The Ups and Downs of Smash

Smash

By now, nearly anyone who cares about the portrayal of theater on television has voiced an opinion on “Smash”. I keep thinking I’ll write it off – and the show has enough cringe-inducing elements to merit that action – but I have an impulse to watch week to week. The inner workings of the Broadway world – which “Smash” attempts to portray – has its inherent intrigue, and whenthe show isn’t forcing the overly earnest, Lifetime for Women subplots, there’s some good behind-the-scenes stuff of theater. How composers and writers craft a musical, how the director builds a cast, how producers seek investors. And then there’s the lower brow but juicier drama: rivalries between actresses, trysts between actors and directors, and feuds among the creative team. I love to see rehearsals in progress, directors conceptualizing a scene, and talented performers at work. Episode 4 of “Smash” brought a taste of that. But then it went in a totally weird direction when the cast members who had been ostracizing the newbie Karen (Katherine Mcphee) and disparagingly calling her “Iowa”, suddenly took her under their wing by teaching her dance steps to Adele’s “Rumour Has It” as a way to help her embrace the concept of an ensemble. Huh??? In every episode so far, there has been a scene (or scenes) that evokes a “What on earth?” reaction. Last episode it was the part where Karen heads home and performs a country karaoke number for her friends who call her “Broadway”, which I guess is the opposite of calling someone “Iowa”.

I think we choose to watch particular television shows because we see a world portrayed onscreen that is naturally captivating. At least that’s how I justify my sustained interest in the Real Housewives series. “Smash” doesn’t have to go for the treacly subplot – like the storyline about adopting a baby from China. And it doesn’t have to go for the faux-suspense – like the pointless arc of Ellis, the sartorially collegiate assistant with a conniving streak. Give me the good stuff of theater. Here’s hoping the team behind “Smash” (theater veterans among them) can deliver.