Smash & Nashville: Pick Your Poison

smDid the latest Smash episode called The Bells and Whistles finally manage to crawl out of whatever hole in the sand the show has been mired in for most of this season, or was that a mirage? Will Nashville, which finally broadcast its 15th episode entitled When You’re Tired of Breaking Other Hearts, after being off the air for four weeks, follow Smash and be banished to the wasteland of Saturday Night TV? These are the questions before us this week.

I’m going to toss the playbook out the window and make this a doubleheader – random thoughts on two shows for the price of a single click.

As usual, Smash masqueraded as a tennis match for a while as we watched things go this way then that way. People fought, and disagreed, but we should remember that quote made by Sonny in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right, then it’s not yet the end.

Each of the characters faced disappointment and travail, and all except one got what they wanted. This week. Yes that means spoilers a-plenty will follow, as well as comments and opinions. However before we all go off tooting our horns and wildly celebrating that this wasn’t a bad Smash episode – let me remind you of one hard, cold fact. This was just Episode 8. So we’d be lunatics if we didn’t expect the return of dust bucket episodes, otherwise known as  ‘must-avoid-television’ in the coming weeks.

Smash - Season 2

Let’s start with Eileen Rand, who has suddenly developed a new press agent – the no-nonsense Agnes (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Agnes brings bad tidings, the New York Times Editor of the Arts Section, one Richard Francis (played by Jamey Sheridan) has passed on an opportunity to do a story on Bombshell. He’s heard enough of the old Bombshell news to not be interested any longer. So he’s in the same boat as most of us, which means I must be doing these recaps as a penance for something.

But Eileen won’t take no for an answer. Meanwhile Eileen is pissed at Tom for his directorial choices – specifically for bringing in Sam Strickland (Leslie Odom Jr.) to do a number as Nat King Cole, without consulting her or getting her approval. She says that will be two numbers about JFK and isn’t this supposed to be a show about Marilyn? But the song, Let’s Start Tomorrow Tonight, even if out of Bombshell, gave the episode a nice lift with some clever staging in Tom’s apartment.

Tom, new to the director’s chair, both literally and figuratively, is trying to run a democracy at Bombshell – bring me your tired and hungry – ideas, actually, all to make friends. But at what cost – he makes friends and loses the respect of the cast. That’s what he gets by trying to be the anti-Derek. Isn’t every one an anti-Derek?

Across town, over at the other shop, better known as Hit List, Derek and Jimmy cross swords, words, and attitudes at least twice in the first 8 minutes then again later. Derek wants to open the show up, to do a Broadway show on an Off-Broadway budget. But Jimmy doesn’t want all the bells and whistles. He doesn’t think the show needs to be opened up. He doesn’t want Lea Michele cast as The Diva. He believes the music and the story are strong enough without the flash and pizzazz and without the distraction of a big name in the cast. Derek is a seasoned veteran of Broadway, and Jimmy is what – 24 year’s old? So what can Derek possibly know?

Derek disagrees with Jimmy, of course, and then he’s told by his producer Scott Nichols (Jessie L. Martin) that down here, we expect our directors and our authors to get along. Make it work Derek! And Tom gives Derek similar advice when he reminds Derek, that you too were once an arrogant 24-year-old.

Speaking of Scott Nichols – we learn in this episode what happened between Scott and Julia long ago. Julia promised Scott an opportunity to direct her show, then handed it off to a big name Broadway director, Mike Nichols, leaving Scott basically out of work and stuck in the boonies for 15 years.. As Scott says after being questioned by Julia why he hasn’t returned her calls – Right now, you are not the first face I want to see.

If you’d bet that by the end of this episode Julia apologizes – you’d win the bet.

Tom is happy to have Sam back. He promises Sam a job in Bombshell, and that solo song as Nat King Cole. Sam and Tom spend the night together. But Julia advises against changing the show to make room for the song. The song doesn’t fit which is what Eileen said. So after running things over and over in his mind, Tom finally realizes – that there’s no room in the show for either Sam or the song. Too bad Sam had already quit his job with the touring company of The Book of Mormon.

So there’s your one unhappy camper. Not counting many viewers, sponsors, and the NBC brass.

