Matilda Dixon-Smith: R.I.P. “Smash”, You Divine Hot Mess

Posted on May 21, 2013


There are just a few of us out there who understand the deep, resounding sorrow that accompanied the announcement that Smash, NBC’s troubled Broadway TV show, would not return for a third season. Considering the ratings for Smash’s second season—which were utterly dismal and prompted a move to the dead slot on Saturday nights, and then the inevitable cancellation—it is clearly a very select few who will mourn the loss of this sudsy disaster show.

And yet we do mourn. We mourn, because we are the ones who understood the hidden brilliance of Smash. We stuck with it through Leo; we endured Julia’s transformation from Frumpy to Fabulous; we tried to understand the ill-advised Bollywood numbers; and we pretended to be excited about Hit List, even after it pumped out dud tune after dud tune after dud tune (I still maintain that if they’d actually made a show in the style of Broadway, Here I Come, the whole thing could have worked). We saw the absolute worst that Smash had to offer; but we also knew what often made it fantastic, obsessively watchable and devastatingly intimate television. 

We'll miss you, "Smash". :////

We’ll miss you, “Smash” :////

Yes, we hate-watched with the best of them, but deep down we appreciated that Smash was a series with a singular point of view: that theatre is a bright, consuming, glorious life force. It was at times gaudy and ill-considered, but it was always passionate and extravagant. And perhaps this is the reason the show never really took off, because it appealed to a very small group—theatre people. 

As we prepare for this week’s (no doubt absurd and fabulous) season finale, it’s sad to think that all the work NBC did to reboot the show has gone to waste. After a first season that became the laughing-stock of the interwebz, NBC made some drastic changes. All the worst characters were written out: Karen’s dull fiancé, Dev (R.I.P. Zaf, what did they do to you??); Julia’s dim, angry husband, Frank; and the worst, most conniving PA in the history of time. They fired Teresa Rebeck. And, they added a new musical to the Smash production schedule, so we didn’t have to watch another whole season of Karen and Ivy fighting for Marilyn.

Hit List, all.

They really tried, y’all. In season two, the show is still a little wobbly on its baby fawn legs, but it has vastly improved. Unfortunately, it seems that people enjoyed Smash only when it was a train wreck. So, for those very select few fans, let’s remember what made Smash super entertaining before it disappears from our screens forever:

Everything about Bombshell is spectacular. Now that Smash is over, can we get started putting the Bombshell musical on Broadway already? I mean, there’s this phallic baseball song, for one thing. Or how about this raunchy JFK number? Watching Bombshell unfold before our eyes (it’s been impressive to see how much material they could mine out of the musical over two seasons) has been the most spectacular aspect of the show. And thank goodness we can finally see “Don’t Forget Me” the way it was intended, with Ivy Lynn belting it to the cheap seats.

Speaking of Ivy Lynn, Megan Hilty is superb and her performances are consistently outstanding. See? I mean, come on.

When characters sing to themselves. It happens with disturbing frequency. And no one sings to themselves better than Jimmy in an upmarket crack den.

Gay kissing happens, and it’s totally not even a big deal. Smash has always had a graceful, unfazed attitude in their representation of gay relationships—though it’s disappointing to still be counting this as a major plus on a mainstream TV show, it’s still a major plus on a mainstream TV show. Just look at Tom serenading (dear departed  *sob*) Kyle the Little Goblin here.

Thanks to the careful editing of audience reaction shots, we always know how to feel about a song. Are we unimpressed?

Reaction Shot 1

Not. Impressed.





Reaction Shot 2

Various “wistful”.


The "Smash" executives' impression of Hipster Theatre-goers.

The “Smash” executives’ impression of Hipster Theatregoers.

Just look at whatever gaping cast member they’ve chosen to focus on (right in the middle of a song) and you’ll have your answer. 

Derek’s direction of the ensemble in Hit List. They’re always grabbing…something.

The tender, fascinating relationship between Tom and Julia. Sometimes Smash stumbles onto a conceit, like showing how collaborators/partners work together, and it’s brilliant. While Julia was buried under family and adultery drama in season one, this story didn’t work. Free of the Leo/Frank ball-and-chain in season two, her relationship with Tom blossomed to become the most interesting one on the show.

When they awkwardly try and shoehorn pop song covers into the show. Because it’s always hilarious. Always.

Their brazen monopolisation of one of theatre’s greatest tragedies. Look, Hit List is not Rent. Little Goblin was no Jonathan Larson. But golly, it was uncomfortably funny watching Smash try and forge the connection. Everything, from the inclusion of two original Rent cast members in the story, to the hideous concert performance of Hit List, was brash and ill-advised. And yet it was just so very Smash. And so, in this odd way, it worked!

Rent LOL

LOL. Symbolism?

JIMMY. Has there ever been a character more singularly frustrating (and yet unquestionably attractive) than Jimmy Collins, faux-hemian songwriter for Hit List? The inclusion of him and Little Goblin in season two gave the show some real pep (mostly because it gave us someone to despise in the place of Ellis).

These two jokesters.

These two jokesters.

Jokes aside, Smash was addictive, bold and frequently spectacular. We’ll miss it terribly. So R.I.P. Smash, you divine hot mess. We’ll meet you and Little Goblin in heaven.

[For more on “Smash’s” troubles and pitfalls, this Buzzfeed article is a must-readregardless of whether or not Kate Arthur just made the whole thing up.]

Matilda Dixon-Smith is YDE’s editor-in-chief, and also its resident television and musical theatre nut. “Smash” was really just a natural fit. Her column, Fantasise or Perish, is released every Monday. 

Voice your opinion about “Smash” below. Go on, we dare you!