Smash Notes: The Cost of Art, Episode 4

Logo from NBC show Smash.

Before watching episode 4 of Smash, “The Cost of Art,” I wondered if I was perhaps the only person left in America still watching this show. But I was able to find some solace on Twitter.

There, you can follow Karen Cartwright  – @SmashKarenC. But wait, is @smashkaren the real Karen??

Julia Houston is ready to chat @SMASH_JuliaH. I’m relieved to see she lists herself as a “Scarf Aficionada.”

Julia’s partner, Tom Levitt, can be found @SmashTomLevitt if you want to talk show tunes. And who doesn’t at about 2:30 on a boring Wednesday afternoon?

I’m a bit sad no one has bothered to set up an account for Evil Intern, Ellis Tancharoen. Maybe because they gave the character the last name “Tancharoen,” which no one can be expected to remember.

And now, this week’s SMASH NOTES:

Scarves, Absent: This week, Julia ditched the scarves in favor of ethnic jewelry. In terms of character, I find this an acceptable substitution for one week, although I’d hate for the scarves to disappear completely. Luckily, the jewelry had all the properties one would hope for: BIG, bulky, possibly African, possibly Thai, distracting and pieces that may or may not have been purchased at Chico’s in 1998. I can see Julia waking up and thinking, “It’s a Chico’s kinda day,” and reaching for those enormous necklaces that compress the chest.

Adoption, Of A Child: What happened to this plot line? Actually, what happened to Julia’s entire family?

Stages: Remember in episode 3 when Karen journeyed home to Iowa for a baby shower and ended up singing karaoke on an enormous stage at a bar? Well, the gal has a knack for finding a stage. This week she and her chorus… er, sorry… ensemble friends found a bar in Manhattan with a stage and people willing to stop their game of pool to watch them sing and dance to “Rumor Has It” by Adele.

It’s pretty ballsy to sing an Adele song to a room full of strangers. In New York.

Luckily, these patrons were transfixed. These are dancers from Broadway, after all, who like nothing more than to go to a bar after eating Chinese food, down some shots and then put on an impromptu performance after dancing all day in workshop. I’ve done it myself many times.

Impromptu Performances, Additional: Meanwhile, at the same time, there is another impromptu performance at Derek Wills’ loft (he’s the director of the musical). He’s throwing a party for a protégé who made it big in Hollywood, played by Nick Jonas with a level of blandness not seen since Josh Groban appeared on Glee.

Marilyn’s producer, Eileen Rand (Angelica Houston), wants the protégé to invest in the show. To convince him, everyone is called to the party to perform a song from Marilyn in order to “wow” him. I thought the TV show Fame took the impromptu dance number to ridiculous heights but Smash makes Fame look like a documentary.

The problem is that suddenly everyone – people with no business singing and dancing – get in on the act. The server who happens to be an actress/dancer joins in the choreography. Evil Intern and Julia (sans necklaces so she doesn’t hurt herself) are doing back-up dancing! Someone throws the Nick Jonas character a guitar, which he pretends to play before helping to finish singing a song he’s never heard before.

It’s actually quite glorious.

Best Line: When Ivy and the Nick Jonas character (I refuse to figure out his character name) go to view one of the loft’s bedrooms as a prelude to maybe fooling around (doesn’t happen but totally should have) they find Eileen weeping over the Degas drawing she’s been dragging around for the entire episode, trying to hock it in order to raise money for Marilyn.

She says to them, “I was just looking at past happiness. But you’re my happiness now. You were wonderful.”

This is sort of like saying, “Oh, don’t mind me. I just left the party to sit in a bedroom and look at a pile of sad. Ha ha. Just looking at a drawing of broken dreams, that’s all. And weeping silently. Great party. Epic.”

Character Development: Katharine McPhee is the best thing the show has going for it. She’s believable as the ingenue with a boatload of talent and I’m just itching for her to make some moves. The rivalry between her and Ivy is the real tension in the show and Eileen’s divorce or Julia’s impending trip down Infidelity Lane with the show’s male star (and Glenn Fry look-alike) Michael is just so much set-dressing.

The scenes that cook are those where Ivy is putting her boot on Karen’s neck in that off-handed, passive aggressive way that we particularly know and love in the Midwest.

I worry that the show won’t get to more of the good stuff before the audience starts to drift away, bored with plot lines that go nowhere, like baby showers in Iowa and parties at lofts filled with extras from the Verizon commercials. Yes, characters and plots take time to be developed, but perhaps the show’s creators should take a page from the playbooks of shows like Dallas and Dynasty and give us a bit of the melodrama we’re waiting for.

We loved to see Sue Ellen cry. We loved to see JR grind his teeth. We loved to see what Joan Collins was wearing and it was never necklaces from Chico’s.