In what must be a first for American television, a dramaturg has been introduced as a recurring character in a primetime drama series. In real life, dramaturgs roughly perform the duties illustrated in the Feb. 19 episode of "Smash," when the impossibly handsome Daniel Sunjata (Broadway's Take Me Out) made his debut on the series as Peter Gilman, a metrosexual script doctor who has been hired to help shape the libretto of the musical Bombshell. Positioned as a critic of the work of book writer Julia (Debra Messing), he is also obviously going to be her love interest. You can tell because he's so awful to her. And she is so resistant to him. Peter's a "parasite," she says. But he's shepherded three shows to hit status, all without taking any credit, says composer Tom (Christian Borle).
This episode includes several convoluted and witless exchanges about the plots and characters of the several musicals that are emerging in NBC's low-rated backstage series. In the case of Peter and Julia, who are working on Bombshell, the Broadway-bound show about Marilyn Monroe, Peter accuses Julia of miswriting the Joe DiMaggio-Marilyn Monroe relationship "because you were in love with the actor who played him" in the out-of-town tryout. He says that she's incapable of writing about sex (or "heat," as he calls it) because "maybe you just never felt it yourself." He considers her work two-dimensional, but she proudly counters that her Marilyn represents the "struggle to find balance between career and family." (Yeesh, really?) Later, they argue ad nauseam about JFK and RFK's connection to Marilyn, and disagree about a new scene she wrote that has JFK as the predator, and Marilyn the prey. Peter also uses the word "ergo." In the soapy world of "Smash," this is verbal foreplay. "All About Eve" it is not.
If the abuse that's heaped upon Julia by this guy is meant to echo the way Marilyn was manipulated by men, it's a long and tedious stretch that makes Julia look not smart. When Julia ends up being inspired by Peter's challenges, he criticizes her rewrites. Debra Messing as a doormat is no fun. Where is Julia's agent when you need him? Paging CAA's George Lane!
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