I always thought that Start Me Up, a great song by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones was about expectations:
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
I’ve been running hot
You got me ticking gonna blow my top
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
When the NBC series Smash, and the ABC series Nashville each started, we all had such great expectations and high hopes. Now as I watch each of these shows – another musical reference comes to mind.
In Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, 2001, Dave Bowman, now at odds with the HAL Computer, begins to ‘murder’ the computer by pulling out the computer’s memory rods. From HAL’s perspective, it is the equivalent being lobotomized. The computer is both literally and figuratively losing its mind, and repeatedly begs Dave to stop:
HAL: Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop Dave? Stop, Dave.
Soon there’s nothing left in HAL’s memory except the song Daisy, Daisy which was one of the first set of instructions (to sing the song) that HAL was programmed to do. As we listened, we watched a killing. HAL was being decommissioned, deactivated, and deprogrammed all at the same time.
Now I am not saying that the writers and producers of Smash and Nashville have lost their minds, but it is easy to see that they’ve lost their way. The 9th Episode of the 2nd season of Smash, called The Parents, which aired on Tuesday, April 2nd, marked the last time we wpuld see Smash on a Tuesday night because the ratings for Smash had fallen into such a steep decline, that NBC chose to move the show to Saturday nights also known as TV’s graveyard. Episode 10, which aired on Saturday April 6th was called The Surprise Party.
There were so many eye-roll moments in these two episodes that I’ll spare you most of the details. The following ‘short list’ is indisputable evidence of why I think that Smash has lost its way.
1) Jimmy has to sneak out of the window lest Karen’s Dad, making an unannounced pop-in visit at 7:00 in the morning, see him there in Karen’s apartment. Guys have been sneaking out on fire-escapes ever since there were fire-escapes attached to buildings. And girls have ben hiding their lovers from their fathers. How original and creative! But why does Karen need to hide Jimmy from her father? This was so lame.
2) Last week we learned that Jimmy and Karen didn’t want all the bells and whistles for Hit List that Derek wanted. So Derek took their advice. So how is it that Ana’s song, Reach for Me was staged with all the flair , panache, and new age style of production that we might have thought we were watching a Cirque du Soleil performance.
3) Ivy’s Mom Leigh Conroy is back. You’d have thought that Ivy’s friend Tom, now directing Bombshell would have told her before hand. But no, he couldn’t. So poof – Ivy says their friendship is over. We aren’t friends any more – I just work for you. 3b) Then in The Surprise Party,
they are back on the same page, despite the contretemps over the conflicting surprise parties, and the element of Liza Minelli’s appearance at the party becoming a PR thing because Eileen leaked the party via Agnes to the press. No problem. Friends again! Sigh!
4) Last week Scott Nichols was distinctly cold to Julia because of what had happened 15 years ago. This week he offers her an opportunity to be a dramaturg for Hit List, and from the twinkle in his eyes, he wants more than that from her. 4b) Which became obvious in the next episode because Julia is intrigued.
4c) So they go for drinks (Julia’s idea). Will we find them beneath the same Egyptian cotton sheets next week – seems likely, don’t ya think?
5) Jimmy’s past emerges from the mists of time. By the time the episode is over we’ve learned that Jimmy stole money from a drug dealer and the guy wants his 8K back, that Jimmy is still a thief, and that Jimmy still can’t say no to drugs.
6) Derek learns, thanks to Karen’s good old Dad, that Karen and Jimmy are an item. I guess that means that Karen will have to learn that Derek had told Jimmy to steer clear of Karen. 6b) Which she does. And after confronting Jimmy about why he didn’t want to go public, they do go public. With predictable results.
7) Speaking of Derek, who happened upon Jimmy trying to steal some valuables out of the Hit List patrons’ coats, and rather than let that happen, he offers to bail Jimmy out by lending him the 8K. That was surprising. 7b) What was not surprising is that once Jimmy and Karen go public, Derek goes into a snit, and begins to treat them badly, as a director, and his jealousy is so obvious. 7c) So what does Derek do? Right – he makes a bee-line for Ivy. Ho hum.
8) When Jimmy pays off the dealer, and tells him that he never wants to see him again – the dealer promises to never return – yeah right! Then Jimmy takes the small packet of Bolivian Marching Powder offered by the same dealer. 8b) Which of course – Karen finds in his jacket pocket – AFTER – they smooth things over about Derek.
9) Karen murders the Broadway Here I Come song. This was a song that was perfect for Jimmy, so why have Karen reprise the song, and so badly to boot? 9b) So Karen does well in the next episode with the song, Original by Pasek & Paul, which while not a show-stopper at least had energy and imaginative staging.
10) Was it me, or did you think the song Hang The Moon which was a duet between Ivy and Leigh Conroy dragged on forever?
10b) Was it me or did you think that Ms Minelli’s song A Love Letter from the Times was able to reach into the heart of Ivy, but for the rest of us, it was “Really?”
I could go on – but a top 10 is enough of List.
