SMASH – When It’s “Let’s Be Bad” It’s Good

In it’s fifth episode, SMASH starts to open up a bit and enter into new territory, and does so pretty smoothly.

This is the first episode where characters break out in song outside of strictly performance situations, though they are situations that make sense, since the characters are singers.  The first is when Karen, feeling a bit like Marilyn and all women there just for men, sings the James Brown hit “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World   ” in front of the mirror.  Later Michael, trying to seduce his former lover, Julia, sings Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You ” : while they were waiting for his car to take him home outside her apartment.  Singers do sing in the mirror when alone, and since his singing was a large part of what seduced Julia originally, Michael singing to her makes sense.  Both work with the plot.

Along the way, other plot points move forward, including Tom finally having sex with his lawyer date (though both admit it was pretty bad), Julia’s son brush with the law over smoking marijuana in public, which may jeopardize the adoption, Karen using her wiles to help Dev find out who his rival is at the mayor’s press office, and producer Eileen pushing for more pages.

The big story this week, though, is Ivy, and her struggles with the manipulative director and running villain, Derek.  As portrayed by Jack Davenport, Derek is the master manipulator not only of Ivy, but of his audience, getting you to forgive him just when you thought you couldn’t.  At heart, all directors are manipulators, and he pretty much tells Ivy that when she shows up drunk at his doorstep.

Megan Hilty’s Ivy and the Marilyn portrays come together in the centerpiece of the episode, the performance of the title tune of the episode “Let’s Be Bad.”  In a show within a show within a show within a show, we see Ivy rehearsing it, and then the scene on stage in full costume, with Marilyn in a scene from a movie where she shows up to perform the tune high on pills and alcohol.  The Marilyn character in the scene is the perfect “doll”, literally manipulated by some of the male dancers in the scene as a doll would be.  This is not the stuff of fluff musicals, but more the territory of modern musicals, the children of Sondheim and sibling of shows like “Spring Awakenings.”

The scene dovetails perfectly with the intersecting stories of Marilyn and Ivy in a master piece of musical and dramatic writing.  If SMASH can keep up this level of writing, it will certainly be an artistic hit, and the only question will be whether audiences will come along for the bumpy ride.



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JB Bruno

John J Bruno – Producer, Line Producer, Writer John J Bruno (JB) brings almost thirty years of working in the entertainment industry: in theater as a producer, director, designer and acting teacher; in independent films as producer, line producer, production manager, writer and assistant director. Among his featured credits as line producer is Man of the Century, featuring Frank Gorshin, Anne Jackson and Tony-winner Anthony Rapp. Produced on a modest budget, Man of the Century won the Audience Award at Slamdance, and was then released by Fine Line. He was more recently line producer on the Tamil-US production of Achamundu, Achamundu. Directed by Arun Vaidyanathan, Achamundu,Achamundu featuring Tamil film stars Prasanna, Sneha and Emmy Award-winning American film actor John Shea earned Best Feature Film Award at the Chennai International Film Festival and, here at home, won the Best Homegrown Feature Film Award at the Garden State Film Festival. In the summer of 2000, he ...Read Full