Like Ivy (Megan Hilty), my dreams have been smashed. I’ve held fast through the emotional monsoons and the musical droughts of Smash this year, but the final harvest brought forth in the season finale episode, “Bombshell,” written by outgoing show runner Theresa Rebeck, left me feeling overstuffed and undernourished – too much dressing and not enough meat.
However appetizing it is to see Bernadette Peters, her cameo – like those of Michael Cristofer and Nick Jonas – delivered dramatically empty calories. Did Rebeck feel that everyone who appeared in the season needed to appear in the finale? Michael Riedel, whose filmed scene was cut, merely had a phone “appearance,” so why couldn’t Peters? Well, she did, in fact, at the top of the episode.
In one of the many gimmicks to create suspense, Ivy and Karen (Katherine McPhee) simultaneously hear their phones ring at the exact moment that we’re expecting the new Marilyn to be called. However, it’s a false alarm. It’s only Ivy’s mom Leigh (Peters) and Karen’s fiancé Dev (Raza Jaffrey). Of course, the opening sequence established that we were in for an hour-long tease.
Musically, we also got empty calories, an evening of slim crudités in lieu of a satisfying entrée. The meager morsels included a mega medley platter of greatest hits from Bombshell, which delivered only one fully realized number: a reprise of “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Like to Howl,” for which Karen miraculously learned the athletic choreography in about an hour!
We did hear one new original song, at the very end of the episode. Unfortunately, its lyrics left me feeling queasy. After her deathbed scene, Marilyn Monroe appears in a sequined dress to sing “Don’t Forget Me,” whose chorus includes the lines “When you sing happy birthday to someone you love or see diamonds you wish were all free … I pray that you don’t forget me.” Of course, I will give Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman the benefit of the doubt, since Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christina Borle) supposedly only finished the song about five minutes before Karen went onstage to sing it … which happens all the time on Broadway, right?
Other stomach-churning moments included producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) caving in – repeatedly – to director Derek (Jack Davenport) and Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) storming out – again – on Julia, not to mention the raw plot points of Julia throwing up and Ivy popping downers – how many Marilyn parallels can you squeeze into one show?
Eileen did show some spine and thankfully fired Ellis (Jaime Cepero), one of the most annoying characters ever created for TV. As Joshua Safran, who replaced Rebeck, prunes and feeds the show, I hope he will include more backstage and less offstage offerings, trimming Ellis and perhaps Dev, Frank, and Leo (Emory Cohen), while developing Ivy, Sam (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Linda (Ann Harada).