The Smash pilot was overseen by Steven Spielberg; cost an astounding $7.5 million; starred an Emmy winner (Debra Messing), an Oscar winner (Anjelica Huston), Broadway stars (Christian Borle and Megan Hilty), and a golden-throated American Idol standout (Katherine McPhee); and featured original songs by the celebrated team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray). Touted as a Glee for grown-ups, that premiere episode was sleek, engaging, and boasted all the razzle-dazzle you’d expect from a drama series about the making of a hot new Broadway musical. Quickly, however, the bouquets of roses critics tossed at the series were replaced with rotten tomatoes.
Those engrossing characters—Messing’s playwright, Hilty’s veteran chorus girl, McPhee’s ingénue—quickly became schizophrenic caricatures, acting in jarringly nonsensical ways. Unsympathetic and unappealing fringe characters—such as Jaime Cepero’s scheming assistant Ellis and Emory Cohen’s sad-sack teenager Leo—were given more prominence. The tone veered wildly between camp, melodrama, realism, and messy amalgamations of the three. The show’s initial promise failed so monumentally to deliver that the term “hate-watching” surged in popularity to describe why viewers watched the show: to witness a train wreck.
Smash returns for its second season Tuesday with a slew of changes: a new showrunner (Gossip Girl’s Josh Safran), a cast shuffle (out: Leo, Ellis, doormat boyfriend Dev; in: a hottie new songwriter and a spunky new roommate played by Broadway’s Jeremy Jordan and Krysta Rodriguez), and “We Hear You!” promises of better things to come. While judgment on that should be reserved until after the two-hour season premiere airs Tuesday night, here’s a look back at those ridiculous moments from Season 1 that Smash will have to live down.
That Bollywood Number
There was an arc in Smash in which Uma Thurman played a major movie star brought in to assume the role of Marilyn Monroe in the original bio-musical Bombshell—even though she has the singing and dancing skills of a wayward goat. Thurman’s character befriends impressionable understudy Karen, and accompanies her to dinner with Karen’s boyfriend, Dev. Dev is Indian, so they (obviously) go to an Indian restaurant. When everyone starts fighting at dinner, Karen starts daydreaming a Bollywood production number featuring every cast member on the show… because they’re in an Indian restaurant? Because Dev is Indian? Because… OK, it made no sense at all.
Poisoned by a Smoothie
Because this show was about Ivy and Karen’s competition for the role of Marilyn Monroe—and because we knew Uma Thurman had only signed on for a guest arc—it was obvious that Thurman’s character would not actually be playing Marilyn by the end of the season. What was not obvious, however, is that Smash’s writers were going to have her abdicate the role by poisoning her with a smoothie spiked with peanuts—she’s allergic!—by the dastardly Ellis.
Ivy loses her voice and starts taking prednisone, which she’s warned can cause “mood swings, hair growth, hallucinations, and weight gain”—all of which translates to “get ready for a ridiculous hallucination scene, viewers!” Later in the episode, Smash delivers, as Ivy sings to herself—literally, to her reflection in the mirror—in her bedroom, concluding that her voice might be back. She then hallucinates nemesis Karen (dressed as Marilyn) in the mirror saying, “I wouldn’t be so sure of anything.” Ivy screams, “What the hell was that?!” Exactly.
Ivy’s On-Stage Meltdown
Ivy’s prescription-pill cocktail has one too many ingredients, causing the chorus girl to go on stage for a big production number high and out of her mind. She giggles instead of singing, forgets dance moves, and at one point just starts skipping around the stage like one of those jolly dancing hippos from Fantasia. She ends up falling over, ruins the show, and is kicked out of the theater.
Singing in Times Square
Disgraced from her on-stage meltdown, Ivy storms out of theater and into the streets of Times Square … still wearing her six-foot-tall angel wings and sparkly halo, and walking among the tourists as if that’s not odd at all. Then, as people do, she and Karen, who is ever-so-briefly not Ivy’s nemesis for just this one scene, start singing Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That)” together while a crowd gathers and dances along. The lady in the angel costume and the Iowan ingénue starting a Times Square dance party, just like real life.
The Woefully Unsexy Sex Scene
Messing’s married playwright Julia leaves her house in the middle of the night to have an affair, and she’s wearing what appears to be size XXL white button-up pajamas. (Not only is that what she wears to a midnight hookup, it is what she wears to walk the streets of New York City at night.)
I’m in Tech
Take a shot every time a character wails “I’M IN TECH!!!” as an excuse to be unable to do something during the “Tech” episode of Smash and … well, don’t do that because you’ll get violently ill from alcohol poisoning. The ridiculousness of the oft-repeated phrase hit its peak when Karen is proposed to by boyfriend Dev, and she tells him she can’t possibly even think of marriage because, yep, “I’m in tech!,” and runs off.