This week’s episode of Smash pretty much opened the exact same way as the pilot (our heroine Karen (Katherine McPhee) singing in fantasy land only to be snapped back into reality) – but was the rest of the episode as predictable?
Let’s break it down after the jump.
I’ll jump right into this recap by first patting myself on the back for accurately predicting that Ivy (Megan Hilty) and director extraordinaire Derek (Jack Davenport) were going to do the horizontal mambo. I was slightly shocked about how revealing the sex scene was (aka woah cleavage). Although I maintain that Derek propositioned Ivy because she was “there”, Ivy’s true intentions are more ambiguous, which honestly surprised me. In the pilot, I just thought it was painfully obvious that Ivy’s sparkly doe eyes toward Mr. Director would end with them in bed.
But when I sit back and reflect, I wonder if she actually did the deed to get the role? And although that motivation is equally as cliché, from what I’ve seen of Ivy, I think it has potential to really go somewhere interesting. Actually, the very fact that I’m uncertain (ie: it’s not a completely obvious cliche) is itself an intriguing aspect. Ivy continues to be one of the best parts of the show for me.
And I’ll take that further because Ivy, or rather Megan Hilty, represents everything that Karen/Katherine McPhee should be. Imagine if Karen had the same tenacity as Ivy? Where the two weren’t such obvious polar opposites? Now that’s a show – one where we equally love and hate the two rivals. Instead, Karen is just a boring, uninteresting and one-dimensional character. Honestly, I think it’s McPhee’s bad acting that makes the show so unenjoyable for me. I can’t stand her. There I said it.
Don’t get me wrong: McPhee has a beautiful voice (she sung “Let Me Be Your Star” amazingly). But it is only amazing IF I shut my eyes and don’t have to see her. She’s too stiff, too plastic, and aside for the occasional furrow of her brow, McPhee performs like she’s on vicodin. Take, for example, the opening scene with her infuriatingly bad performance of Blondie’s “Call Me”. McPhee’s horrible bedroom eyes and automaton-like performance sucked out any semblance of delicious rock that the original version had.
Jumping back to “Let Me Be Your Star”, her sterile performance is emphasized even more when Hilty takes over the latter part of the song. Hilty just blows McPhee out of the water. How does she do this? Simple: Hilty EMOTES. She moves her body. She gives the impression that she’s actually thinking about what she’s singing and conveying that emotion to the audience. Hilty is ACTING. Meanwhile, McPhee is singing like she’s a pop star (and a bad one at that) – not an actress. You can actually tell she’s lip-syncing. It’s uncomfortable to watch and made me realize that this is the biggest problem I have with the show.
Want further evidence? Let’s contrast “Call Me” with Ivy’s last number in the bar. She’s on a stage in a very constructed and artificial environment (I mean, have we ever seen a cocktail bar like this in reality?) but her performance still manages to engaging and authentic. Now this is what I’m talking about. If Smash were filled with more scenes like this, I might be able to overlook the hackneyed clichés and just enjoy it for what it is.
A note about the original music: I admit, I neglected to praise this aspect of the show last week, but the original songs are truly something to boast about. McPhee needs to get an acting coach STAT if she’s going to do these songs the justice they deserve.
- I’m convinced Dev (Raza Jaffrey) is a unicorn. After inconsiderately standing him up at an important dinner, all Karen has to do is bat her eyelashes and say “Dev” and he pretty much quells his anger right there. This man does not exist in reality (Side note: Did anyone for a second believe Karen would make the dinner after uttering the lines “Don’t worry. I know it’s important. I’ll be there”? Way to go for one of the most obvious television cliches there, Smash.)
- The bad acting continues with Emory Cohen, who plays Julia’s (Debra Messing) teenage son. Note to everyone: Whining is not acting.
- Jack Davenport is growing on me. He’s not nearly as one-dimensional as I originally thought. The scene where he tells Anjelica Huston’s Eileen that he’s in the Marilyn project for the long haul shows that he’s got the skills that a good actor should possess. Here’s hoping the show gives him more opportunities to showcase his talent.
- I have a theory that Derek’s line to Karen was really a line addressed to McPhee: “It’s hard to say what is needed because right now you’re not doing anything…Don’t do her, just be her.” Bingo BANGO. McPhee: please make note of this.
- Just to drive a point home, how funny is it that McPhee is literally a single threat? She can’t act, nor can she dance. That is all.
- Hey did you hear about YouTube’s competition? It’s called YouLenz. Apparently, it’s all in the details people.
- Despite checking out through most of the show, now that Ivy has been cast, I am wondering how the hell Karen is going to continue to be relevant in the show. Maybe Karen will be the one to pull a Showgirls and push Ivy down a flight of stairs…
So what did you think viewers? Did Smash‘s second episode deliver for you? Am I being way too hard on McPhee? Let us know in the comments section below.