Smash Review: Houston, This is a Problem

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If "The Workshop" had merely been based around the workshop, I'd have given this episode of Smash a sterling grade.

Would there have been enough material to set an entire hour around this run-through of Marilyn: The Musical? I don't see why not. We already know Ivy and Karen pretty well, both were given obstacles to overcome (the presence of her mother and the possibility of a career-altering recording session, respectively) and this could have been an opportunity to flesh out other members of the ensemble a lot more. I'd have been happy if we never left the studio.

Instead, Smash used the Marilyn workshop to focus on its weakest storyline by a wide, wide margin: Julia's deplorable affair with Michael.

Ivy in the Workshop

If you're gonna place a main character into an affair, you need to first show us many sides to her. You need to depict some problems in her marriage. You need to pretend like she actually regrets her previous affair, not that she's making eyes at the man she slept with the very instant he walks back in to her life.

Smash mishandled this arc in every way possible. Aside from thrusting Julia and Michael together again, as if their dalliance had never really ceased, the execution was just sloppy.

They're making out in a room down the hall? He's leaning in to kiss her hello at the staff water cooler? Really?!?

I want to be completely in to this musical - seriously, I'm excited to let Ivy be my star - but it's a problem when the episode supposedly based around the most pressing question surrounding the production - what will investors think of the workshop? - starts and ends instead with what amounts to nothing more than a despicable affair between two leads.

All we know about Julia right now is that she's cheated twice on her husband and she's about sabotage her own play as a result by firing Michael. Debra Messing is great in the role, but the series has painted her character as utterly unlikable. As you can tell, it's all I come away thinking about following the most recent episodes.

I did like almost everything else about "The Workshop," although I think Karen is insane to choose this run-through over an audition for the Tommy Mottola of the Smash world. Do people really fall that in love with theater over a career as an actual singer? I say that as someone who loves Broadway and who understands it's a world unto itself. But Karen is choosing the ardurous road of ascending from chorus to star instead of possibly jumping straight to the latter in the recording industry. I'm with her castmates on this one.

Peters, moreover, was tremendous in her role of Ivy's mother. The character may have been painted a bit thin and a bit broad - it's one thing to not be supportive, it's another to be as naively mean as she came across in that scene while watching Marilyn Monroe in action - but Peters killed in contrasting ways: belting out a number to open the episode and then not saying a word when Ivy shone during the workshop.

And she did shine, didn't she?

I understand there has to be tension on the show, and what better way to elicit tension than to challenge the leading lady's status (with Uma Thurman)? But Ivy slipped on the couch once and mistimed one dance move from what we witnessed.

Are those tiny mistakes really the sort of mishaps that would lead to such scathing reviews? To cause investors to keep their wallets closed? I honestly don't know the answer, but it would seem like a talented cast, catchy songs and a winning script - along with the fact that Derek, Tom and Julia are meant to be heavily respected in the theater world, right? - would be the main points of focus in a workshop.

From what we saw of the workshop, it went very well. If the show wants us to believe the production is danger, I wish it would have made it look that way.

And if the show wants me to stick around, it really needs to redeem Julia Houston. I don't need her to be all black and white, but I'd prefer her to not be a self-involved, narcissistic awful mother and wife, either.


Editor Rating: 3.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.6 / 5.0 (94 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


The affair is kind of annoying, but Julia seemed to be suffering as last night's plot unfolded. It was a pretty good episode, but I see danger signs ahead for Tom. He has the perfect boyfriend, albeit not an exciting one who will have any crazy bits. It looks like Tom at least sleeps with Ivy's chorus boy friend. Leave well enough alone.


Oh, c'mon. Haven't you watched enough "soaps" to realize that Julia, who wants to get pregnant but has been unable to, will get pregnant via her affair with Michael? That's how these things always work out. Haven't yet figured out what the plot "twist" will be that demonstrates that Michael, and only Michael, could be the baby's daddy. Strange blood type? Ultra-rare physical characteristic? I'm sure they'll think of something.


I was glad to read this review...the affair has spoiled the show for me, although I do and will keep watching. Maybe it's the players rather than the characters, and it isn't because it's an affair, but I find the affair line unbelievable and, more so, uncomfortable to watch


Whoever thinks Kat's cover of "Shake it out" was bad you are in the small minority. It was brilliant. And all you guys that are complaining about who's the star get real. They have only had 7 episodes. There is lot to be discovered. And I don't think it could have been better cast. Megan and Kat are perfect for their roles.u


I think a better way to take the story arch with Julia & Michael would be to have Michael Kill her husband & then kill his wife as well. With them both outta the way they can be together.


I am really disappointed in the number of fans that expressed their support of Julia's affair (the second one no less.) I find that completely disgusting. Her husband is a good man who seems to support her in just about every way. He's supporting the adoption process, although it has been a long and complicated process. He showed up atthe adoption support group she went to. He went to the the workshop and showed his support. How in the world is this man not supporting her? And he has been with Julia through all of the ups and downs and stress her career probably entails, not Michael. He has been there to help raise their son, not Michael. Infidelity destroys lives and families, and sometimes careers. In no way, can Julia's affair with Michael be sen as something positive. That is so ridiculous, it's laughable. And what exactly have the supporters of this affair seen Michael's wife and young son do to deserve his lying and deceit? Look how the affair affected Julia's relationship with her son and his behavior. What if Frank finds out (and i so hope he does)? Do you think she really wants her marriage to end over this? And how will Micheal feel if his wife finds out and divorces him, allowing him to see his son maybe every other weekend? The affair is starting to sound a little less exciting now, isn't it? And if you think marriages have a low success rate, successful relationships born out of cheating are practically non-existent. So sorry, I think Julia and Michael are pure trash for what they are doing and hope they reap all the negative consequences that cheating spouses usually do. As for Julia's involvement in getting Michael fired, yes, he's a scumbag, but the guy has a perfect case for a successful sexual harrassment lawsuit.

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This is network tv boys and girls..... It is what it is....though I slum a few hours every week for Smash, POI and Body of Proof.....the really really good stuff will always be on pay cable....Masterpiece and AMC, FX .

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No doubt the affair is boring, annoying and most of all......totally unnecessary .


This episode was so-so. I did like hearing Karen sing, but only one song.


Again, not agree with this review, I think people don't understand the characters AT ALL... anyway.

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Smash Season 1 Episode 7 Quotes

Tom: I think the real problem is Michael Swift.
Julia: Yes, I think he should go.

Your day will come because there is no question you're a star.

Leigh [ to Ivy]