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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.
Waking up this morning to CBS This Morning and an interview between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and newly-esteemed morning anchor
Gayle King Charlie Rose was like watching a bourbon-soaked old coyote play chess against Deep Blue.
Not so much in mannerism or diction (or reality), but in the overall impression.
This is instructive about the kind of president Michael Bloomberg might be, and the kind of leader he currently is for New York City.
I won’t play on the tired trope of him being “robotic.” (I don’t find him to be - except for when his head swivels in either direction or when advisors desperately yell, “We need to find aPLUG! NOW!”)
But I will say that Mayor Bloomberg’s Cartesian hardwiring of values, empirical logic, and political Calculus (NB: Big “C”) is his greatest asses; it leaves me breathlessly to behold. The man never wavers, never gaffs, never has the opportunity to backtrack or “misspeak” because he knows what he believes. While leadership may be stressful for Mayor Bloomberg, politics isn’t. If politics is the artful delivery of the truth, Mayor Bloomberg is a minimalist, Dadaist, or Mondrain.
Easy attacks focus on his self-interest, which he flatly diffuses by recognizing his wealth, status, and influence. (You’ll never catch him calling a spade a death panel.) But, the man leaves no doubt that held these economic beliefs before his power and, if anything, his hypothesis has proven correct by achieving great wealth. Still, there’s no feeling that he is intractable, simply that facts win the day - so show him better facts and he’ll agree.
It may be the closest thing I’ll ever have to electing The Economist to political office.
“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.
Though poverty is no longer knocking at the door (it has come in and unpacked), I refused to going back to the good ol’ days of the laundromat. After all, few things are more shaming that publicly folding threadbare underwear or the burdensome commitment to a dryer that relies solely on relative humidity to dry your clothing.
But recently, have five years of regular use, my laundry bag vaporized. It was an old mail sack for French-Chinese correspondance. [Pause for judgements from readers.] No matter what (Chinese) dry cleaner I went to, it was good for a chuckle. Or, I think it was a chuckle. Chuckle and disgraced scoff are so close in the Chinese-American dialect. However, post-vaporization, necessity gave birth to invention with serious social quandary:my only spare laundry bag was from another cleaners.
I’ve diagnosed the complex emotions involved here: adulterous shame. In essence, I have opened my sock drawer and given the dry cleaner the clue to my cheating on him. I turned the bag inside-out, more for piece of mind that anything else. But it was returned to me in its proper formation, like diligent and forgiving partner. “Bellemare Cleaners wil never break up this relationship” was the underpinning of our regular conversation about weather that week.
Here’s the rule: Never underestimate the perceptive abilities of a good dry cleaner. Just as he may notice the new bag, he will notice your old clothes, irregular visits, and overall cheapness. He will not only understand; he will celebrate it.
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