Demote McPhee to a supporting role. I don't care how they do it, it simply must be done.
3. Hire a much, much better writer. If anything, "Smash" has shown that New York City is full of talented, ambitious up-and-comers, and if you're not on top of your game, you could be replaced in the blink of an eye. New York, where the show is also filmed, is home to many good writers in need of work. It shouldn't be too difficult to find one.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments to email@example.com