If there's one thing we never expected a show about musical theater to be, it's depressing. Sure sad things would happen, dreams crushed and all that, but those defeats would be surrounded by fabulous victories and song-and-dance frippery. Musical theater can be serious, but it's not that serious. Or so we thought. Proving us wrong was last night's episode of Smash, which was pretty thoroughly a downer.
Let's see here. Debra Messing's Julia has cheated on her husband and he's left her so she's moping and crying all the time. Her writing partner Tom was in a cute relationship with a handsome lawyer but he just stormed out because he thinks Tom has the hots for a dancer in the company (he probably does, yes). Our (ostensible) heroine Karen gets to play Marilyn for a week, but only a week because they're bringing in a movie star, so basically something is dangled before her then snatched away. To make matters worse her boyfriend is having trouble at his job, will probably cheat on her, thinks she's cheating on him, and wants to move to Washington D.C. Meanwhile her rival Ivy has been fired from her chorus role in another musical for popping pills so now she's just alone a lot and drinks wine and stands across the street watching wistfully as her friends go to Marilyn rehearsal. That's what's going on.
There's, like, no good there! Not that there has to be a ton of happy stuff always, obviously, but good grief has this show gotten bleak fast. Hey kids, are you ambitious about anything, do you have a dream? Oh, well, you should probably rethink that, because it will turn you into a miserable monster who has an unending series of terrible days interrupted only by the occasional breaking into song. The theater world of Smash seems like a pretty unpleasant place to be, and while that may be true to life, it turns out that it makes for pretty glum television viewing. (Especially because most of these bad things don't even really have anything to do with musical theater. It's a lot of person stuff. Personal stuff that this show should really not be focusing so heavily on. Obviously there must have been concerns about getting too theatery, but too soapy is just as bad if not worse.)
We at least saw some light break over the hill at the very end of the episode: Uma Thurman showed up looking porcelain and regal, see she's playing the movie star, so hopefully she will infuse some fun back into the show. Again, we're not trying to be shallow weirdos who only want sunshine and posies and light romantic conflicts. Drama is good and all. But all bad all the time, on a show like Smash, just feels dull and discordant. So turn those frowns upside down, everyone! Uma Thurman is here to brighten everyone's day. We hope so, anyway.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.