Tag Archives: Smash

Smash Reboot? Smash Cancelled?

13 Apr


My favourite show at the moment is Smash. And about a week ago some terrible news reached me, Smash had been moved to Saturdays and was very likely to be cancelled. I wanted to be surprised by the news but sadly I wasn’t.

Smash has undergone quite a change since the end of the first season. In part because it’s show runner Theresa Rebeck was told to step down and Josh Safran the previous show runner of Gossip Girl took her place. Why was Rebeck told to step down? It’s a plot that would have been suited to Smash itself. The gossip is that Rebeck ran the show like a dictator and like most fascist dictators had great trouble delegating. She was writing every episode, not using her writers room which was full of experienced TV writers,  and she was disagreeing with the studio left, right and centre. How it went down is actually fascinating but this review is more about what happens next.

For more on why Rebeck got the boot: Read This

So it’s out with Rebeck and in with Safran and the show is free from it’s dictator but it has a lot of problems. I would like to state here that these problems exist according to the studio and the critics. Not according to avid fans of the first season like myself. I’m not about to say that the first season was perfect or without a touch of the ridiculous about it but it certainly didn’t need the massive overhaul it got.

But when there’s a lot of pressure to reboot the series in a new direction, can you change things without undermining your current audience? Can you attract a new audience in a second season? Maybe you can but this show certainly didn’t.

There first move was to cut the fat. They got rid of Julia’s son, ditched Julia’s husband in the first episode and exited the comical evil genius that was Ellis, never to be seen again. Essentially cutting the melodrama out of Julia’s  life  and making her a single character again. They also ditched Dev, Karen’s boyfriend making her a single character.

So far so good, it’s an obvious rule of TV that single characters can have much more fun than characters embedded in long term relationships. So far Julia and Karen’s single status has been a breath of fresh air. Plus Ellis was annoying everyone so I would say all of these moves were positive.

A move which didn’t work so well was splitting the show into two musicals. In an attempt to get a more modern feel to the music of the show, a new original musical called Hit List emerged with young ‘Rent’ sounding type songs. Karen meets a young composer and nursing a little crush introduces him and his writing partner to Derek. Derek is also nursing a massive crush on Karen and so helps the pair get their musical made. Throw in some very confusing drama and politics on Bombshell and all a sudden, Karen and Derek have quit Bombshell and staring and directing in this fledging musical.

The writing to this point is clumsy at best and really feels like the show is back peddling in an attempt to get out of the basic premise of the series. It seems like the writers are purposefully trying to make the audience care less about Bombshell, almost saying ‘we think this series has problems so we’re going to give you another musical that isn’t tainted by last years drama’.

The writers are also sending this message of distance from last years plot with a few minor jokes. For example when Tom tells Julia it’s time to ditch the scarves which she wore all last season and when Ellis’ girlfriend (who makes a quick appearance to tie up his storyline) says it turns out he was gay. Both of these moments implicitly point out some of the weirdness of previous season. But is insulting a show that many people enjoyed and didn’t really critically question, in the shows best interest. To me it almost mocks people for enjoying the show previously.

But the most disturbing move is the subtle changes in characters personalities. Karen who all last season was a good girl who wanted nothing to do with Derek, is now such good friends with him that she sees him outside of work and can’t work in a musical because he’s not directing. Karen also drops her broadway dream, Bombshell, because she’s in love with an annoying composer and can’t work with Tom. Karen was previous pretty good at taking it on the chin which was something to be admired.  Where did she get this attitude from?

Derek has also changed since last season. He was the scum bag who would sleep with everything that moved, treat his actors terribly and torture them as every turn. How he’s so obsessed with Karen, he’s threatening her potential love interests. The old Derek was better than that. He also loved Bombshell, he wouldn’t have quit without a fight. The old Derek would have made things go his way with subtle manipulation, not go storming about like a bull in a china shop.

The changes in Tom are also problematic, he’s undermining Julia’s excellent script for a more commercially viable one. He’s now a director,  who is desperate to please and then suddenly happy to screw Ivy over by hiring her mother. Then the next minute he’s desperate for her love again. All this drama only serves to undermine your confidence in Bombshell and make you dislike Tom as a weak attention seeking idiot when really he really should have stayed where he was, as a composer and Derek should have kept directing.

All this leaves you with is a show, so changed that it’s almost unrecognizable. And the audience can’t help but feel a little alienated.

Now I know, I have been pretty harsh. But Smash is still one my favourite shows. It still has a lot of offer, like great acting, beautiful music and hot sexual tension, particularly with whoever Derek is with. Plus it gives a fantastic insight into the dog eat dog world of Broadway, from being a actor, director, producer or writer. You really feel like your getting the scoop from the horses mouth.

But the problem with this reboot is it’s too much of a reaction and doesn’t take into account a lot of things that were great and didn’t need fixing. This show is getting better but it needed to get better straight away if it was going to survive, and instituting the massive work of second musical didn’t achieve that. And so it will most likely be cancelled. It’s a pity because despite everything a lot of people love this show, including me and it could have been great.

One last thought, Rebeck may have been a terrible leader but in my opinion the show was better with her in charge. And now it’s on the chopping block, maybe she can finally have the last laugh.


Nashville: A Bright Shining Star in a Sea of Average

29 Oct

Well, pardon my absence from the blog. Looking at this site I realize it’s been close to two months since I’ve written anything. That is largely because, soon after finishing my last post, I got a new job, writing voice overs. As such it’s been a super exciting couple of months, but strangely when you write all day at work, it’s harder to get it together to write at home.  But while I haven’t been writing, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching. In fact as it’s my favorite time of year, pilot season, I’ve been watching more than ever. It’s like a magical fairyland filled with a whole bunch of new shows, ready to become your new favorites.