Over at Nashville, things were just as bad if not worse. Here’s another Top 10 list of lowlights
1) The 16th episode, called I Saw the Light, ends with Juliette sleeping with her Mom’s addiction counselor, Dante. This has disaster written all over it.
1b) Before the 17th episode called My Heart Would Know is over, everyone on the tour knew what was going on. Dante is fired as Jolene’s addiction counselor by Juliette, who then hires him as her manager. Jolene is sent packing back to Nashville.
2) The Juliette Barnes/Rayna James concert hits the Big Apple, New York. Instead of letting us hear Juliette’s new single, what do we get?
A duet by Mandy and Daphne – Rayna’s daughters. Bet you were all waiting for that. Yeah, right. 2b) Then Rayna has to head back to Nashville for a family emergency in 17 – an episode in which she doesn’t sing a note.
3) Rayna tells Deacon that she really likes Deacon’s new gf – the pretty vet Stacey. A sure sign that Stacey will be history shortly. 3b) Stacey does head back to Nashville, and Deacon gives her to the key to his house. 3c) Then Rayna calls Deacon about Lamar – so now Deacon is back in Nashville too.
4) Avery has to sing and strum his guitar on the street for loose change. He’s out of money. Dominic is furious at him, Marilyn has told the Nashville bars that if they want to do business with her, then they can’t hire Avery. And now Hayley said her firm wants their advance money back. Avery sang about that Twist of Barbwire earlier in the series, and right now, that’s where he is – all tied up in some difficult situation. Good luck as a roadie.
4b) Of course Avery ends up as a roadie for Juliette. He sees something he shouldn’t have seen, so Dante fires him. And then Deacon, as the band manager, reinstates him. Poor Avery – little did he know he’d become a ping-pong ball.
5) Scarlett takes in a new boarder, Will – a struggling country singer from Abilene. How long before he takes a run at Scarlett? 5b) In Episode 17, we discover that Will is a real ladies man, a taker of chances, and likely a loose cannon. 5c) Will did get Gunnar back on track – which means he’s singing and writing again – which means Helloooo Hayley!
6) Juliette goes all corporate and lands a gig with a cell phone company flogging their new phone. For Juliette it is big-bucks. But at what cost? Juliette has to blow off a therapy session with her Mother, to go see the cell phone people. Her mother is not pleased. Wait until Juliette’s Mom finds out that her daughter and Dante, are now an item. 6b) Jolene finds out rather easily, then makes a calculated run at Dante, just in time for Juliette to see it. The show is like a manic cook sprinkling lighter fluid on the charcoals – combustible and sure to burst in to flames as often as possible.
7) Peggy is back – and guess where she is – right ! She’s not wearing anything under her coat and that gets Teddy’s attention – right there in Rayna’s house.
7b) As 17 ends, Teddy finds out that Peggy was the source who leaked the story about Rayna to the tabloids. What can we expect from this? Yeah right, Peggy’s exit.
8) Deacon tells Stacey that he’s considering leaving the tour. Is he really interested in quitting his job with Juliette or is this a ploy to get Rayna’s attention. Despite what he says, this surely isn’t for Stacey.
9) Remember that Lamar didn’t get his land sold to the city of Nashville because Mayor Teddy wanted to go in a different direction for the stadium project. And I said to watch for his payback? So – a) Lamar makes a run at Coleman Carlisle who ain’t playing (yet), and
b) Lamar threatens Peggy and requests that she turn up the heat on Teddy to reconsider the stadium deal.
10) Look like Lamar’s payback (above) isn’t all that scary. So how do the Nashville writers handle that? Right – they give Lamar either a heart attack or a stroke, and they give us a mini-cliff hanger for the next episode. 10b) And not 30 minutes into Episode 17, just when it looks like Lamar is on the road to recovery, and is his old self, or as Rayna described it, full of piss and vinegar – he gets a rude shock at the hospital. Watty White shows up, and Lamar goes bonkers. How do the writers handle this – yup – Lamar has another heart attack and this time it’s real bad. Surgery is required. 10c) What sent Lamar off? Right, We got the clue last week when we heard a seemingly innocuous remark by Tandy to Rayna. Tandy reminded Rayna that their Mom had an affair with a musician.
Yup – it was Watty White. No wonder Lamar has resented Rayna being a musician all these years.
So yes, both Smash and Nashville have lost their way. Silly or predictable story lines, soap opera-ish themes, a bit of The Wrong Song(s) on both shows this week, characters that you like one this week, then you hate the same one next week, and then , these same characters are flipped once more and then again.
How many times has Juliette gone from being a bad girl to a good girl, then back to bad, only to return to good. I’ve lost track. And how many times have Rayna and Deacon been on then off? It is so dull, tiring and uninteresting.
Which brings me to another musical reference. These merry-go-rounds (Smash and Nashville) disguised as television series are no longer fun. The song I’m thinking of is from the musical Stop The World, I Want to Get Off written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly. The song? What Kind of Fool Am I?
What kind of clown am I?
What do I know of life?
Why can’t I cast away the mask of play
and live my life?
Adios Smash and See-ya Nashville. My blog is going on without you.