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Viewing File: "Smash"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: March 27, 2012

Let me start by saying that I often like "Smash." Sure, it's soapy in spots. And it has moments that are way too "Glee," including last night's bowling-alley dance. But I have liked the way it has tried to show that putting on a musical, or any play, is hard work, with lots of missteps, personal conflict, revisions, changes -- and searching for money. Some of the best stuff in the show has involved the longing for money, although part of the effectiveness may stem from having Anjelica Huston in the chase.

But I am wondering whether last night's episode marked a change in the show's direction, or a reassertiion of what it wants to be. On the one hand, there was the attempt to de-soap it a bit, by trying to put an end to the storyline about Julia's affair (although the promos for the next episode indicate we're not done with the consequences).

And a lot of it had to do not only with trying to make the Marilyn show work but everyone having different ideas of what that involves, and how to go about it; as was clear in his fight with Tom, Derek is not wrong about a flaw in the show. And one of the stumbles was Eileen's decision not to look any more at new writers, because Derek was right -- and star power is not of itself going to solve problems with the script and music. Better that Eileen had looked at her daughter and said, "I'm not being your father. I'm being smart about how I invest my money and time."

But was Eileen's recanting a signal that "Smash" is going to get away from trying pop songs and re-embrace show tunes? Because everything else in the show seemed to say that it's going to be more pop, not less. (And, again, Derek seemed to be right about a change in the Marilyn music.)  Yes, the show has gone pop in odd ways before (the country-bar number leaps to mind), with Karen often the vessel, but this time the whole tone seemed to say, "We can be the smart 'Glee,' honest." What's next, a Madonna episode?

More than in the beginning, "Smash" -- like the show within the show -- seems to have lost confidence in its ability to be good, so it's trying out different things, even if it isn't entirely convinced they're the best ideas. And I am left wondering if I keep watching because it's a good show that just needs some fixes, or -it's a bad show that I keep hoping will get better.

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