I was watching Smash a few weeks ago when it made its season 2 entrance into the world and though the rating are falling like a meteor from the heavens I thought the shift in tone was interesting. The exit of some characters and the shift in focus from the personal drama to the drama of building a musical or in this case musicals seems like its grounds the show while also opening it up. As it was last year Smash was not a sustainable story because the focus on one musical would be a limiting factor that would tie their hands.
So they blew the doors wide open by bring in more shows at various stages of development. The two new characters introduced at the tail end of the first episode are Jimmy a musician/composer/junkie and his friend Kyle who of course are writing a musical.
Jimmy is the temperamental artist who is basically an ass while his friend who is gay has some unresolved feelings towards Jimmy even though he’s a prick. Jimmy’s the realist and Kyle is the idealist, the dreamer. It feels like Kyle wants the show biz life while Jimmy is always bracing for disappointment.
The musical they are writing is a reflection on Jimmy and his issues that gets titled The Hit List. What didn’t work for me was that these 2 guys have known each other their entire lives and that Jimmy has these unresolved feelings towards Jimmy.
These two are all but brothers in everything but name. So these unresolved feelings come off as being a way to layer in tension in the friendship as Karen is added into the mix and Jimmy becomes her next suitor. This create a division between the three of them, that will pay off in a future episode and for me it doesn’t feel like it flows naturally from what we’ve been shown.
I guess it feels forced for me because it can’t work, the door isn’t a door its a steel wall the second Kyle opened his mouth after Karen asks if they were together and the implication is given to the audience. Its hard to understand why Jimmy is such a prick because the audience has no context, since so far he has just been a temperamental prick.
When he comes out from under his bender after his trigger was pulled and Karen finds him, this Jimmy is striped of his defenses and feels human. It takes work to be a prick all the time, that in itself is exhausting and in that scene he reveals what’s behind the veil, it just felt somewhat forced.
It’s hard to make a character who is constantly behaving badly to be redeemable. I think of “On the Road” where Garrett Hedlund played Dean Moriarty and while his actions were horrible he was played as someone you should hate but I didn’t. That’s a tricky balance but one that I wish they would have taken with Jimmy. I feel if they picked a few moments where he let down his guard. maybe when no one else could see then that would help to show that there was something more and without being so direct about it like the drugs can come off feeling.
I really respect the direction they took with season 2 even if a lot of it was clean up. I also understand why it didn’t all work. A lot of their characters come across with little apparent depth or they keep on switching from poles of extremes which make it hard to know which version is going to show up at any specific time.
OK I’m done with this and have a good weekend everyone.