I’m verklempt! It’s what I’ve always wanted!
Yes folks, as the goosebumps started emerging on my arms during the sweet strains of Megan Hilty’s “Don’t Forget Me”, I realized the show had turned a corner. My eyes stared at their widest as the camera panned around the gathering of Marilyn’s lovers, and then the sharp, emotional intake of air hit me as they were subbed out for all the folks in Ivy’s life who’ve challenged her. I felt so proud of her for dealing with it all, and making it all that way, and belting her way to Jesus in the process. Man, she sounded good.
In short, I was becoming emotional during an episode of Smash.
Somewhere in the last couple of weeks, almost imperceptibly, Smash went and turned itself into a good show. The heroes find more room for victory, the drama is more organic (but not perfect…more on that later), and the cheese is more finally aged and served with wine rather than whine (har, har, har).
“Don’t Forget Me” provided the best moment in an episode fully of them. Among my other favorites: Eileen rallying the PR troupes to grab pull-quotes in real time. Karen and Ivy’s raw and pleasant heart-to-heart in the bathroom. The surprising support that finally emerged from Leigh Conroy, right when Ivy needed it most.
And of course, “That’s Life”.
Our second musical number was almost as good as the first, and benefitted from living in a self-aware, post-Liza world for Smash. Marc Shaiman himself steps up to the piano to play for his leading ladies, which was nice. Megan Hilty again shared her substantive, formidable voice with us. And Kat McPhee sounded terrific, bring a thinner, but nonetheless nimble sound to the number.
Think of it as though Megan Hilty was the piece of bread, and McPhee was a thin layer of very tasty jam. It was an awesome duet, and both ladies came off well, unlike the lopsided “On Broadway” from earlier this year.
So where are we plot-wise? Eileen is kicking things in gear for a massive Tony campaign. Derek is rebounding with an old flame, having been kicked to the curb by Ivy. Kyle grew a back bone, just in time for Tom to notice him and need a little…comforting, after his fight with Julia. And Julia is hitting Tom Collins (not the booze, but the actor Jesse L. Martin, aka Scott).
Tom’s struggle of pursuing directing vs. writing is actually coming across pretty well on this show. I vehemently hate stories that rely on communication gaps for tension (like him not telling Julia about his City of Angels offer), but I nonetheless see the truth in his debate. Likewise, I also see his sincerity in wanting to write The Great Gatsby with Julia. I imagine there will be more movement on this in the coming weeks.
Almost everything involved with Bombshell tonight was aces, and the episode benefitted greatly from focusing like 90% on it. The 10% Hit List stuff wasn’t quite there. For starters, I greatly appreciate that the writers have completely retooled (or de-tooled) Jimmy in the past couple of weeks. He’s suddenly become Troubled Past Guy in Search of Redemption…which would be great, except now every other character is turning on him for his behavior from the rest of the season, and the show isn’t even letting us enjoy it! Kyle throws down with Adam, Jimmy’s brother, and Jimmy gets himself kicked out for throwing a punch for Kyle. Kyle then chooses a hook-up with Tom over consoling Jimmy…making Jimmy the victim! I don’t want that!
By contrast, Karen’s large serving of humble pie tonight worked very, very well. I finally felt some sympathy for the girl as she sat and watched Ivy during Bombshell, stricken with a look that could only have meant, “My God…she is so much better than me.” Her admission to wanting to stay and watch despite her jealousy read very honestly and gave McPhee another strong moment.
Look at me gushing like this! It really was everything I’ve ever wanted from Smash. Even the writers knew, as Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman chose tonight to grace us with their cameo (as well as Edward Hibbert, Rosie O’Donnell and Donna Freaking McKechnie, each showing up for a one-line wink).
It’s a shame that it’s finding its stride so late in the game. I have no doubt that the next couple weeks will probably keep up this same level of quality, as it’s been fairly consistent since what I can only assume was the last production break (pre-Liza).
However, I do still fear this is the end for our now-dear Smash. There is a sign of hope in its recent win of the first round E! Online’s Save One Show poll, but we’ll see how subsequent rounds progress, and if it even has an effect. Such a shame, as I actually found myself genuinely wanting to see how a Gatsby-themed season 3 would look (because we all know that’s totally what they’re setting up).
At the very least, I think we can look forward to a strong ending for the series, to match the exceptional pilot hour. And when you’re a show that descended all the way to “laughably terrible” in the middle, that’s an impressive accomplishment.
After tonight, Smash, I truly think we “won’t forget you”.
Next: Saturday night, April 27 8pm on NBC, it’s all about Hit List in ”The Producers”.