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There’s a reason Law & Order was successful: the New York arts community rallied around the procedural so struggling actors of all stripes could have the chance to add “discovering dead hooker” to their demo reels.
And with the recent creation of Smash, NBC’s increasingly-metatheatrical take on the creation of a Marilyn Monroe musical entitled Bombshell, an entire industry of writers, actors, singers, dancers, producers, agents, and Nuts4Nuts vendors had pre-ordered the Kool-Aid for drinking. But like Norma Jean herself, the show has fallen from great heights into an outrageously transparent, lifeless, hot mess featuring a Bollywood number last week. (My long-standing distaste for Indian fetishizing aside, it was a cry for help.)
So, here’s my rendition of “Let Me Be Your Script-Doctaaaaar!” to help save the tentpole-in-training with some easy fixes (having excluded the easiest option of “rehearsal room fire kills all characters except for Angelica Houston.”)
1. The clock is running, we should know. Suddenly, last episode, we learned that Bombshell is opening in Boston soon. Those are some fresh Boston-baked beans! I had no idea - rehearsals are pretty laxed! Viewers were collectively wondering about a deadline or possible season finale, but whatevs… Right now, Smash isn’t under any pressure. Get some. Instead of Angelica Houston getting her groove back in the footloose-and-fancy-free world of Lower East Side dive bars, she should be getting the squeeze from million-dollar investors anxious to see results. (Oh, wait. They killed off that tension by finding a mysterious rock star investor who didn’t really care that much. Oops. Fix that—make him a con man.) At the very least, have the title of each episode let us know how close the opening is. Chart a clear timeline and stick with it.
2. If I wanted to be watching Glee, I would watch Glee. NBC, I get it; we all get it. You want to sell on iTunes. But in the long run (perhaps a term unfamiliar to television executives), it would be more profitable to have a hit show that ran for many seasons than to have me suffer thinly-veiled scenarios in which Katherine McPhee has to sing various genres. If we’re (still) watching the show, it’s because we like musical theater. And in making a musical, many songs are written! I won’t begrudge exaggerating that fact each week with many songs, even! (Second Hand Baby Grand was a hit.) But I will hate watching a desperate scramble to be on Facebook the following day by covering CeeLo, JLo, or Barry Manilow.
3. If you’re going to go there, go there. The following things should have happened: (1) Ivy should have a drug addiction, not OD-lite. (2) Julia’s marriage should be falling apart, she should have lost the adoption because of it, she should be living somewhere else, and potentially have a drinking problem. (3) Tom should be a huge slut unconcerned with romance. (4) Karen should be doing things she isn’t proud of and hiding it from her parents. (5) Derek should have thrown Ivy out like last week’s issue of Pompous Theatre Director’s Weekly. (6) Angelica Houston’s divorce should be NASTY—she should be nasty. If there’s a central problem with Smash it is the show’s nagging insistance to not have bad guys. Characters do bad things and are redeemed WITHIN THE SAME EPISODE. There’s no reason why these people can’t have demons, skeletons, ruth, and secrets. What I wouldn’t give for a multi-episode secret!
4. Trim the fat. Burn off the following characters in story-lines that make the central characters richer: Dev, RJ, Ellis, Ellis’ “girlfriend,” the Greek chorus of catty stereotypes, Ivy’s token black friend cum Tom’s emotional lover, Nick, Leo, Frank (or give Brian d’Arcy James something to DO!). Who’s left, you ask? SIX LEAD CHARACTERS. And in the usual three-up, three-down structure (Grey’s Anatomy, ER, L&O, Alias, Damages), the problem is that Smash has four-up, two-down (with Karen and Ivy alone in the lower-section, and Houston awkwardly inserting herself ineffectively in the threesome). Rebalance Houston to a two-fabulous-scenes role, like the elder statesman on L&O, and introduce a double-agent on the lower-section to play Ivy and Karen off each other.
