My darling Smashochists, I fear the end may be nigh. Season 2’s ratings have been crashing faster than Ivy after a major Prednisone bender – and unless something changes fast, I’m worried that our beloved Broadway baby might get the axe long before Liza Minnelli shows up in episode 10. At least tonight’s installment brought back some of the musical magic that made Smash’s pilot such a slam dunk way back when, via a showstopping closing number that highlights Jennifer Hudson’s enormous voice at its rafter-shaking best. (Sure, the song sounded much more like a Shaiman/Wittman joint than a tune conceivably written by the guy who’s penning “the next Rent” – but when it’s sung this well, who cares?)
Before we reach that stirring conclusion, though, we’ve got to wade through an hour of tense melodrama – a.k.a. Smash’s bread and butter. Derek has drafted Bombshell’s entire cast – as well as Ivy, who evidently isn’t too busy with Liasons rehearsals yet – to appear in Veronica Moore’s big concert special, which will get a national audience thanks to an airing on Bravo. (Cue Jack Donaghy: “I remember when Bravo used to air operas.”) Unfortunately, the show’s sort of a mess. Ronnie wants it to be her long-overdue coming out party as a grown-up Broadway star – girl is 29 and looks it – but her controlling “momager” Cynthia (original Dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph) still wants her daughter to, like, dress up like Little Cletus and sing “Tomorrow” and “Castle on a Cloud.”
Who can walk the tricky line between these poles? Why, Kyle and Jimmy, of course, who get called in to provide Ronnie with another song – something raw, something fresh, something that emanates Jimmy’s particular je ne sais quoi (I believe it’s called “Eau de Jerque). If they bring Derek the right tune, says Karen, they’ll “get more than noticed – [they’ll] get famous.” She may actually have a point; Bravo attracts an audience that probably contains more Broadway bigwigs per capita than anything this side of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Meanwhile, poor, sad, pathetic Julia heads to the acting class Dramaturg Peter teaches at NYU. She thinks she’s going to act as a guest lecturer – but instead is subjected to a humiliating group critique of her play by a bunch of smarmy college students. Oof.
I know I was down on Julia last week, and I do still think that neither Smash’s writers nor Debra Messing are doing much to make her character the least bit likeable. But this whole storyline – temperamental, stubborn female writer is condescended to by smug, brilliant male outsider, who immediately pinpoints everything wrong with her work – is really giving me the case of the icks, mostly for what it implies about Josh Safran’s relationship with ousted showrunner Theresa Rebeck. It’s not making me like Julia in response, but it is making me empathize with her a little. And come on, Peter – you actually think your students will have no idea that this random lady wrote the play you’re dissecting today? What other reason would she possibly have for showing up to class?
NEXT: Bit by bit, putting a song togetherrr