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The Morning After: Second Act

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Patrick Harbron/NBC

Brief spoilers for last night’s Smash coming up:

I’m on deadline for the print magazine (remember those?), so that makes this a good morning to let you do the work. Namely: how did those of you who stuck with Smash after the pilot last week like its second outing?

If you’re a regular reader, you know I was not as smitten with Smash as many of my fellow TV critics. (And the audience? The first week ratings were about as mixed as my review—very good by NBC’s standards but not a blockbuster, with a viewer falloff of about 20% in the second half-hour.) However, I will say that this episode, “Callbacks,” made a couple of choices that I liked very well.

First, Theresa Rebeck chose not to string out the who-gets-the-lead competition for ages, American Idol-style, instead giving the role of Marilyn to Ivy. (Naive little flower that I am, I actually did not see her sleeping with Derek coming.) Now, given the structure of the show and NBC’s own extensive spoilers, it is not a spoiler to say that her rivalry with Karen is hardly over, but I give Smash credit for having the confidence not to drag out the casting decision longer. Second, I like that—her sleeping with the director notwithstanding—the show does not seem to be simply setting up Ivy as the bad girl to Karen’s Iowa corn princess. (Again: not yet, anyway.)

Which is not exactly to say that the episode allayed my problems with the show. The show-within-a-show is going to be very much a matter of personal taste, but I can’t get over how retro, how old (as opposed to “classic”) the tunes feel; “The 20th Century Fox Mambo” felt simultaneously inside-showbiz and yet cornball. (Props for using the double-entendre on the term “20th Century Fox” a mere 45 years after the Doors did!) Every time the adoption plot comes up, it drops a heavy foot on the narrative brakes. And I continue to feel that the show overall is a showbiz-dreams story of the most familiar kind. (And again, I realize that this is one of those things I consider a bug that certain musical fans will consider a feature.)

But I get ahead of myself—the point of this post is to get you to do the writing for me. What’s your second opinion on Smash?

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