5. We need to get invested in Bombshell. I will go to my grave hating on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip because the comedic sketches just weren’t funny, and so the show was meaningless; those people didn’t seem good or passionateabout their work. Similarly, Smash is losing steam quickly because we have no idea about Bombshell. I know some songs, (thanks to Uma Thurmann) I know some more scenes, but wouldn’t it be great if the songs and scenes actually mirrored the narrative action outside the rehearsal room! You know, like the conceit of the show or the pilot! The idea that I can’t map the two over one another is as insulting as reiterating Rebecca Duval’s peanut allergy a record-breaking eight times. (I wonder why she’ll drop out of the show…)
I do believe that Smash can get better, but the question is: has the audience walked out? And if so, how do we get them back? Clean house, get a star, get a strong sense of direction, and start a new workshop—called Season Two.
It is an unspoken rule that when you ask someone to housesit for you, you are tacitly asking them to have sex on every surface of your home.
This ritual has existed for thousands of years back when “water my plants while I’m away” was more like “seed, plow, and harvest my crops after I’ve ascended to Norse heaven.” But more recently, I’ve been thinking about the source of that strong sexual urge one experiences while lodging in someone else’s abode. (NB: Not a sexual euphemism.)
I can only assume that this desire comes from ancient times when one caveman would ask another to keep watch over his cave while he was away hunting some sort of ferocious Snuffleupagus-like animal. While staying in the new cave, the caveman reasons that if he and his wife (or, as she was known at the time, “a seed storage caravan”) were to conceive a child at the new cave in addition to their own cave, the chance of all of their children being eaten by bears is dramatically reduced. (The leading cause of child-loss in this hypothetical scenario.)
“Cognito ergo kuma sutra,” the caveman eloquently declares. And thus, the boning began. (Literal boning in this case, because bones were the principal tool of the time.)
I took the time to read this spam email from master wordsmith “Mrs. Jany Lofa” (Widow of Cote d’Ivoire) and I wanted to draw attention to some of the best parts of her writing.
From: Mrs. Jany Lofa
My Dearest one,
I am the above named person. I am married to Mr.lofa who before his death was a wealthy cocoa Merchant here in Cote d’Ivoire. We were married for 25 years without a child. Before the death of my husband we were both born again Christians.
My Husband left the sum of US$3.8million United States Dollars in a fix/suspense account in one of the prime bank here in Cote d’Ivoire. Recently, my Doctor told me that I would not exceed more than five more months due to cancer problem. The one that disturbs me most is my blood pressure sickness. Having known my condition I decided to seek for your kind assistance to transfer this fund into your account and you will use it to train my adopted daughter who is 16yrs. You will take her as your God child and brought her up in a good and decent manner with what my late husband left behind.
I took this decision to contact because of my condition and for the facts that my husband relatives wants to size everything and throw my adopted daughter out of the inheritance. So I want to use this little time I have to achieve this arm before joining my ancestors.
Please indicate your interest and willingness in this transaction by writing back to me through the above email address. I want your maximum cooperation and keep this as confidential for security reasons.
I am sincerely waiting for your kind and urgent response as soon as your receive this mail.
Thanks and God bless you.
Mrs. Jany Lofa
“Isn’t this an ideal place to do my on-line banking?” I muse. Sure, thanks to my degenerative eyesight, the size of my font allows any curious coffee connaisseur to ballpark my credit score from a across the room, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters in this mocca-infused haze.
The gentleman next to me smells like industrial gauge rope. I want to tell him, but it’s not really my place. (People have been thinking that for years, I’m sure.) His musty-basement musk has melted with bargain-basement perfumes and croissants into a dense jungle of poor olfactory choices. Everyone just accepts it.
I know the inner-workings of every company in the area. This one guy just got fired - he’s moving to Utah. His plan: blow through his savings. Across the way, there is a table that is evidentially perfectly situated for elder-businessmen to dole out sage advice to youngsters. It’s not so much advice as it is a lament of the present circumstances. Good luck getting a job when your foothold is the refrain, “Things aren’t like they used to be.” It might as well be the wall paper here.
Eating has been reduced to a mechanical impulse. Not one is savoring anything here; it’s a feeding-station designed to distract from the mundane qualities of Wednesdays. Sandwich in, sandwich out. Never mind it cost $9, it’s $9 of escape - or numbness.
Everyone is reading this. But no one cares about it. That’s the truth.
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