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Smash: Come on, Eileen

Good news, you guys! Smash is getting a second season given its lackluster but steady ratings, which is a shock to all of us that thought the show would implode from the weight of all its excess storytelling. This most recent episode was entitled “The Coup”, which could not be a more fitting title given that the lead writer and creator of the show has been ousted, citing the fact that she was attempting to drown the viewers in melodrama. Since this development last week, the show has already lobbed off two unnecessary storylines—writer Julia’s affair with actor Michael and her son’s legal troubles—which, thank God. Now can we work on weeding out Derek and Ivy’s relationship and find a real love story? Nevertheless, there was still an excess of unnecessary story line in this episode (Why was Eileen’s daughter there suddenly? Why did Ryan Tedder from One Republic need to guest star for that three-line cameo?), but strangely it was not the most frustrating part of the episode.

Bernie wasn't in this episode, but doesn't she look great last week? 

The workshop ended with mixed reviews, so the coup in this episode is that director Derek and producer Eileen decide to ask that awesome band, One Republic, to write an abysmally pop-tacular (it was pretty terrible, right?) song for Marilyn behind writers Tom and Julia’s backs, using understudy Karen to perform it/pitch it to the rest of the crew. Obviously, it failed, given that, you know, it was totally unprofessional. Tom and Julia were pissed, Ivy was scandalized, and Karen realized that she’d unwittingly made the biggest mistake of her career and now had three new enemies. It finally takes Eileen’s daughter and personal assistant Ellis (ELLIS?!) to diffuse the situation. The whole story was ridiculous (no way would anyone believe original pop songs like that could ever carry an entire musical), but the most frustrating part was Eileen’s role in the whole debacle.

That's One Republic in the background, in case you couldn't tell. 

Listen, I understand that this is Eileen’s first post-divorce solo run at producing a musical, but on what planet would decades of work in show business leave her this inept? I’ve never been involved in the production of a musical (unless you count my high school’s production of Les Mis, which, let me tell you, was a tour de force), but even I could guess that undermining your writing team by creating some piece of crap song and then asking them to create other piece of crap songs in the same vein is probably going to be problematic. I get why Derek did it, and I understand that overly-trusting Karen was misled. But why did it take Eileen’s 20-something daughter to give her professional advice before she realized the whole situation was not only insensitive, but just bad business? She’s been in this business for years! Also, apparently Ellis has switched teams (he said, outright, to his “girlfriend”, “I want to try producing”), and Eileen has latched on to his ill-advised espionage and his forcing himself into the production process and rewarded this behavior by stealing him from Tom (in Julia’s pitch-perfect words, “I’d say good riddance, but we’re still stuck with him”). I’m glad that Ellis is staying on the show because Julia’s animosity towards him is probably my favorite dynamic in the show, but Ellis’ brown-nosing and interference is painfully obvious, and the fact that Eileen encourages it undermines her professionalism. Get it together, Eileen. Your ineptitude and doe-eyed love of “slumming it” in bars that serve $7 martinis (do those exist in New York? They don’t in Minneapolis) make you unlikeable, but not in the fun I-love-to-hate-you way, but more in the get-off-the-screen kind of way. Her character needs a new direction as much as the show does.

Maybe she's just distracted by that vest. 

The show is obviously undergoing some major changes and you can see that the writers are trying to cut off all the excess and hone in on the things that are working: the professional rivalry between Ivy and Karen as well as each woman as a character; Tom and Julia’s working relationship and Julia’s family (without all the adoption, legal issues, and adultery); Ellis’ millennial feelings of entitlement and his overall evilness. But can what’s happened be undone? Will Smash turn into a really quality television show and, like with Parks and Rec or Star Trek: TNG, we’ll just forget the first season ever happened? Who knows? But if not, at least we know we’ve got a second season of it.

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