Feb 6, 2012

Bashing Smash

This kind of thing makes me batty: Producer Ken Davenport tells theater folks it's our duty to watch Smash tonight:
It's about Broadway, it's shot on Broadway, it's written by a Broadway writer, directed by a Broadway Director, and stars a whole bunch of Broadway peeps.

And if there was one thing that could have an atomic bomb-like impact on Broadway theatergoing, Smash is it.
I call bullshit on this, for two reasons. First, the show's Broadway pedigree is what makes the thundering mediocrity of Smash, whose pilot I barely managed to get through last week, so disappointing. Shaiman, Rebeck, Mayer, and the show's estimable cast have turned out something so false, tired, and pandering that the word "cliché" is barely adequate. I'm not a snob; I can enjoy trashy, manipulative TV, but Smash doesn't even satisfy on that level. (I'll qualify this by admitting that a TV show's overall quality can't always be judged by its pilot.)

Secondly, does anyone really think that the Broadway brand is buoyed by a backstager full of fictional characters putting together a fictional musical? It's not as if anyone will be able to fly to NY and score tickets to the show's Marilyn Monroe musical, because it doesn't exist. (If Smash somehow becomes such a phenomenon that said musical does actually find its way to Broadway, I will eat my Kangol hat.)

I'll concede to Davenport a point he doesn't quite make: If Smash is a hit—and hey, I wouldn't begrudge these talented people a success, as long as I don't have to watch it—it will have a big national impact...on aspiring performers, writers, composers, directors etc., who will flock in even greater numbers to New York with Broadway as their North Star, in much the same way glamourous primetime soaps shows like L.A. Law allegedly swelled the ranks of law schools back in the 1980s. It would be a mixed blessing, but hardly lamentable, if another generation of performers looked beyond the autotuned Glee to the stage, the punishing, glorious arena where true performing talent is forged.


Diep Tran said...

Rob, you must learn to embrace the cheese, since that's most of Broadway these days.

And according to the NYMag, if "Smash" is successful, the Marilyn musical will be coming to Broadway.


And while I enjoyed the pilot (I still watch "Glee" after all), it was a theater cliche wonderland wasn't it?

But anything that presents theater as the poorly-paid behemoth that it actually is (instead of something that is worthy of dismissal, if Randy Jackson's comments on American Idol, is any indication) can only be good.

And yes I plan to keep watching, I'm a sucker for well-smoked cheese.

Howard Sherman said...

I haven’t watched, and I’m planning to -- but not because anyone said so. A few thoughts of my own: http://www.hesherman.com/2012/02/06/are-you-planning-to-get-smashed-tonight/

JRB said...

One could spend the rest of one's days calling bullshit on Ken Davenport.

Julie said...

Since when do we listen to Ken Davenport? He so obviously wishes he had a slice of the producing pie for musical mess.

As expected, I was as uncomfortable watching SMASH's pilot as I am watching GLEE circa anything past season 1.

I'm all about the cheese factor when the cheese knows it's cheese, but SMASH possesses that horribly awkward characteristic: unabashed earnestness. Oy.

I will keep tabs on this for a few more episodes, but if the show continues to be as "brilliant" as that baseball number (haha!), I won't last long.

(So on a scale of 1 to 10, how psyched are you that we agree on something?)

Ken said...

I may try to catch some of "Smash," but, quite frankly, the preview bits I've seen made me groan audibly. All the "intrigue" and the talk of some unknown instantly becoming a "star" smells more like a disguised story about Hollywood than any theatre production I've ever gotten close to. Granted, I've never worked at anywhere near the Broadway level of things, so there may be a difference there, but generally the renumeration--be it via actual dollars or in terms of fame--is so slight in the world of theatre as to make great back-stabbing betrayals and other career-ladder climbing utterly beside the point.

And besides that...a musical about Marilyn Monroe?! Really? Again, it all seems dumbed-down for a nation that in the main couldn't care less about theatre.

Paul Leary said...

On local sports radio the other day the co-host told a story about going to see a play about a dog. He confessed that by the end of the play he was crying in front of his wife. The rest of the show was full of listeners calling in to give the co-host some good-natured ribbing… not because he cried when the dog died, but because he went to see a play at all.

If Broadway wants to continue to see their male demo drop year after year I am sure they are thrilled with SMASH’s portrayal of “The Theater”. By the way, you can call it “Theater” without the “the” beforehand. It is acceptable.

This was brutal for me to watch but I could have persevered if not for the manipulative earnestness of the performances, music, and direction... Kathryn McPhee excluded.