Tom also decides to back away from his good guy phase so he begins anew directing with a firm hand; saying no, no, and no to any and all requests. Sorry Ivy, no break for you in Act Two.

Derek ends up listening rather than just talking too. Maybe Jimmy was right is the thought that crossed Derek’s mind. Especially after he asked Karen about the production bells and whistles and she gave him the thumbs down.

I had seen the video of the song I Heard Your Voice In Dream which was penned by Andrew McMahon. I liked the song and the lyrics and mildly enjoyed the physicality of the song as performed in Hit List. But it didn’t make a lot of sense to me until Derek and Jimmy talked it out. Jimmy said the song is about loving someone. When Derek asked why isn’t it happening, Jimmy replied – other people. Which was actually the case of the characters in Hit List as well as Jimmy and Karen.

But when Derek called for the ‘Obstacles’ to come on stage – I saw clearly that they represented the ‘other people’ and continually got in Jimmy’s way. It was then that the staging of the song clicked in for me. But unfortunately, the song had some of the worst lip-syncing ever.

Are we done yet?

Not at all – Ana (Krysta Rodriguez) and Karen commiserate about not getting what they want. For Ana it is the role of The Diva and for Karen – it is Jimmy. A few drinks later, Ana has wowed Derek by singing Beyonce’s If I Were a Boy at the bar. Not only was I impressed but apparently so was Derek – who immediately offered Ana the role of The Diva. So, Lea Michele will not be seen on Smash. And even Kyle, (Andy Mentius) who is Jimmy’s flatmate, friend, and partner in the creation of Hit List, and was basically reduced to being just an on-looker in this episode, found himself a new pal for fun and games.

Meanwhile Karen finally mustered up her courage and confronted Jimmy. Do you like me? As in DO YOU LIKE ME (bust a move dude). Of course Jimmy remained in character and didn’t jump out of his shoes. So Karen, after throwing caution to the winds by dealing the BIG question card to Jimmy, makes her exit by asking Derek to walk her home.

Good Night and Good Night

Good Night and Good Night

Naturally, within one minute of having arrived home, and Derek saying good night on the street, Jimmy arrives at Karen’s door. The long-expected romance begins right then and there on Karen’s dining table.

You recall, I mentioned gloom and doom. Well expect it and soon. Eileen one-upped Tom and announced that she’s hired Bernadette Peters who plays Ivy’s Mom to join the Bombshell cast. How will Tom handle that? More importantly, how will Ivy handle it?

Next week - the morning after

Next week – the morning after

And of course we can expect some bumps in the road between Jimmy and Karen. For all of 7 weeks and 42 minutes of Episode 8 – Jimmy has been a jerk. Now that he and Karen have become an item – I’d bet my last dollar, that Jimmy will revert back to form. But wait there’s more – Jimmy’s dark past will be brought out and looked at – especially at this time since he’s now a happy guy.

And in case you have forgotten, we still have Liza Minelli waiting in the wings.

So yeah, Episode 8 – The Bells and Whistles gets an uptick on the rating meter which sets us up perfectly for next week’s gloom and doom episode which is called The Parents. Uh oh.

By the way, next week, Episode 9 will be the last Tuesday night episode before the show moves over to television’s wasteland otherwise known as Saturday Night.


Nashville which was last seen on February 27th,  opened with a brief peak at Deacon having issues with his new puppy – a gift from Juliette Barnes. The unnamed dog must not be big on country music. Over at Scarlett’s house, Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) are still in the sack after having grief sex to close these previous episode. But before Scarlett can even get out of bed – Gunnar blows it all to hell. So we slept together [shrugs]- doesn’t mean … it doesn’t have to mean anything.  He’s not quite doing a wham-bam, thank you Ma’am, he just has issues (his bro’s murder) to deal with.

Speaking of issues, Rayna’s oldest daughter Maddie, is not handling the Rayna-Teddy divorce well at all. She ‘s wearing the angry child persona and Rayna’s expresses her dissatisfaction. To which Maddie replies You’re such a bitch – no wonder Dad left you! 

