Five actually fabulous moments from the first episode of the NBC musical dramedy since its two-hour season premiere February 5.
1. MEGAN HILTY IS DANCING ON HER OWN.
For all its faults and overdramatic/unrealistic plot twists that inspire “hate-watching,” Megan Hilty’s amazing voice has never been questioned. The Broadway veteran plays ex-Marilyn Ivy, who’s been feeling pretty Blue and positively kills a cover of Robyn’s hit that I was just beginning to get sick of. On repeat, people, and this is coming from someone who greatly prefers Smash’s original showtunes to its covers (“Shake It Out” at a Bar Mitzvah and the like). Luckily, later in the episode Ivy is cast as Cecile in a musical adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons. We’re ignoring what happened on screen during the cover––none of these choreographed dream sequences will EVER work as majestically as last season’s Bollywood extravaganza “A Thousand and One Nights.”
2. HOW DEBRA MESSING GOT HER GROOVE BACK.
They may have retired her scarves and turned her into a doppelganger for publicly-departed showrunner Theresa Rebeck, but Julia Houston is a treat when she’s on her A-game, especially when interacting with Tom (Christian Borle). Not enough people appreciate that Grace Adler is back on TV, and now that she’s out of her whiny, bedridden pity party, she’s becoming a sassy diva––and heaven knows we can’t have enough of those on Smash. When the glorious Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston, scarier looking than ever) drops the theatre-world-only bomb that she’s hiring a dramaturg (gasp!) to freshen up the book of Bombshell, Julia is defensive and livid. When the unreasonably attractive dramaturg says he’s like a dentist, and she’ll be glad she saw him after the fact, Debbie deadpans, “I have perfect teeth.”
3. MARILYN WANTS TO SEX YOU UP.
Okay, it was a little ridiculous, and perhaps this is the kind of sequence the naysayers are referencing when they insult my beloved Smash, but increasing Marilyn’s sex appeal to advance Bombshell from biopic to Best Musical makes sense. (Katharine McPhee’s sex appeal is another story.) And the steamy JFK storyline could work, since people loved all that Lea Michele-Jonathan Groff onstage sexytime during Spring Awakening, right? Eileen Rand seems to think so, and I believe everything that comes out of that goddess’ mouth. She can do no wrong. Throw that drink in my face!
4. ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW.
Smash got dry last season with all Bombshell, all the time. Roadblock after roadblock began to exhaust viewers. By incorporating other (potentially competing) made-up musicals, doors are opened for new possibilities that will liven up and vary the series. Amateur songwriter Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan), who had thus far just been an angsty love-interest-to-be for Karen (McPhee), is finally becoming a real person and allowing Derek (Jack Davenport) to help get the ball rolling on their musical. I’m not sold on him as a character, but Karen’s attachment to two shows and more original music keeps the options open for Smash’s dramatic path.
5. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE INCOMPARABLE VERONICA MOORE.
I think more people should be introduced as “Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable so-and-so.” Besides the stellar original music (better than most of what’s on Broadway today), Smash’s appeal lies in its real-life inspired fictionalization of the behind-the-scenes of the Great White Way, and inventing fake musicals and Tony-award winning actresses to be name-dropped in the same sentence as Kristin Chenoweth and Patti LuPone is kind of awesome. And if anyone’s going to play a made-up “incomparable,” let it be Jennifer Hudson, whose superhuman voice is blowing most of the cast’s out of the water. If this Oscar winner is playing a Tony winner, could she make Smash an Emmy winner? Maybe, because the more J-Hud, the better––at least critically (Maybe she’s just doing it to check off the E on her potential EGOT?).
Until next week, when IVM (Incomparable Veronica Moore) takes the stage in a “one night only” concert and Eileen gasps to someone about something, “I cannot believe that you would do this!”