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Seven ways Smash can improve – Open Letters

Dear ‘Smash’ producers, you’ve reduced the most unique premise and talented actors to cardboard constructs. But, I’ve assembled seven suggestions that you can use to improve. No need to thank me. You’re welcome.

Dear Smash Producers,

The past couple Smash episodes, “Chemistry” and “Let’s be Bad,” were way better than the “Pilot” and the “Callback.” I hope the show continues on this improvement path. As a former theatre geek, I liked the idea of a behind-the-scenes look at Broadway productions from multiple perspectives, including the director, the writer, the song-writer, the lead actress and the chorus actress. However, as Brittany pointed out, the show is basically a soap opera with one-dimensional constructs. And, it shouldn’t be.

Luckily, you’ve started to improve and are making the characters more two-dimensional (one day you’ll hit three). Jack Davenport is no longer the only one who rocks the script. Angelica Houston no longer plays a painful-to-watch, wide-eyed innocent. And you balance Ivy’s diva-tude through her friends. But, there’s even more you can do.

Smash has a unique voice and a new perspective which you’re stifling to fit into TV clichés. Because Theresa Rebeck, who wrote the pilot, received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her co-written play, Omnium Gatherum, I expected to see more behind the scenes knowledge and less Beverly Hills 90210-like constructs.

So, Smash producers, if you care about the thoughts of a no-name blogger who volunteers for local theatre productions, used to attend Broadway plays monthly, and routinely takes dance and acting classes, then here are my suggestions. And, if you don’t care? Too bad, read it anyways.

  1. Drop the unrealistic character clichés.
  2. SHOW the characters’ performance capabilities.
  3. Play to your actor’s comedic strengths.
  4. Inject more witty humor.
  5. Show more character happiness.
  6. Interject more personality into these cardboard cut-outs.
  7. Drop the soap opera aspects.

If you’re still interested in reading the explanation behind my suggestions, click  to the next page.

Photo Credit: NBC

Categories: | Features | General | News | Open Letters | Smash | TV Shows |

9 Responses to “Seven ways Smash can improve – Open Letters”

March 19, 2012 at 3:29 PM

1. “… terrible at dancing.”

OK, I am not one who could properly critique anyone’s dancing, so if that statement is based on something “seen” on screen, then I’ve got nothing. But the way the story worked, at least as I remember it, was that Karen was dancing too “big” for the ensamble, something that makes perfect sense for someone who is “fresh-off-the-bus” and never had to dance behind anyone in Ohio. Nor have I ever gotten the feeling that Karen felt frustrated about not getting the role. I specifically remember Dev being frustrated, and her defense of only being offered a role in the ensamble seemed genuine.

And also, I can’t speak from experience, but I’d think, at the Workshop stage, Ivy’s insecurity towards Karen still being around also makes good, logical sense.

2. Do you think most of the audience has a talented enough ear to determine between Karen and Ivy (and their “signposted” talent level)? I mean, I agree that after Idol, and the Voice, and Country Star, and and and … that most of America might THINK they’d be able to tell the difference, but they can’t. I can’t. For me to be able to understand via “showing” it, they’d have to make one comically worse than the other, which would kill the realism of these two being Broadway caliber stars in the first place.

5. “For the love of the event.” Sure, many performers do so for the sake of their art. I’d think, though, that most people on this level are trying to be “stars” … hell, the whole premise of the bit is the making of a star, right?

6. We’re what, six episodes in? I don’t to know what Karen’s favorite food is, nor what Ivy does to blow off steam. Neither of those things adds to the character as is being defined. But knowing that Sam is a big sports fan, and that Jessica, despite being one of Ivy’s best friends, was willing to help out Karen, were exactly the type of characterization you’re talking about.

7. Yes, it happens, and yes, there will always exist the rumors that the “home life” affected the “work life.” That’s a part of the story, why ignore it because it might come across as cliched?

March 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM

See below for my reply ;)

March 19, 2012 at 3:42 PM

8. Get in a time machine, go back and re-produce the shows you’ve already aired to make me care enough about your series to write such a long, detailed analysis.

I’m still watching, barely, but I don’t have near the enthusiasm left for the dying shell of “Smash” that An Nicholson clearly does.

March 19, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Lol, Scott and I was afraid people would view me as too mean :)

March 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM

#1. I had an entire paragraph on Karen’s dancing which I cut in consideration of space. However, in the initial weeks they established that Karen was a fledgling dancer. All of a sudden, she can’t stop standing out. When you’re first learning a new genre, the flourishes and improvisational movements don’t come naturally. In fact, the extensions and chest pops that it takes to make you pop as a dancer can hurt as you’re learning.

Way back in my Sr. year of high school my mother forced me to take ballet lessons with our state’s ballet company and learning the posture, arm gestures and foot placement hurt. When I transitioned to another form, I learned the steps first before adding on the improvisational gestures. The other problem with intermediate dancers is when I started learning how to improv and pop, I also started hurting myself because I over-arched my back or over-rotated my arms backwards. Quite frankly, big gestures and pops DON’T come naturally.

So, a woman introduced as a novice dancer in the beginning who has difficulty learning steps, all of a sudden knows how to over-extend and stand out without hurting herself feels rare.

McPhee didn’t stand out from the chorus for me. When Ivy called her gestures too big, I didn’t see it. McPhee looked awkward.

#2. Yes. People aren’t stupid. This week showed McPhee at her natural element. Even better, the clips comparing Karen to Ivy this week showed Karen at her best, singing in the 1950s traditional broad-voiced style.

#5. That’s my point. Having just Ivy and Karen chomping at the stardom bit, doesn’t make sense. All of the cast should be equally ambitious. But, theatre is different from Hollywood and is about paying your dues, as Brittany once said.

#6. It’s the underpinning. In acting and writing, when you create a character to make it 3D, you sit down and imagine what fleshes out the character. There’re the 25-questions and then there’re the 200-questions where you literally create a biography. There isn’t that feeling in the previous episodes. Tonight, they actually did a good job fleshing everyone out.

#7. As I said before (hmm, I’m repeating myself a lot), they’re pulling from a rich theatre background. The point of ‘Smash’ is a show about Broadway. So, why soapify it? Yes, you can dramatize the sex, etc. At the same time, falling to cliches on things that don’t matter as much for that genre is simplistic. I was afraid this week would fall into yet another cold parent-oppressed child cliche, but both Hilty and Peterson’s emotion pulled it off.

March 19, 2012 at 10:58 PM

I think you’re giving the masses way to much credit to be able to determine the technical differences in the dancing and the voice work.

Hi, my name is Ivey West, and in this case, I can’t tell a difference in the quality of the dancing and singing between the two. Sure, I can tell that they’re different stylistically, but not quality.

I’d venture to guess that most fans are in my particular boat, and not yours.

March 19, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Meh. People are smart. I believe most of the viewers are either performers or theatre-goers. I won’t quibble over what I see as actual quality. OK, I will. However, I think the show is gradually doing a better job of framing and ‘showing’ without overtly saying, especially tonight.

March 19, 2012 at 11:12 PM

People can be smart, but that doesn’t mean they’re talented in this specific area.

So, they’re smart and tired of being beaten over the head as the producers try to make the point, I’ll wouldn’t disagree with you there. Two entirely different things.

March 19, 2012 at 11:29 PM

I think people can tell the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dancing. If a character didn’t say ‘wow, Karen’s dancing stands out,’ would you see it?

So, yea, it’s a case of people being smart and also a case of the production staff not needing to beat us over the head to make sure we got it. But, this week, they did a much better job.

Let me know your thoughts when you watch this week’s ep. I think you’ll see what I mean.

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