Yeah – Rayna didn’t have much to do this week besides worry about her kids, deal with Teddy, make an appearance an Katie Couric’s talk show, deal with Marshall about her new artists Scarlett and Gunnar  (Gunnar was a no show), and then there was Juliette.   Rayna didn’t sing a note – but she had two great speeches.

1) When her manager Bucky asked what’s up – you seem a bit, um …, Rayna replied: Busy? You know, I’ve been up since 4:00 AM, running around in 10 different directions. Oh man. I feel like I’m in quicksand, on one leg, blindfolded… You know, nothing I can’t handle.  

2) After Juliette’s sneak peek, private preview goes awry because Juliette tweeted the whole world about it, and the place got over-run with fans. Too many people for the place, and they rushed the stage, and people got hurt, including Maddie who had lied to Teddy about her whereabouts, and she ended up in the hospital, Rayna let Juliette have it:

Juliette: I’ve been meaning to call you. Rayna: But you didn’t. I’ve just been to the ER with my child, and a bunch of other kids, who got hurt at your show. Juliette: Why is everybody trying to act like this is completely my fault? Rayna: Because it is completely your fault. Man girl, you don’t take responsibility for anything. I don’t know what you’re doing. But you hurt people around you all the time. Wake up!

So on the Nashville show, just when things look like they’re going well –  then this is the perfect time to toss in some Conflict.

Gunnar/Scarlett – from best friends, to sexual bliss, to ‘it doesn’t have to mean anything’ – in less than five minutes.

Teddy and Rayna: Business as usual. That’s business spelled bicker, bitch, and blame.

Juliette Barnes: Fight with her Mom, disagree with the her Mom’s addiction counselor, argue with Marshall, take off her assistant’s head. The bitch is back.

Avery: He made a bad deal with Dominic, and now he can’t stand Dominic’s musical choices. So Avery steals then destroy’s the masters. As in burns them up. Dominic: You dead in the business boy. DOA. Dead before you even started to breath.   Somehow I think Avery who thinks he’s paid his way out of the contract he signed with Dominic, has no idea of how deep in shit he really is now.

Watch your back Coleman - Lamar ain't happy these days

Watch your back Coleman – Lamar ain’t happy these days

Coleman Carlisle got plenty of air time this week. After all he’s now Teddy’s new Deputy Mayor. Between them they want what’s best for the City. So they do a deal for a new stadium, called The Subway Stadium. Lamar’s deal to sell the land for the stadium to the city is down the tubes. Lamar is so furious, he just ups and leaves City Hall. Can you spell shit storm?   Right! Lamar’s payback will be something to see.

Of course leaving Lamar and Dominic on the side for the moment, Juliette does change spots by the end of the episode. She asks her Mom and the drug counselor to join her on tour. She pays the hospital bills for the kids hurt at the show. Don’t bet on Juliette remaining a good girl for very long.

Deacon takes some advice from Coleman and asks the pretty lady vet out on a proper date. He also saves Gunnar from probably being stomped, beaten, and kicked all the way back to Texas by some bikers who are meaner, bigger, and far scarier that Gunnar no matter how much bravado he thinks he has.

Of course the episodes closes with Gunnar and Scarlett now having makeup sex. What goes around comes around. So what are the plusses for this show – the lady vet played by Susan Misner, Anything else – um no, I can’t think of a thing. The bad? No sign of Hayley this week. Dominic wears a shirt that is black and white plaid on the back, and sold black on the front. Deacon names his male puppy Sue.  We don’t want or need Rayna on Katie Couric’s show.

What to watch for next? Rayna’s label offering a contract to Scarlett but not to Gunnar so this will certainly cause another rift. Bank on it. Lamar’s wrath. Juliette heading back to being a bitch again, and maybe more with her Mom’s Addiction Counselor. And many more false starts between Rayna and Deacon. And the girls may go back on tour soon. They’d better as the show needs them singing together, badly.

Hopefully we get more of The Wrong Song and similar very soon

Hopefully we get more of The Wrong Song and similar very soon

And one more fervent wish. Hey ABC! Do you understand the word momentum. If you do, then kindly don’t kill the show’s momentum again. Readers, viewers – thanks for stopping by and as I said up top – pick your poison.


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