Smash Review: Houston, This is a Problem

by at . Comments

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.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.3 / 5.0
  • 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+.

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    I'm sorruy, but I'm getting so sick of the moments where Katherine McPhee 'stuns' the audience. she's simply not THAT good. Every thing she sings sounds like an american idol contestant singing someone else's song. It's like when she sang Shake It Out. All that did was show just how superior Florence is.
    The behaviour between Julia and Michael isn't just stupid, it's totally unbelievable. Are we supposed to actually feel sorry for her?
    Seriously, all the songs sound like, exactly the same
    I loved derek's 'that's the least offensive thing I've said in days'.

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    like i wrote before i couldnt agree more with the review. The Kulia/Michael arc is one of the worst written arcs i have ever seen on TV it it potentially destroys the show.
    It made Julia arguably the shows biggest star just plain ugly. You cant write such an affair between 2 leads that potentially destroys 2 families and not even give it a sufficient backstory. It was just put in our faces and it just doesnt work. All it does it take away from what could potentially make SMASH great whicht is the insight to a musical production.
    Sure there can be affairs and stuff but this happened like 30 seconds after Michael appeared on Smash . Its just stupid.

    Avatar

    I missed the s, "when her son started crying" at the end.
    Also I agree Ivy was great and I don't get why they were dogging on her.

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    I love love love this show. I am fine with her affair. She is bored and he is exciting. Is it wrong, heck yes,are they being very careless, heck yes.
    I do agree they should not of had it in this episode, it should of been all about the workshop and music and chorus and actors. Not the other characters and not the affair for sure. But I guess they had to get that we are going to fire him part in. I thought it was very real and heartbreaking when her on started crying at the end. That a was a big smack of reality right there. I am going all the way with this show. Those of you complaining, have you been watching the junk on TV? seriously.
    This is good, quality and fun.

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    I still love this show, mainly due to Ivy and Karen, but you were spot on with your review. Everyone beating up on Ivy's spectacular workshop performance due to two tiny stumbles was utterly baffling.

    Mustang

    Sorry Smash, I'm done. Not gonna ramble on about what shut me off. Have other shows I'm committed to. Byye.

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    Totally hit the nail on the head with Julia's affair. One minute she wants to adopt a child with her husband, the next minute she's openly flirting (and holding hands!) with her leading man on a busy Manhattan street. However, at the same time, I have to voice the utter ridiculousness that Michael is when it comes to the affair. He's just as involved in this affair, but could obviously care less about the consequences. He went to Julia's house and ended up kissing her on her front stoop, he calls her at home, shakes her HUSBAND's hand, threatens to "make a scene" if she doesn't talk to him. That's just kinda weird, and makes him just as unlikeable, IMHO, as Julia. In other news, I'm still trying to figure out how I manage to care about the show while I can't stand most of the characters.