20
Mar
2012
Smash: Season 1, Episode 7
The Workshop
Rachel
Smash continues a train of middling episodes with this week's installment, "The Workshop." I guess it isn't really fair for me to call it middling, when it's one of the show's stronger outings. But I continue to judge Smash on what I think it could be rather than what it sometimes is.

Karen

Let me start with one of my larger problems (which is probably driving my continued ire with the series): Karen. We're supposed to continue to believe in the revelation of Karen's talent. And maybe that's what's causing the trouble with the series. At the beginning it was clear that Ivy was more talented but Karen had a scrappy, green quality. But now Karen is, apparently, a tour-de-force that manages to melt the ice around the heart of even the coldest producer. Vomit. In all actuality she isn't that talented, she's rather dumb, and Ivy sort of has a point: she does have a lot handed to her, in a way that is incredibly frustrating. Despite her earlier protestations, she hasn't really put in the work to be the headliner of a new musical. She's got some raw talent, yes, but a lot of people are talented, and she hasn't bothered with any of the legwork necessary to make a person really successful.

Julia and Michael

But let's rewind for a second. The episode actually opens with a little rendezvous between Michael and Julia. After last week's steamy interlude, they have a moment of bliss before they're forced to come back to earth when Tom walks in on them getting all hot and heavy in the studio (a little tryst that, of course, Evil Ellis overhears). And so begins Tom's protective gesturing over his writing partner. And rightfully so, I suppose. This musical is an extreme investment, with a lot on the line, and introducing such significant and dangerous emotional complicated could be a very serious problem.

Julia

Michael's family shows up at rehearsal, and he again shows no kind of shame. His marriage seems solid, and yet he's still sleeping with Julia. His poise in the face of the situation, when juxtaposed with Julia's complete inability to handle herself, makes him seem cruel. Julia and Michael having to do the break up scene right as they're "breaking up" is another one of those ways that the show not-so-subtly mixes the musical with the television plot. Everything gets very weird as they start having their own fight instead of reading the lines, and Derek winds up liking the copy more than what's actually written.

The Break Up

We see this later when, following the tepid reviews of the workshop, Michael is the first to get cut in the repacking of the show, despite Derek's protestations. Eileen, the deciding vote, also apparently recognizes just what's at stake (considering Ellis was quick to tell her about Julia and Michael's involvement), and gives the final decision to Tom and Julia, who ax Michael, a decision that Julia shares with her angsty teenage son as a means of reconciliation.

The Workshop

On that note, I continue to have a problem with Tom's overly emotional responses and reactions to people: first to Ivy's apparently subpar performance, and then to bouncing Michael, even though he's great, because he knows about the complications it causes with Julia (sounds like grounds for wrongful termination to me). I find Derek's criticism slightly off-base, considering that Ivy seems pretty on her game to me. But hey, I'm no expert. And all the investors are so engrossed at the opening number, that the tepid response following the full workshop seems kind of ridiculous. Even if Ivy had been sterling, however, Tom has proven that he is never going to frankly assess her performance because he loves her, which is not something that should really fly in the performing arts, especially not during workshops.

Ivy Mama Drama

Ivy's mother is Bernadette Peters, playing Lee Conroy, a Tony-winning former Broadway actress who has left the stage but, apparently, hasn't given up her Broadway style. This barely makes sense, considering the pilot, where Ivy's mother is portrayed (over the phone) as an out of touch honky with no interest in the stage. But it does make sense considering Ivy, and if you take into consideration the whole "I didn't want this life for you" angle that Lee brings in later. Just like her daughter, Lee is perfectly prepared to perform at the drop of a hat when the fawning cast and crew beg her. And she's a harsh woman. "I was over getting nerves when I was your age, but you're used to the ensemble," followed quickly by "No wonder you're nervous, I don't know how you're going to pull that off." Ouch, Mom. Peters, who is in fantastic shape for a 64 year old, plays the role well, big enough to make the Tony-winning character believable but with enough control that it doesn't get outrageous. But hey, it's Bernadette Peters, is anyone surprised that she was superb?

Lee Performs

There is a saving grace in Derek (who I have, admittedly, always loved), and that is clear in the fact that, while everyone is watching Lee, Derek is watching Ivy's response to her oxygen-sucking mother, and seems to take no pleasure in the once-star's presence.

Derek

He also tries to conciliate for all of last week's conflict by simply asking "are we good?" and I have no problem assuming that really that's all that Derek has to say on the matter. Couple that with his raised eyebrows following Lee and Ivy's fight towards the end of the episode and I swear, that man is downright lovable.

Ivy


I do feel bad for Ivy, but would feel worse if she hadn't been painted into the corner of being an insufferable bitch (which is a character frame she sort of falls out of this week, thankfully). Karen, with her elaborate fantasies, isn't proving that much better, considering that Ivy is knocking it out of the park performance wise. Karen places herself into the performances in a way that just doesn't mesh. Karen blowing off her meeting for the workshop proves that she isn't right for the part of Marilyn. It's a dumb, uncalculated move that Marilyn never would have suffered. A part of me is sort of holding out that she isn't as doe-eyed as she comes across, and that towards the end of the season she'll show herself to be a manipulative, calculating character who has been plotting her moves all along. But I guess I won't hold my breathe on that.

Overall, the episode does a relatively good job at bringing together all the work that's been done to this point, integrating the earlier performances and bringing the drama to a head. But it tries
to stuff too many things into one little hour: Ivy's mommy issues, the drama of the workshop, the explosion of Michael and Julia's relationship and Julia's ensuing issues with her family, Karen's "growth" and the chattering of the ensemble, the issues with the studio space, the list goes on and on and on. But I guess the one good part of a lukewarm response is that it keeps me interested in the fate of the musical. Everyone could have loved it and the series would be over, but clearly that isn't the case, and I'm looking forward to a major coup on repackaging the show.




Grade: B

Miscellaneous

"She wouldn't take the subway." "Not in heels I won't."

"That was the least offensive thing I've said in days"¦"

"O, don't be so polite, you little drug addict."

I love that Derek's entire apartment is strewn with pages and prep materials for the musical. I refuse to believe he is as awful as everyone wants to make him out to be

Eileen taking a wrench to the boiler room door. How fantastic

"Do you remember SARs?"

"You're truly a great enough director to justify your behavior." I love Derek and Eileen.

"Who knew your gay-dar was so stupid."

Eileen inviting her new flirty bartender to watch the workshop"¦too cute.

The whole heating situation seems like an unnecessary red herring. They make a big deal about union workers, and the plumber being unlicensed, and then nothing really comes of it

Sam is not being nearly as interesting as I'd hoped, instead maintaining his position as a staunch Ivy minion. And the fact that Tom seems to hate him so vociferously makes it clear that those two will wind up in bed together, probably within the next two to three episodes, now that Tom knows Sam is gay and considering Tom's "boyfriend's" rude statements on the workshop

Julia's son, Leo, has whiplash emotions. But hey, I guess he is a teenager after all. Also, he is an embarrassing crier.


Tags: Smash
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