There’s a benefit to recapping a show a bit late: you get a taste of what to expect from the reactions of others. To say that the reaction to ‘The Coup,’ the eighth episode of NBC’s Smash, is critical is a bit of an understatement (vehement, disbelieving hatred is probably closer to the truth). Thankfully, going in with below zero expectations made parts of a terrible episode tolerable, so that’s got to be good for something, right?
Let’s bitch it out…
‘The Coup’ is not the worst hour of television that I have ever watched (if we’re being honest, it’s not even close). But it’s not good, and if there was ever an indication that only good can come from Theresa Rebeck’s recent decision to step down as showrunner, it’s that if the writer of this monstrosity leaves the show, then it’s possible that we will be spared having to suffer through another episode like this ever again. And that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.
Smash has become everyone’s new favourite punching bag – which I’ve decided to consider in the “silver lining/glass half full” capacity. People are complaining about things that need to change because they care, and they want this show to succeed. If we return to the pilot, there are a lot of good ideas in there with some fuzzy execution. But since then the show has further developed all of the bad qualities and embraced very few of the good, so now we’re left with articles discussing “How to fix it”.
And let’s face it, there are a few elements that are quick fix mix material (Side Note: It should be noted that all season one episodes are already in the can, so while we complain and make suggestions, what we have now is likely what we will continue to get until the show returns for season two). The big, easy fix? GET RID OF ELLIS (Jaime Cepero). He may be the nicest guy in real life, but as a character, the kid is a snoop, a weasel, a phony, an ass kisser, and – after ‘The Coup’ – someone I have no interest in seeing unclothed in any capacity (seriously dude, shut those legs and put on some damn pants!) Every time he’s onscreen, I inadvertently hiss, and I may have passed out a few times from loss of breath during Monday’s episode. Why are we giving this smug little a-hole so much screen time?! Not only is he a deplorable character (but not enough to “love to hate”), but his presence reiterates how fabricated and unbelievable the show is. When he appears at the “new” Marilyn number offering to schedule a meeting to defuse the tension, everyone (including me) wears an incredulous expressions. Who the eff does this guy think he is? And yet there he is, working for Eileen (Anjelica Huston) at episode’s end as Julia (Debra Messing) speaks for the audience, telling Tom (Christian Borle) that she’s glad to be free of him, except that they still have to see him.
The faux-number at the center of the entire episode is responsible for much of the critical derision. Ludicrously featuring Karen (Katherine McPhee) writhing around on a bed that turns into a cell, and framed by Jabbawockeez-lite dancers, the scene plays like the worst parts of So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol and Dancing With The Stars thrown into a blender and pureed. And poor Ryan Tedder (of One Republic), whose sole job is to show up, play the keyboard and then apologize to everyone for stepping on Tom and Julia’s shoes. That Derek (Jack Davenport) later apologizes to Ivy (Megan Hilty) and describes the number as a huge “mistake” simply reiterates what a huge waste of time this is. So it was as much a failure in the world of the show as it was unenjoyable for us viewers to watch? The upside: Tom and Derek finally get their ya’yas out about their bad working relationship and hopefully identify a Marilyn middle space between the gay-fantasy and the dark sexuality. The downside: Borle – as an actor – is hopelessly outmatched and wimpy compared to Davenport, and the show jumps back into homophobe-ville as Derek throws out a few slurs and generalizations (Or does that just make me a queeny gay that complains?).
Overall this episode commits the cardinal sin of entertainment: it wastes our time. I’m sure that in the aftermath of workshops, changes are made and not all of them are successful or good. The problem is that the changes that we witness this week don’t lead anywhere (everyone apologizes for it!) and as a result it’s not particularly enjoyable to watch. Was anyone glad that we got the full version of “Touch Me” this week? Because it sucked, and then the characters told us it sucked, but we still had to live through it! That is three minutes of our lives (and 42 overall) that we will never get back!
On the plus side your grandmother can now go onto iTunes and buy the song, because that’s what NBC wants…
- There’s still more bad to be addressed (you didn’t think that was all, did you?!). The following bits wind up somewhere on a scale of “Punch Me in The Neck” to “Ellis In His Underwear” levels of terrible: 1) Anything involving Dev (Raza Jaffrey), his job or Karen’s jealousy of his relationship with RJ 2) Anything involving Julia, her husband wearing a fedora, the “actor” who plays her son, her outburst in court or pining after Michael (Will Swift) in the park 3) Anything involving Eileen’s daughter, Katie (Grace Gummer) and money or wild salmon counting or “toxic garbage”. Terrible all of it and worthy of the TV equivalent of a Razzie
- Although it served no purpose whatsoever, the montage of the chorus…er, sorry…the ensemble working out their issues at the bowling alley was kinda fun. Sure that would have been hella distracting for everyone else, but clearly these divas care not for the strikes and spares of their fellow Manhattanites!
- The other scene that worked for me? The scene at the very end of the episode when Tom tells Ivy that they’re dropping her to pursue a “star” and they both cry. It’s genuine, the actors have good chemistry and it makes the scene of Ivy alone in her room softly singing “Let Me Be Your Star” to herself more powerful.
So that’s over and let us never speak of it again…unless you want to chime in with your thoughts in the comments. How badly do you want Ellis to perish? Are you, like many commenters, hoping that Ellis is killed and the show turns into an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery in which we not-so-secretly all win because he’s gone? And if he simply must die, how can it happen? Sound off below!
Smash airs Monday nights at 10pm EST on NBC