• Tue, Mar 27 2012

Smash‘s ‘Coup’ Episode Can Be Summed Up By This Awful Katharine McPhee Number

Katharine McPhee "Touch Me" Smash video "The Coup"Since Smash‘s premiere in February, nearly every preview has teased us with Karen (Katharine McPhee) writhing around in a bedsheet singing, “Touch me.” Every week, my boyfriend would jokingly ask, “Is it the ‘touch me’ episode yet?” I don’t blame him—early on, Karen’s struggle to get in touch with her sexuality was a fascinating conflict. But by the time we got to that number in last night’s episode, “The Coup,” it was a cringeworthy, uneven performance that reflects the show’s current shoddy state.

First, some background on the song. After last week’s Marilyn: The Musical workshop stumbles and fails to impress investors, director Derek (the wonderfully smarmy Jack Davenport) enlists Karen to rehearse a super-secret number. Even though it’s baldly wrong and sure to alienate her from the people she wants to impress — hire One Republic to pen an electro-pop number and not tell the musical’s writers – she goes along with it because we’ve come to realize that Karen is nasty and opportunistic.

So, they show Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) the “Touch Me” number, and it’s as awful as you expected it would be. In stark contrast to the soaring vocals and coy sexiness of Tom and Julia’s songs — and, let’s be honest, Ivy’s (Megan Hilty) singing — we’ve got the usually lovely Karen turned brittle and sexy to the point of sleaziness. The point, that Marilyn’s fame was as debilitating as today’s starlets hounded by the paparazzi, shines through only for a moment. Otherwise, it’s soft-core pandering.

Over the past eight episodes, I’ve had the nagging feeling that Smash is pandering to its viewers. Early worries were that the show would be too insular and alienating for those outside of the New York theater scene, especially because its writing staff includes talented playwrights Theresa Rebeck and Jason Grote. Instead, it’s swung to the opposite pole: Smash has increasingly become the New York City that the writers think the viewers want. Every single member of the theater community converging on the same restaurant? Throwing Manhattans in each other’s faces? Snarling “Jerry, you can’t take my investors!” and “The Nederlanders won’t be happy to hear about this broken boiler”? It’s a caricature.

And that’s what “Touch Me” was—a sloppy imitation of a quality show. It didn’t fit Marilyn Monroe one bit. Part of the romance of Tom and Julia’s creation — which is supposed to actually go to Broadway in the real world if the show succeeds — is the period-piece feel of the 1950s. It’s not as if My Week with Marilyn asked Michelle Williams to ever play a modern version of the film icon.

Plus, the whole plot of “The Coup” was just ridiculous. I’m an emerging player to the theater scene, but it seems ludicrous that a director could just “steal” a show away from its writers, even if he has the backing of weaselly Ellis (Jaime Cepero) and uber-producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston in her unfortunate dominatrix wig).

Of course, the utter failure of the “Touch Me” number actually manages to bring Derek closer to Tom and Julia, as they almost unanimously agree that they need a star to give Marilyn enough clout to bring it to Broadway. (Enter Uma Thurman in the next few episodes, although her pregnancy means she won’t be a permanent fix.)

So, fingers crossed that the number was a meta message from the producers: We’re showing you what clearly doesn’t work so that we can get back to what does. Because there’s so much to this show that is just fantastic; let’s give Smash the chance to win us back.

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  • kirk

    Awful performance? LOL, yes it wasn’t typical broadway, but Kat’s performance was hot as hell. This track is epic as well, so many people are loving it. Nothing was awful about the performance, it was about Marilyn’s death. It made total sense. You can go hate somewhere else.

  • Jon

    Wow. U need to pick a new profession that’s “not” involving writing or giving opinions haha. U r one of the ONLY sites online not loving that performance or that episode. And btw the song was hot as can be. Also- the guy who wrote it for her in the episode is from OneREPUBLIC, not one direction. They’re this whole other group that’s been around for years and have kinda sold millions of albums- not the boyband. u might also wanna be a little more careful when u “research” your articles. Natalie Shutter(sp?)

