TV: ‘Smash’ tries to turn ‘Hit List’ into ‘Rent’

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl
Smash airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. (another time change) on NBC
Rating: 4/5

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Tonight, I was truly torn as to whether or not I loved Smash or whether I hated for it for what it was trying to do. Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be an emotional ride.

Jimmy sings “High and Dry” as he watches himself meander through Adam’s nasty apartment — trying a little too hard, tone it down — go to Kyle’s (Andy Mientus) apartment and eventually end up at Karen’s (Katharine McPhee). Of course, his vocals are top-notch, but I was amazed that I did not hate this montage — and that’s saying a lot.

He goes to Karen’s window, asking her what he should do so he can be the man she loved. Then, he sees Derek (Jack Davenport), who stayed the night, and storms off.

Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and Agnes (Daphne Rubin-Vega) are feeling fairly confident that Bombshell has good odds for the Tony’s. Ivy (Megan Hilty) should be up for Best Actress in a Musical while also being nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Liaisons, putting her up against Leigh (Bernadette Peters) who should get a nomination for Bombshell.

While Derek and Karen walk to the theater, they meet Tom outside who tells them he got a call from the police after he had tried to call Kyle earlier. Kyle DIED. Yes, that’s right. They killed off Kyle. I told myself that there was no way he would actually die from the car accident; yet, I was incredibly wrong. I honestly played that scene a few times to make sure that I heard Tom correctly.

tumblr_lydzez0CEw1r59pf3And so begins where I was torn throughout the entire episode… the writers’ comparison of the Hit List misfortune to the tragedy that occurred around Rent’s opening, when its creator, Jonathan Larson, died before he got to see the show open on Broadway. I think the show handled Kyle’s death very well, writing and even acting wise. However, I am not so sure I liked how much they paralleled the events. I almost feel as if it trivialized what happened with Rent, yet I still think it did a good job. I’m honestly torn.

But it also makes me call in question whether or not the show brought in Jesse L. Martin and Rubin-Vega to make an even bigger impact and connection. For those of you who somehow don’t know all about the history of Rent, Martin and Rubin-Vega were two original cast members who had to suffer through losing Larson before the show opened. I remember in the beginning of the season, they compared Hit List to Rent but I never assumed they would go this far.

Throughout the episode, characters remember certain moments they had with Kyle. Tom remembers a night he serenaded Kyle with Billy Joel’s “Vienna;” Julia (Debra Messing) remembers storyboarding with him; and Karen remembers him sticking up for Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) the night Bombshell opened.

GWhi7w6TandKThe flashbacks got me, especially Tom’s moment, and I never ever liked the idea of those two being together. I was not a fan of the overt flirty banter, but it was such a sweet moment. The storyboarding moment evoked a different emotion: frustration. Everyone talks about Kyle’s talent in this episode, and that’s very true, but we never really got to see it that much. I remember Karen’s friends telling Kyle the story was weak and the songs were the only good thing. I remember Kyle being second to Scott (Jesse L. Martin) and Julia’s connection when they were all storyboarding.

They should not have waited to jam pack what Kyle meant to everyone into one episode. A little development over time would not have done any harm.

Scott is really adamant about not cancelling the show, saying they should honor Kyle’s work. However, Derek and everyone else feel they should cancel.

When Jimmy comes to get his things from back stage, he finally learns what happens. Oh, my poor baby! I cannot even imagine how he must have felt. My heart broke so many times this episode.

Tom wanted to dissolve his and Julia’s partnership so that she can op to do all the projects on her own without him having any stake in it, including Gatsby. Awh, he wasn’t a monster after all!! I knew it.

Despite being canceled, people are still lining up to see Hit List. Everyone decides to honor Kyle by just doing a staged reading of the show — another similarity to Rent. When Larson died, they decided to not cancel but instead have the cast do a staged reading. Stop it! My heart cannot take this.

Bernadette Peters performs a thirty-second clip of “At Your Feet.” I think it should have been shown on Bombshell’s opening night episode, but it tied in a suggestion Kyle had given Tom earlier, so I guess it fit.

Karen finds Jimmy in what he called his and Kyle’s spot that overlooks the city. He blames himself for Kyle’s death — something I understand but is too cliché and unneeded. Then, she makes it about herself!! GET OUT!!! No one needs you right now. Stop being so selfish. He is not upset because of you and Derek, which apparently didn’t even happen, his best friend just died. Before she leaves, Karen tells him she loves him. Oh good. Totally rooting for you two, not.

Scott never actually canceled the show, and Julia is not OK with that. She says he is exploiting Kyle’s death so he can save his career. And she’s right. He is, but he is also helping everyone get through this difficult time. Cancelling the show won’t make anyone feel better about losing Kyle. Nevertheless, she said Hit List is “all he has left,” implying she will not be doing Gatsby with him.

And now comes Jimmy’s flashback. He and Kyle discuss the second act and how to use a new song, “The Love I Meant to Say.” In the flashback, Kyle mentions how Jesse will finally learn something after Amanda’s death, paralleling Jimmy and Kyle’s relationship. All of these references and connections are just too much.

tumblr_mmb19zfIFi1qdzk15o5_250Jimmy joins the cast right as they get to where “The Love I Meant to Say” will be performed. Instead of continuing the staged reading, he wants to perform the song, just like what happened with Rent! This song was so beautiful. Rarely do I pick out song lyrics, but I can’t help but to give a special mention of the last lines: “Sorry, that’s the word I want to sing to you/ The other word is stay.” I’m fine; these are tears of joy. But in all seriousness, that song was so incredibly beautiful and fit the context of both shows — Smash and Hit List — so well. Not to mention that Jimmy finally showed some emotion as his eyes filled with tears toward the end. I’m going to go cry in a corner now. As you can see, Karen remains unchanged.

Derek pleads Ivy to not leave him because of Karen, but she brings up a good point: there will always be a “Karen” with him. Well, that storyline is finally put to rest. Thank goodness.

Jerry (Michael Cristofer) has committed to Hit List after seeing the staged reading. Looks like Bombshell will have competition at the Tony’s after all. I cannot wait for that showdown!!!

The theater housing Bombshell dims its lights to honor Kyle, a tradition typically only done for Broadway veterans.

Though it could not avoid the clichés, I think this is one of the best episodes Smash has had in a while.

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