The beauty of this week’s SMASH was in its simplicity. In one hour of television, the central organizing principle of the show’s fictitious “Marilyn: the Musical” was clearly explained through each character.
“The Cost of Art” demonstrated that a successful stage production requires shared sacrifice from every participant. No matter whether those concessions are personal, professional, or emotional, the show may only go on if the cast and crew are willing to put themselves below the franchise.
Please tell me they were kidding.
After two weeks of promising television, building legitimate buzz among mainstream audiences, THIS is the direction that SMASH had to go?
“Enter Mr. DiMaggio” was the weakest of SMASH’s first three episodes, and could not have come at a worse time for NBC to maintain momentum behind the show. After an impressive debut, SMASH lost over twenty-five percent of its audience in week two. To hold those viewers, and justify the program’s large production budget, NBC has very little room for error.
Sadly, “Enter Mr. DiMaggio” was a comedy of errors.
NBC exhausted its promotional creativity in order to maximize the reach of last week’s SMASH premiere, and those efforts were rewarded. To build on a debut audience of over 11.4 million viewers, the SMASH pilot was replayed on NBC Universal’s vast cable lineup on Saturday night. If any converted Gleeks or nostalgic theatre nerds have not sampled this program yet, it is impossible to blame the NBC marketing machine.
Some critics, like Dan Fienberg from Hitfix, noted that the Peacock Network had put similar resources behind THE EVENT, a high concept show that suffered a precipitous ratings plunge following a promising start. Fortunately, SMASH is built to be more accessible to the 18-49 demographic, since it does not rely on cast members from NBC’s 10pm hits of the past (Blair Underwood & Laura Innes are not huge hits on college campuses).
This week’s SMASH reigned in the ambitious storytelling, centering in on the theme of shattered dreams. When our backs are against the wall, and our destiny appears right in front of our noses, how deep will we sink if those dreams vanish in an instant? Can we pick ourselves up and persevere? Is there an expiration date on our ambitions?
Fortunately, the tighter storytelling and consistent tone opened a window into the characters of Karen, Ivy, and Julia. As a result, Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty, and Debra Messing asserted themselves as the MVPs of an all-star cast.
When Robert Greenblatt took over as NBC Entertainment Chairman in early 2011, he inherited a tragic kingdom of shrinking viewership and devalued brands. Unable to demonstrate patience in building new programs from the ground up, a luxury of his previous post at Showtime, Greenblatt invested in projects with marquee value and high profile names attached. You may remember them better as THE PLAYBOY CLUB, PRIME SUSPECT, and THE FIRM.
To his credit, NBC’s new prime time leader swings for the fences. Greenblatt brought more than a resume with him from pay cable. He arrived to the Peacock Network with a passion project, a backstage look at Broadway, simply titled SMASH.
If this week’s premiere is any indication, SMASH is NBC’s most aspirational new program since FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, with all the ingredients necessary to attract a large mainstream audience. Armed with an exceptional cast, a unique take on the competitive world of Broadway, and a rich menu of storylines to follow, SMASH must become NBC’s signature hour of television.
As millions around the world mourn the loss of Steve Jobs, countless tributes will be written about his efforts to give life to the personal computer at Apple, to reinvent the world of animation through Pixar, and to transform the music industry forever with iTunes.
What you may not know about Steve Jobs, along with his brilliant colleagues at Apple, is that he paved the way for sites like GIVE ME MY REMOTE to succeed. It all began with the introduction of the first Video iPod, released in October 2005, and a pair of flirtatious kids working at a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Since the news broke about Lisa Edelstein’s departure from HOUSE, the stakes of this week’s season finale grew by leaps and bounds. Was the creative team prepared to begin Season 8 with a clean slate, putting Dr. Lisa Cuddy in their rear view mirror? Was the news leaked to prepare viewers for a definitive end for Cuddy’s time at Princeton Plainsboro? What would the consequences be for Gregory House without his former flame and verbal sparring partner?
“Moving On” provided a mixed bag of answers to those questions. In the midst of unraveling a patient puzzle centered around an extraordinary mind cluttered by love, House sought closure in a shocking way. Spoilers follow, so read on at your own risk…
Michael Scott is the rarest of television characters. Created as a proxy for David Brent’s irreverent boss on the UK version of THE OFFICE, the role of Dunder Mifflin’s main man in Scranton, Pennsylvania was doomed to fail on paper. Skeptics howled at NBC’s decision to import Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant’s work stateside, and wondered aloud if the show would suffer the same quick death that had befallen the Peacock Network’s 2003 British import, a horrific FRIENDS copycat called COUPLING.
Thankfully, someone forget to tell Steve Carell that playing Michael Scott was a dead end career move. Instead, the comedic pride of Concord, Massachusetts went to work forging an iconic prime time presence. With an outstanding team of writers and performers surrounding him, Carell put the franchise on his back and gave us six years of memorable moments.
While a simple Google search will provide hundreds of places to find Steve Carell’s funniest moments or favorite catchphrases, I want to spend a few minutes looking back at an episode that helped turn Michael Scott from a hapless boss into a hopeful man.
In September of 2009, I suggested that Hugh Laurie be nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the Season 6 premiere, “Broken.” For two hours, the star of HOUSE put on a display of acting prowess that would fill any theater on Broadway.
