Friday, May 31, 2013

The Curtain Closes on SMASH

Article first published as The Curtain Closes on SMASH on TheTVKing.

NBC's Smash is canceled too early, after a mere pair of seasons, presenting the two hour series finale "The Nominations" and "The Tonys" this week. In these installments, the casts of Hit List and Bombshell find out what awards they are nominated for, and what they win. Relationships are repaired, and everyone finds their purpose. It's a neatly tied up ending, perhaps a little too neatly.

Conscious of their impending demise, Smash seeks to leave everyone in a good place. This begins with the Tony Awards themselves. The honors are split between the two Broadway shows at the center of this series, and practically every major player wins a trophy. Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) accepts a posthumous one for Kyle (Andy Mientus), Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) are honored for their writing, Derek (Jack Davenport) picks up a statue for choreography, Ivy (Megan Hilty) takes Best Actress, and Eileen (Anjelica Huston) is triumphant when Bombshell scores the big one.

Now, this means Karen (Katharine McPhee) loses for Best Actress, but at this point, that seems fine. She gets to be credited for the success of Hit List, and she seems happy enough, celebrating with everyone else. Besides, she ends up with Jimmy, who may serve some jail time for his past crimes, but is committed to her and a clean act, so she's doing just fine.

In fact, Karen and Jimmy aren't the only couple that find themselves in a happy place as the series concludes. Eileen reunites with a recently released Nick (Thorsten Kaye). Julia admits her long-held feelings for Michael Swift (Will Chase), ending her marriage once and for all with Frank (Brian d'Arcy James), whom she apparently no longer wants back (though what about Michael's family?). Derek finds humility and a conscience, without spoiling his character, allowing Ivy to see the good in him so that she can tell him about her pregnancy and they can be together. Tom even finds a spark with "straight" actor Patrick Dillon (Luke MacFarlane, Brothers & Sisters).

If all this sounds too good to be true, it's because it is. For a show that has thrived on excessive drama and the ups and downs of its stars, this is their dreams all come true, wrapped up in a tidy bow. No one stops in a bad place, with Derek even somewhat making up firing Ana (Krysta Rodriguez) to her. This is the best possible outcome for everyone.

Which is why it rings a little hollow. Don't get me wrong, I see what's going on, and I appreciate it. Had Smash been renewed for season three, there would have been disappointments and cliffhangers. Knowing they would not be coming back, the show tries to give fans what they want. After six or seven years on the air, this sort of outcome would feel earned and natural. With only two seasons under their belt, and everything falling apart just a short hour or two ago, this type of finish rings false.

There is a lot to praise in this final two hours. I love the opening "Under Pressure," which incorporates all of the major players, even if some only sing a little bit in it. I laugh when Leigh (Bernadette Peters) loses her Tony, which kind of feels like a win for Ivy, though she doesn't take home the statue either. I love Tom and Julia missing that they have won. I really enjoy the late addition of Patrick, and the redemption of Jimmy, as quick as both of those seem. The final song with Ivy and Karen singing together is just what the viewers need.

It's just, when all is said and done, this ending is too perfect. Even if Smash wants its characters to ride off into the sunset satisfied, they didn't need to go quite so far to do so. A few losses could have been balanced with romantic reconnections. Not everything has to be a personal and professional victory. A little tone down would have made for a better ending.

That being said, I really enjoyed both seasons of Smash, and am going to deeply miss it. There is nothing else like it on television. It's so much more realistic than Glee, and the drama and setting feel fresh and different than the gluttony of cop, lawyer, and doctor series. It's a shame something like this can't succeed, but I thank NBC and all involved for two wonderful years that I will definitely re-watch again in the future.

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