Smash, Season 2, Episode 6: “The Fringe”
Written by: Julia Brownell
Directed by: Dan Lerner
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
Sometimes when approaching a new episode of Smash, it’s difficult not to think, “Not this again.” It’s not entirely terrible (okay well it’s a lot terrible); there are a lot of redeeming factors about Smash, such as the cast, the original songs, the acting, the sets, the lighting, and the location (many times New York City feels as though it’s its own character). All these things we love about Smash make it increasingly frustrating to watch a talented group wasting away, mainly because of terrible writing. The audience who has left shouldn’t be condemned because Smash doesn’t even feel like it’s trying at all.
“The Fringe” shows Jimmy and Kyle preparing for the debut of their show Hit List at the winter fringe festival, while Derek tries to keep Bombshell from floundering under Jerry’s reign. Meanwhile, Ivy continues to deal with the mess that is Terry Falls, as he goes off his meds and strives to make Liasions a comedy. All in all, they seem like decent plot points to keep an hour long drama entertaining, but the entire hour of “The Fringe” feels slow and bogged down with conflicts that have already happened or should have happened episodes ago.
Jerry, who now in his producing role of Bombshell, insists on cutting Julia’s song “Never Give All the Heart”, leaving Tom to fight for his writing partner. Julia is offered to go with Peter to London to continue work on Bombshell while Peter works on another show. Meanwhile, Ivy faces getting her solo cut from Liasions after Terry’s confidence is crushed when she gets more laughs in the show than he does. Despite the fact that they are two different shows and two different environments, these story lines cannot help but wear the audience thin, because we have to relive the exact same conflict twice in one hour.
Are none of the Liasions‘ producers aware of what’s going on with Terry? They leave poor Ivy the task of telling Terry the show is terrible. Later on, at a cast meeting, everyone comes forward to tell Terry that the changes he has made are not working. Why it took that long, or got to this point is troublesome. Ivy has somehow been diminished to this soft-spoken, gentle character, which is the reverse of who she was in the first season. Ivy had this fantastic aggressive side to her that the show is desperately missing.
Karen still continues to make dreamy eyes at Jimmy, but has been banned from working on Hit List since she has obligations to Bombshell. She informs Jimmy and Kyle that she can’t be a part of their show, giving them another reason to cry and pout. If you’re going to introduce new characters to a show, it would be wise to give them something else to do other than complain all the time. For once if Jimmy and Kyle could be more positive about the opportunities they have been handed, it would make the foreshadowed battle between Bombshell and Hit List more palatable. Also, Hit List has to be the worst title for any Broadway show.
As far as Bombshell goes, Jerry pushes a little too hard, forcing Derek to quit. Derek has always been a bit of a crybaby, usually for good reason, but this time it definitely feels forced. A couple of dancers get moved around and BAM! Derek is angry. This leaves Karen to question if she wants to be involved with Bombshell without Derek. She retaliates by performing in Hit List even though she has strict instructions not to. We get to see Jimmy and Karen perform “Heart Shaped Wreckage”, which is undermined for the audience because of an enthusiastic wind machine and a giant Pepsi sign. Sorry, but an independent musical in New York performing for fringe could never get a set that large or good looking.
In the end, Eileen is determined to make Tom the new director of Bombshell, which isn’t surprising in the least, since this was foreshadowed long ago when Tom helped Ivy rehearse for her part in Liasions. Tom could have probably taken over directing Bombshell at the beginning of this season, since Derek’s character has become practically useless. Eileen has been informed that Jerry was working with Ellis, which lead to Nick’s imprisonment and Eileen losing her position as producer. Even though this new season has promised that there will be no Ellis on screen, the mention of his name is enough to turn away any audience that is left.