Amber Tamblyn’s name may never appear on a marquee in Times Square, but her final episode as Martha M. Masters was a case study in how to present a morality play. By focusing on her character’s core values, the tension between ambition and principle, and the importance of being “extraordinary,” Ms. Tamblyn made her case as the Most Valuable Player of Season 7.
Even the most unsatisfying meal can be salvaged with one standout course. A well-seasoned steak or scrumptious dessert is a chef’s secret weapon against the lingering aftertaste of an unsalted soup or the vegetable medley from hell. It would be nice to enjoy every morsel of food that touches our lips, but most of us err on the side of happy taste buds.
This week’s HOUSE, featuring Olivia Wilde’s return as Thirteen, stands out from its overcooked and flavorless companions in Season 7. In an hour filled with genuine mystery, superb writing, and overdue character development, Ms. Wilde reminded me why so many viewers make reservations each Monday night on FOX.
The cold open was more than enough to cleanse the pallet, with House delivering a “Get Out of Jail” martini. Thirteen was hardly shocked to see her welcome wagon. Though the two characters did not exchange words, a closer look revealed the thought bubble that was floating above both their heads…
“What have you been up to?”
House has experienced a number of upside downs in this fictional year, but Thirteen’s journey trumped his relationship dramas and addiction relapse. Answering House’s version of the question posed above, Thirteen’s reply did more than simply silence her loquacious boss. In four words, Remy Hadley also served up the season’s most engaging mystery:
“I killed a man.”
Olivia Wilde makes her long-awaited return to HOUSE this Monday, April 11th, under very unusual circumstances. After leaving Princeton Plainsboro so suddenly, many fans speculated that Dr. Remy Hadley, better known as Thirteen, had disappeared to seek experimental treatment for Huntington’s Disease. Other longtime viewers expected Thirteen to reappear with a baby bump.
Judging by this preview clip for “The Dig,” at least one of those possibilities can be ruled out:
I was lucky enough to see “The Dig” before it airs, so there are plenty more clues about what to expect if you keep reading…
My viewing companions for this week’s HOUSE were three slices of mushroom pizza, delivered from a local trattoria that has never served me wrong. As the hour progressed, I was tempted to call back for a list of ingredients, in order to be certain that the toppings I consumed were not intended to help me hallucinate. Dream sequences cut from vintage television and film? A full-scale dance number choreographed by Mia Michaels from SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE? A closing sequence that rendered two years of storylines moot? Had it not been for the opening credits, I would have guessed that Charlie Sheen directed this episode.
Co-writer Sara Hess, who crafted this script with Liz Friedman for Greg Yaitanes to direct, warned fans via Twitter that their story would fall squarely into love or hate territory for the audience.
There is no denying the ambitious effort that the creative team made to make “Bombshells” one of HOUSE’s most memorable episodes. Their hard work backfired, however, as this hour gave millions of viewers permission to turn away from their televisions for the rest of Season 7.
I am completely stumped to explain my reaction to this week’s HOUSE. On one hand, there were no significant plot developments or dramatic twists. On the other hand, I can make the argument that it was the most entertaining episode of Season 7. Confused? So am I…
The brilliance of this hour, crafted by director Greg Yaitanes and writer Thomas L. Moran, was its simplicity. Hugh Laurie’s work is always stellar, but “Two Stories” was a unique opportunity for Laurie to step away from the halls of Princeton Plainsboro and play off of a new set of scene partners. With a school full of aggrevated adults and curious children to interact with, House was a career day tour de force.
The opening moments of this week’s HOUSE crystallized the dangers of having too much information at your disposal. As a kid, it was fun to memorize the state capitals or who the 22nd President of the United States was. Those memory games were silly excuses to feel smart, not a lifelong burden. It is daunting to imagine the weight of carrying your legacy in the back pocket of your brain. Thankfully, most of us are spared that responsibility by old age, lost brain cells, and old-fashioned forgetfulness.
Only a handful of Americans live each day with “superior autobiographical memory,” including actress Marilu Henner, but the recent 60 Minutes piece describing their powers of recall was impactful. Though House’s patient of the week, Nadia, was ultimately diagnosed with a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, her inability to remain blissfully ignorant caused Princeton Plainsboro’s finest to examine their own capabilities to forgive and forget.
(It was Grover Cleveland, by the way…)
Sibling rivalries erupt over a litany of factors beyond our control. Basketball tryouts change brothers into playground rivals. The affection of a mutual crush melts the bonds of sisterhood. Professional successes that should be celebrated become bragging rights in the 3-D version of the game of life.
Lisa Cuddy’s struggle to find common ground with her mother, featured on this week’s HOUSE, is a byproduct of the most challenging type of sibling competition. Who among a generation of offspring is treated as the chosen one, the golden child? It is a game that follows no rules, and the victor’s reward is the scorn of their loved ones.
This week’s HOUSE dealt with tough love, a concept that is irrevocably linked with my new day-to-day responsibilities as a teacher. Students are not homogeneous, and the demands of educating the masses can often leave a chosen few behind. Kids who fear the judgment of their peers, struggle to reach out for help, and shudder at the thought of appearing interested in their grades.
The best teachers use methods as diverse as the faces who they lecture to or work alongside. Whether they run a diagnostics department or a boot camp for troubled teens, mentors take whatever steps are necessary to get their message across.