  • gnatcar

    For how much I like this site, I disagree A LOT with the opinions of its writers.

    I loved Karen’s number. The point was not that the show should go in this directions (obviously, from the reaction the number got). The point was well made…that Julia and Tom had created too romantic a version of Marilyn.

    The ‘Touch Me’ version of Marilyn was TOO sexy and modern.

    They will obviously marry the two.

  • Ryan

    I loved it as well! I disagree with this article totally!

  • Sean

    “It didn’t fit Marilyn Monroe one bit.”
    That’s the point.

    “Plus, the whole plot of “The Coup” was just ridiculous. I’m an emerging player to the theater scene, but it seems ludicrous that a director could just “steal” a show away from its writers”

    This is a television drama. Real life has nothing to do with it. In real life CSIs don’t arrest people. They spend most of their life in a drab lab far from the life depicted on CSI and all it’s incarnations. The television show’s producers are trying to tell a compelling story. One that keeps advisors interested in enough to keep the show on the air. In television there is hardly anything true to life.

  • Doug

    Sorry Natalie, but I don’t agree with most of your opinions in this article. And most of all, I thought the song “Touch Me” was great- and I could definitely see Derek’s point of fleshing out what the real Marilyn was all about and not totally romanticizing her life.

  • Mico

    I absolutely loved her performance. It was sexy, exciting and completely summed up the meaning of marilyn in a single song. It was deep and very pop, all in the same 4 minute performance. The plot isn’t an easy story to sell, that is where the trouble is. McPhee did a fantastic job, without a doubt

  • Michael

    Natalie… your a GREAT writer… but also a WRONG WRITER!!! TOUCH ME WAS FANTASTIC!! Period! If there WAS a disaster number in this episode… it was the Bowling act! Take note of all the replies above… all those “writers” are right on point! You may not need a new profession, just a new attitude!!!

  • Randy

    You must have ordered your grandmother to watch this episode and write a review for you. I agree with the other tweeters… it was fantastic. I have also been looking for the song on iTunes. Not there yet. What a missed oppurtunity to sell the song the same night it aired. Duh! What does Smash do now? A Broadway show about Marilyn or a show in a show in a show?

  • TM

    Agreeing with Michael; you are a great writer, but a wrong writer. “Touch me” was as good as it gets. Now, within the plot and the whole messaging of the show, you are right; but the show is just so boring and predictable that when a terrific contemporary pop music moment happens, it must be evaluated as such. I can see a couple of DJ’s remixing this and going straight to the dance clubs. I am thinking at least a Grammy nomination for Mrs. McPhee for best performance by a pop artist. I am trying to give the show a chance, but it is getting really hard to so. Cannot wait to read your next piece; keep it up!

  • La_Mosca

    Count me in as another one who liked the touch me performance, but I was kinda disappointed when after months of hype, people disliked it because they feel it’s not Marilyn. I found it very contemporary and Marilyn while loving fame eventually grew to loathe it and was very much alone at the end of her life, and the choreography for that performance depicted it very well, right up to Marilyn’s sad end.
    And I agree with the majority here, lousy review.

  • marta

    Loved TOUCH ME! totally disagree with you about the song and the performance. Maybe you should watch the episode again or write about something that you know about — Wife Swap

  • jake

    COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE — THIS IS THE FIRST NUMBER THAT I ACTUALLY REALLY ENJOYED AND THE FIRST SONG THAT I WANT TO PURCHASE AND FOR WHATEVER REASON ITS NOT ON ITUNES. this is a top hit.

  • Alex

    You’re ridiculious! This number is exactly what the show needed. So different from the reg. best one yet

  • mommaamber33

    So, disagree. I wasn’t going to watch this anymore but as soon as I watched this episode a million times cause I love that song. Whomever write that song is brilliant and it fit this show perfectly so get your head examined dude!