Smash.

May. 27th, 2012 01:21 pm
nenena: (Devi - Flaming Tara)
You know that a show is truly, truly terrible when Liz Lemon makes a completely non-ironic and earnest joke about it being terrible during the season finale of 30 Rock. Ladies and gentlemen, Smash is that show. And yes, it is every bit as terrible as everybody says it is.

But like Liz, I stubbornly stuck with watching the show all the way up to the bitter end, because despite how completely awful it was in so many regards there was also just enough in terms of nuggets of television gold buried beneath all of the poorly-written, melodramatic crap that I couldn't give up on the show completely. I just couldn't.

Of course, it helps that the show is a musical about a musical, which is always a fun concept in and of itself. It also helps that Smash stars some absolutely phenomenonal singers and actors, and that I am willing to sit through forty minutes of insufferable stupidity every week as long as it means that I get to hear Megan Hilty sing, or get to watch Leslie Odom Jr. dance, or get to listen to Jack Davenport sneering through his every line of dialogue, or get to watch Angelica Houston being amazing in her every scene because she's Angelica fucking Houston. Overall the cast of Smash is so talented that it's almost ridiculous. ALL of these actors and actresses deserve a better show than this, and they're all doing an incredible job with the crap dialogue and crap scenarios that they're given to work with. Ultimately it's the acting that saves this show even though the writing is doing its goddamn best to destroy it.

I think this is the first time I can ever honestly say that I enjoyed a show primarily for the actors and not for the characters. But enjoy the show I did, somewhat. Even though MY GOD were parts of it so stupid that I actually felt myself getting angry at the show for being so terrible. So I guess this is the big long post where I try to sort out and write down all of my feelings about Smash, since if I suffered through fifteen episodes of this crap I might was well have some thinky-thoughts about writing and characterization (as in: HOW NOT TO DO) to show for it.

But first, let's start with a few things that Smash did well.

1. Tom and Sam. Christian Borle and Leslie Odom Jr. are absofuckinglutely fantastic actors, they have amazing chemistry together, and their respective story arcs are great. I especially loved the whole drama with Sam's family being disapproving of his career as a dancer rather than disapproving of him being gay - which is realistic, relatable, and definitely stepping outside the usual stereotypes in terms of how Black and/or Christian characters are portrayed with their attitudes toward homosexuality. Smash is also LIGHT YEARS ahead of certain other shows that like to pat themselves on the back for being oh-so-progressive in terms of portraying gay relationships on screen and yet never show the gay couples kissing, touching, or engaging in any sort of sexually-charged banter or flirting whatsoever. Yes, Modern Family and Glee, I am most certainly talking about you two. Smash actually shows its gay couples engaging in physical flirting, sexual banter, kissing, touching, and even in bed together. You know, the same way that it portrays the heterosexual relationships on the show. Smash does much more to normalize the portrayals of gay relationships among its characters in 15 episodes than Modern Family has done in three full seasons. Now, to be fair, neither Tom nor Sam's portrayal is perfect. In fact, Sam spends most of the first half of the season having no characterization whatsoever other than a) liking sports - which he has to mention in his EVERY LINE OF DIALOGUE - and b) being Ivy's gay best friend who exists solely to be Ivy's gay best friend. But once Tom and Sam start dating and Sam starts to, you know, actually be portrayed as a character with complex personality traits, things get a lot better. A LOT better.

2. Eileen. Angelica Houston is an amazing actress, I loved the character's entire story arc, everything about Eileen is awesome, and if I actually can bring myself to watch the next season of Smash it will probably be solely to watch Eileen be fucking awesome in every scene again.

3. Ivy, with an asterisk. We'll get the asterisk behind the cut, but first: Yes, Megan Hilty is every bit as amazing of an actress as she as a singer. Yes, I loved (nearly) everything about Ivy as a character. I ended up rooting for her so much that it was kind of scary. I loved how she was flawed and imperfect, selfish and manipulative yet vulnerable and needy at the same time. I loved how hard she worked and how hard she fought for her dreams. I loved how good the show was at making me feel for Ivy and at making me want Ivy to win, despite the fact that Ivy was much less of a nice person than Karen was. I think that the show truly succeeded in making me feel like Ivy DESERVED that leading role, even if she was a flawed and imperfect person, and for that I can only tip my hat at the writers and say: Well done.

And now let's talk about what the show did horribly, horribly wrong.

Behind this cut are major spoilers for the entire first season. Well, 'spoilers' if you're the type of person who considers 'the Titanic sinks' and 'Romeo and Juliet die' to be spoilers. )
nenena: (Default)
So my sister recently loaned me the soundtrack for the Legally Blonde Broadway musical, and I liked it to much that I ended up watching the entire show (which was filmed and aired on MTV last year and easily available on Youtube, etc.) this morning.

And let me tell you guys, this musical. I have so many feelings about this musical.

Which definitely stem from the fact that I deeply love the movie, and probably like every other person who has seen the musical ever, I couldn't help making constant mental comparisons to the film as I was watching the musical. There were some pretty significant plot differences in the musical as compared to the film, and some of the changes that the musical made were... well...

Wait, let me back up. I want to talk about the film for just a second. I remember that when the Legally Blonde film hit theaters in 2001, I just sort of rolled my eyes at it, because all of the trailers and commercials that I had seen made the film look absolutely terrible and atrociously sexist as well. But then my mom, of all people - who is a lawyer herself - convinced me to give the movie a try, because according to her the film was not only truly funny but actually had a righteous feminist message as well. If the film was intended to be feminist at all, that was definitely not coming across in any of the marketing that I had seen. But I decided to swallow my skepticism and give the movie a try anyway.

And I'm glad that I did, because my mom was so right. The movie was both funny and genuinely smart in the way that it framed and called out all sorts of different sexisms, in both subtle and unsubtle ways. Of course it was a mainstream comedy film so of course it was neither perfect nor completely sexism-free (is anything really?), but overall, it was just a righteously awesome movie.

It is also, as of now, a righteously awesome Broadway musical.

But in the transition from film to musical, there were some pretty significant changes made to the story that I feel really undermine the feminist message of the film. For example... )