Unfortunately there hasn’t hasn’t been much new stuff to praise though, in fact I might even say that some of the summer series had more promise. Sitcoms have been a particular low point. ‘Guys with Kids’ ugh don’t bother, and ‘Ben and Kate’ though sweet doesn’t really have much of offer either. ‘Go On’ with Matthew Perry is perhaps the most promising offering but it’s similarity to Community makes it feel like little more than a inferior alternative. These shows are nothing to rival the early promise of ‘New Girl’ or further back down the track ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

As for dramas, the comic bookish efforts of the CW’s ‘Arrow’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ both feel a little shallow. They are both missing the chemistry and empathetic characters that the show they is clearly emulating ‘Smallville’ had in spades. If they could just counter act the cheese with some sex appeal or genuine emotion, they might have winner on their hands but alas they have neither. ‘666 Park Avenue’ is well done but a little lacking in the sticking factor. Unfortunately being so dark and not that legitimately scary that it doesn’t really make you want to keep watching. I did get into ‘Made in Jersey’. A show about a girl from Jersey rising the ranks at a prestigious New York law firm but it was cruelly cancelled after just 2 episodes. New writers take note it’s a cut throat world out there.

The best show by far of the new is season is Nashville. Written by Callie Khouri, the writer of ‘Thelma and Louise’ and ‘The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood’, this show is a bright shining star of the pilot season and the US ratings agree. The writing is polished and intriguing and there is just the right amount of music and soap to make it appealing to a very broad audience. Khouri has never written for TV before and brings a grandeur and scope to the show similar to big Hollywood film. But at the same time appreciates the little details that distinguish TV as a medium.

I have to admit I’m a little biased in my love for this show as I am a big fan of country music.  A medium not that appreciated here in Australia and not particularly well done locally . But this show is packed to the gills with quality originals and covers from my favorite genre. And if you don’t like country, you may not have really heard the good stuff, give this show a watch before you decide.  The first episode boasts over 10 songs. If you watch Glee they only have 4 or 5 songs an episode and nothing original so this show is bang for your buck and the quality of the song writing is outstanding.

The acting in Nashville is top notch and Connie Britton is particularly impressive as the country queen getting dethroned and returning to her roots. Hayden Panettiere is a bit annoying as Juliette Barns, the Carrie Underwood/Taylor Swift ingenue but is impressively multi faceted character and has a great voice. The supporting cast look great, sing great and act great but the real star here is the writing.  This show does for Country what ‘Smash’ did for Broadway and if I had to guess, I reckon it will do it even better.

The Art of the Season Finale: Smash, Hart of Dixie and Nikita.

22 May

Well the time has come, it’s the end of ratings season and I have watched at least 7 season finales in the last 2 weeks. The season finale is a hard beast to get right. You don’t want to leave your audience too satisfied but you don’t want to leave them too irritated either. In my opinion a great season finale is a mix of tantalizing questions and satisfying answers.

Many writers underestimate the benefit of a good answer. A show like ‘Lost’ for instance just kept asking questions and rarely gave an answer for anything but season finales are the perfect time to give answers for lingering questions and close some doors. If this isn’t done I would argue that audiences become unsatisfied and may lose faith in the show and turn off. A writer must never lose sight of the fact that viewers are watching for answers not for questions and it you don’t give them what they want sometimes, they will stop watching.

Nikita  gave us plenty of answers in its finale, Division was shut down, Birkhoff got the girl, Alex got together with Sean and Nikita had finally been seen as a legitimate hero in the eyes of the government. In fact Nikita answered so many questions it had to change the game entirely in order to keep the story going, it’s a risky move but I think it paid off.

Smash still had plenty of questions still in the tank but managed to give us a few answers of it’s own. Karen finally became the star of Bombshell. Ivy’s evil ways caught up with her and Dev was exposed for cheating on Karen. Ahh the satisfaction of a secret being exposed, this is the season finale bread and butter.

Now Hart of Dixie was perhaps the slimmest of them all on answers, but it did provide a few. George called off his wedding admitting he was in love at least partly with Zoe and Zoe and Wade finally worked out their differences and slept together. And George admitted to Zoe that he loved her. That last part was more of a question than an answer as it created a whole lot of trouble that as a fan of Zoe and Wade I could have done without. This show is doing the love triangle very well at the moment, confusing it’s audience at every turn. It could even give Vampire Diaries a run for it’s money.

Now for the questions or the cliffhanger. The cliffhanger is the reason viewers come back but don’t make your cliffhanger too bleak other wise you’ve got a Grey’s Anatomy situation on your hands. I found it very tough to start watching that again after last years depressing cliffhanger and this years season finale was even worse. I prefer cliffhangers that have the possibility for good as well as bad.  For example Hart of Dixie, who will Zoe choose? The beautiful Wade, whose abs would make icebergs melt or the country good boy George whose name should tell you how boring he really is. It could go either way.

Or Smash, the love of Karen’s life has cheated on her with her worse enemy and the emotionally bankrupt but super sexy director is making his move, again who will she choose. I like this one because even though you know Derek and Karen would be a disaster together it’s a disaster you would really like to see.

Or changing it up Nikita has finally taken down Division, the shady ex government agency that made her life hell and has been offered a job as it’s new leader, will she go into the belly of the beast and make it a force for good. What does the future hold? Very positive but with a dark underbelly of foreboding lurking in the future.

Now while all three of these season finales were very enjoyable I would have to say that Nikita was the best. Having seen many season finales I know or can estimate where Smash and Hart of Dixie will lead in the next season but the best season finales are the ones that change the game entirely, leaving the audience in a completely new place with no idea what will happen next.  It’s risky but Nikita’s season finale changed the rules of the show and as a result, it blew the others away.

What was the best season finale you saw this ratings season?