Smash – Theater Bloggers Weigh in

SmashSeason2logoWill we have “Smash” to kick around any longer? Whatever else the backstage Broadway TV show has been, it’s been an inspiration for many in the theater community – creating what you could almost call a subsidiary entertainment industry. If “Smash” is canceled, that is what I’ll miss the most.

And the show may well be canceled. The latest episode of “Smash” attracted just 3.29 million viewers, down from last week’s Season 2 premiere, which had 4.47 million — which was itself a decrease of 71 percent from the Season 1 premiere.  (To put this in a little perspective, that same hour, “Vegas” on CBS had 9.67 million viewers; the season finale of “Downton Abbey,” on non-commercial PBS had 8.5 million viewers. On the other hand, “Smash” had 460,000 more viewers than the show on NBC that immediately preceded it, “The New Normal.”)

Update: The show is being moved to Saturday nights, TV’s hospice

Much attention has been paid to the Tweeting about the show, especially live-Tweeting — including for the Season 2 premiere extensive Tweeting from the cast. But of equal note, and considerable entertainment, is how “Smash” has played out on the theater blogs

Smash Spin-Offs and Spoofs

Two regular features linked to Smash rise to the level of independent creative endeavors (though it helps to have seen the show.)

Broadway Abridged SmashGil Varod of Broadway Abridged, has created regular

 Smash spoofs – complete scripts that purport to present a shortened version of each episode, but mostly expertly ridicule it:

Sample picked randomly:


It’s difficult to pick a new Marilyn Monroe in an hour.  I’d need, say, fifteen episodes to make such a decision!


Well this decision needs to be made; we lost Uma Thurman to a peanut allergy!


And now she’s DEAD!  And we are missing her funeral because we need to rehearse!


Linda Buchwald and David Quinn collaborate on a regular feature that they put on both their blogs — Pataphysical Science and NineDaves —  called the Smash Reality Index.

As with their previous efforts, the latest Smash Reality Index  divides the latest episode into two categories: Totally True and Oh Hell No


Totally True

Eileen wants a “fresh eye” on Bombshell’s book, and suggests the aid of a dramaturg. “It’s a very common practice these days,” she tells Julia and Tom. “Most of the big shows use one to retool the book.” That’s totally true, Eileen. Pulling a “show doctor” in before Broadway is a common tool used by many a show. cough cough Leap of Faith cough cough Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark cough cough

Julia thinks her book was good because “the audience cried when Marilyn died” and “we had standing ovations every night!” She would use that as a barometer for success, but have you been to Broadway lately? It’s filled with sub-par shows where people cry at trite emotional moments and give standing ovations at curtain call, no matter how bad the crap they just sat through was. Believe us – we both saw Baby It’s You.

Oh Hell No
As much as we’ll praise Eileen for thinking about bringing in a dramaturg to help with the book, she really should have involved a dramaturg from the beginning, as he/she could have helped with costumes, sets – hell, maybe even that terrible artwork.

Eileen claims that [the song from Bombshell] “Our Little Secret” has “glamour, power, sex,” therefore encompassing “the new Broadway.” Right Eileen. Just like Once. And The Book of Mormon. And Memphis. And Billy Elliot

Smash Recaps

Many outlets seem to love regurgitating the plot of “Smash” episodes, either in real time or in the days following. Many legacy publications (legacy meaning magazines, newspapers) do this.  Theater blogs are cleverer. Smash Reality Index, after all, is in part subversive recap. In Astor Place Riots, W.M. Akers spoofs the impulse to recap with the post Smash is Awful and So Is My TV Recapping 

Smash Reporting

Megan HiltyAdam Rothenberg in his Call Me Adam blog interviewed Megan Hilty who plays Ivy on Smash but is also regularly performing on stage in New York (Wicked, 9 to 5) and has an album coming out. She’ll be singing with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall on Friday, March 8 in Luck Be A Lady: Megan Hilty Sings the Songs of Sinatra and More.

Smash Analysis and Criticism

Ken Davenport in The Producer’s Perspective is the only blogger I follow who is an unabashed “Smash” booster, writing a post in May 2011 when the show was first announced that everybody should see the Smash, since it would be good for Broadway.

Even he, though, acknowledged the disappointment with the show, albeit in an upbeat way, with his post 4 Ways to Make Smash Smashier way back in August. Fourth way:

Want to know the reason why there are so many Legal Dramas and Medical Dramas and Cop Dramas on television?  Life or Death is a part of every episode – which means high stakes are built into the plot.  It just comes with the genre.  We’d like to think putting on a Broadway musical is life or death, but let’s face it, it ain’t.  Smashhas the challenge of trying to find these same kind of stakes within what it brings to the table.  And that’s gonna be tough.  But I think that’s what it should focus on, because that’s what will lead to more viewers.  Everyone has love/life/death in common. Where/when it’s set doesn’t even have to matter.  Raise up those stakes and ratings will follow.

Others took a look when “Smash” debuted — and, let’s just say, were not inspired to become regular viewers.

JK’s Theatre Scene: 7 Reasons Why Smash May Not Be One

  Jan Simpson’s Broadway and Me: Does it make me a heretic to say that I’m not yet sold on “Smash”?

Rob Weinert-Kendt’s The Wicked Stage: Bashing Smash

The show’s Broadway pedigree is what makes the thundering mediocrity of Smash, whose pilot I barely managed to get through last week, so disappointing. Shaiman, Rebeck, Mayer, and the show’s estimable cast have turned out something so false, tired, and pandering that the word “cliché” is barely adequate. I’m not a snob; I can enjoy trashy, manipulative TV, but Smash doesn’t even satisfy on that level. (I’ll qualify this by admitting that a TV show’s overall quality can’t always be judged by its pilot.)

Three months later, he wrote:

Forgive me if Emily Nussbaum’s walkback on Smash feels like vindication:

Since its delightful pilot, the show has taken a nosedive so deep I’m surprised my ears haven’t popped. All the caveats I noted but dismissed in my earlier review have become the definingly awful features of “Smash.”

Earlier this month, Howard Sherman wrote a blog post entitled Theatre’s Problem With Smash:
“There’s no shortage of criticism of the show from every angle , but I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone get at the overriding sentiment within the theatre community.

“In a word: disappointment.”

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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