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Smash: It's All About Relationships

Okay, so remember two weeks ago when I said that the most interesting part of the
show is the fact that the two potential stars, Karen and Ivy, are actually very nice but that the ambiguity about who deserves the part would be dispelled because Ivy is obviously going to end up sleeping with the director, Derek, and get the part not based on her merits? Well, I TOLD YOU SO. Except not quite in the way I expected. Ivy is strangely invested in making her relationship with Derek work in a non-sexual way, which is weird to me because dude’s a big toolbox, but it adds this strange naiveté to her character that is both annoying and endearing. Meanwhile, writer Tom is absolutely indignant when he finds out Ivy is sleeping with Derek (because, yes, when it comes to relationships with men in power, it’s always good to jump to the conclusion that the woman is a power-hungry witch willing to sleep her way to the top) until he finds out that Julia had an affair with Michael, the guy they cast to play Joe DiMaggio (it happened in sepia tones on the Brooklyn Bridge, apparently), and then decides it’s all okay. I expected that Tom would be upset and I was surprised by his eventual complacency with it but I was disappointed that the whole story played out in the course of a single episode. These conflicts are unexpectedly interesting and draw out personality traits that I wouldn’t expect from these characters; unfortunately, thus far, the stories have all been resolved way too quickly.

The promotional shots for this show are AWESOME.

Meanwhile, cut to Tom’s personal assistant, Ellis, who is apparently not gay (REALLY!?) and is evil. Or not evil, but just well-meaning and misguided? I can’t tell. It’s hard for me to believe that someone who wears that many sweater vests and smiles so dopily could be so sinister, but I’m sure, like a siren, he is luring me in to kill me. In a way, Ellis is like the entitled hipster Millennial, shaking up the establishment, demanding things he doesn’t deserve, and causing way more drama than he’s worth by claiming that Marilyn was his original idea. I think the writers were trying to portray Julia in a bad light when she gives points out that mentioning that you like Marilyn Monroe in passing doesn’t mean you came up for the idea for a musical, but everything she says makes sense in the face of Ellis’ bizarre idea that he’s integral to or deserves to be part of the creative process. I like that Julia hates him and makes no effort to hide it, getting increasingly exasperated by his weirdness. It’s like he’s a psychopath who has easily won everyone over except the one person who’s creeped out by his weird lack of empathy and then becomes the psychopath’s Cassandra-like victim, trying to show everyone he’s totally nuts while he slowly turns her friends against her (see: The O.C. when Oliver tries to steal Marissa by turning everyone against Ryan and Luke, or that one episode of House when the psychopath tries to get 13’s medical license revoked). It’s one of the only totally professional relationships in a show that’s largely about how show business affects personal relationships.

Look at those eyes. EVIL.

The first three episodes, in fact, have been entirely about trust and relationships, rife with past infidelities, overt displays of caring (mostly in monetary form), and power dynamics. The relationships are varied and interesting and open to a lot of complication, but, thus far, it’s like the writers have just been reading these people’s connections and past experiences off of a character map instead of letting these things come out organically. Did we need to know Julia had an affair with Michael in the same episode that his character (complete with wife and child) is introduced? No. Did Ivy and Derek need to sleep together in the second episode? Probably not. Did we need to establish in the first 10 minutes of the first episode that producer Eileen is in the midst of a divorce and doesn’t have the money or clout to get this show created? Not at all. These first three episodes have laid out a smorgasbord of conflicts with trite little back stories instead letting these enticingly complex storylines play out on their own. So if we’re talking about relationships, I think Smash needs to learn to trust its viewers enough to slow down its rabid storytelling and let these characters and their relationships speak for themselves.

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