THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 5, Or, The "C" Plot Thickens

By Kenneth Jones
06 Mar 2013

Katharine McPhee and Jeremy Jordan
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

In the series' "B" plot, the rock musical Hit List by Brooklyn hipsters Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) and Kyle (Andy Mientus) is going to be directed by Derek in the "Winter Fringe" — a place to "throw up a work-in-progress," says Derek — in two weeks' time, even though the show is not fully written yet. Variation on a theme!

Karen (Katharine McPhee) is hot for songwriter Jimmy so she gathers her show friends together for an informal living-room read of Act One (the only act Kyle has penned so far) at Jimmy's place. The reading (the libretto, anyway) bombs, with salty chorus boy Bobby (Wesley Taylor) sneering, "The concept's cool, but the dialogue and characters…!" (You said it, Bobby! Same goes for "Smash.") They all make an awkward exit, leaving Kyle shamed. (You assume Bobby no longer has a crush on Kyle. Rule No. 1 in showbiz: don't date the untalented!)

Collaborator Jimmy himself is shocked that the Hit List book is so bad (yet another composer who seems disconnected from a script that he's writing songs for!). Kyle's been "eating and sleeping [musicals] since he was a kid," Jimmy says, bewildered.

This episode sadly echoes an epidemic in American musical theatre: It's populated by people who are in love with musicals and the idea of writing musicals but have no apparent skills to write musicals. You can look to two Broadway flops from fall 2012 for examples of this.

Kyle laments, "I wish the whole show could be your songs, [Jimmy]…"

Eureka! Using sung-through rock musicals Rent and Next to Normal as inspiration, they decide to beef up Jimmy's score and retain elements of Kyle's scenario! "Smash" teaches us that musicals don't need scripts, just outlines!

In Jimmy's loft, Karen looks at Jimmy adoringly and covers the Death Cab for Cutie song, "Some Boys," in a fantasy sequence. (Jimmy is unaware — after all, he was with another woman the night before.) Karen is still interested; Jimmy is a good kisser when he's high (see last week's episode). Jimmy begins trusting Karen because she keeps her word. But Kyle has told Jimmy that Karen is the girlfriend of Derek (an assumption on Kyle's part). Jimmy and Karen decide to be friends and keep it all business.

Karen tells Kyle that writing musicals is hard and requires discipline. She should be pointing him to the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, a free training ground for librettists, composers and lyricists (attended by the songwriters of Next to Normal and Ragtime, no less!).