SMASH Fact or Fiction? Season 2, Episode 8 "The Bells and Whistles"

SMASH Fact or Fiction? Season 2, Episode  8 "The Bells and Whistles"

I APOLOGIZE FOR THE DELAY IN BLOGS FOR EPISODE 9 AND 10!  I AM COMBINING THEM AND WILL WRITE A LONG POST AS SOON AS I HAVE WATCHED THE SATURDAY EPISODE.  LOOK FOR IT TO PUBLISH MONDAY NIGHT!!  (P.S. Sorry to give you a "my dog ate my homework" excuse, but we decided to move to Southern California this week and I have been backed up by making moving plans.  I promise to be back on track and better!"  SMASH's second season is winding down and we all wonder if it might be the last.  No matter, actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work, hopeful for a third and I'm delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  We'd better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  

Everyone, get your buzzers out.  We have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions. Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.  Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number two and is probably swingable lamps in a bar.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I've done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that's where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.

Let's start with an easy one.

1)  Debra Messing announced her job for next season, a sit-com on CBS.  Fact or fiction.


2)  Thereby we should all assume that Debra Messing will not be a part of SMASH if it is miraculously renewed.  Fact or fiction?

Well I say Fact, but according to Debra messing that is fiction.  Here's what she said:

"...despite her new commitment to a CBS comedy pilot, the actress says Smash is still her first priority. "CBS was wonderful enough to allow me to do this in second position, so they know that if Smash comes back, that's where I will be."

But enough gossip, let's go on with the show.

Shall we start with the obvious one?  No, no, let's warm up first.

3)  Parties with musical theater performers sometimes turn into mini-performances.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  So I have to tell you that while I was watching the episode I actually had the thought that I am so tired of musical theater performers being portrayed as self-involved exhibitionists always looking for a chance to perform.  I stood high on my soap box and thought about how many times I've been to a party with other actors and no one sings or dances and we all act like adults and have meaningful conversations.  Then, 5 minutes later, my Mom came upstairs (I am visiting my parents this week) and said, "Did you see the part of the show where they are at the party and that boy sang that great song?  It made me smile because it reminded me of the time we were in your friend Kristen's apartment and you guys were singing and I could see New York City out the window.  It was so festive and fun and seemed just like that party."

Nailed.  By my own traitor mother.


Self-involved exhibitionist musical theater performer.

My mother aside, I would like to take a moment and say the two things I liked about the show and they were both performance related.  One was Leslie Odom Jr. nailing it in the party scene.  Man, when SMASH gets it right, it is so right.  I thought that song and his performance were sensational.  I also liked the choreography in Jeremy Jordan song, (although as someone pointed out to me today, if he was on the east coast and she was on the west coast, they needed to swap places.)

Can we pause the game for a moment and all just rejoice that Megan Hilty has returned as the rightful owner of the role of Marilyn Monroe?  I could never get behind Karen as Marilyn.  Hilty has been, in my eyes, the slam dunk choice from the first episode.


Now to the one we've all been waiting for.

4) An actor can leave a show, just up and quit, for another show.  Fact or fiction.

I would like for every agent, casting director, producer and actor who has ever tried to get out of a contract to say it with me:  Fiction.

Look.  You can't just quit.  There are real live binding contracts in theater.  I mean, maybe--just maybe--if you have a really nice producer you can get out of a show for another one, but it is a few and far between situation.  There are ways you can negotiate clauses into your contract and I will try to hit some highlights, but I can't get them all.  I'll start with how you might be able to do it, and then I will tell you why the givens in SMASH makes it so unlikely.  And then I will break it down further and tell you what is even more ridiculous.


There are clauses in some of the Actors' Equity contracts that allow for an actor to move from one job to another for a more lucrative contract (better known as More Remunerative Employment or MRE)  but that clause does not apply in this case because Sam is moving from a principal role on a tour to a (most likely) featured ensemble role on Broadway (a contract grade down).  Also, MRE is most usually applied to short term jobs like--you get a guest star spot on a TV show and want to take 2 days off to do the shoot.  Also, as I scanned the contracts, I do not think this applies to the highest Equity contracts (Production contracts) which the First National Tour of Book of Mormon would fall under.  Additionally (and this is the obvious one) no one, no way, could get out of a principal role on a tour to do a job on Broadway that fast.  Even if you have specifically negotiated something like, "If I am offered a job in the Broadway production of Bombshell, I can give 2 weeks notice and leave." I'm not saying it couldn't ever, ever happen, but there would be tears and hand wringing, and begging involved and it wouldn't be treated in the "I'll just quit!" way it was treated on SMASH.  I have never been in this exact position (but I have friends who have) so if anyone has more specifics or corrections to this, write in and I will post it (or read the comments).

In that same vain, getting my vote for worst plot point of this episode is the who idea of making Tom such an idiot that he would gleefully offer his ex-lover a highly paid job in a show without the okay (or knowledge, in Eileen's case) of the rest of the creative team and, uh, the PRODUCER.  Is Tom planning to pay Sam out of his pocket?  The whole idea that they've taken the savvy character of Tom and suddenly made him the theater  village idiot was distressing and inconsistent with his previous behavior.  And really, what did we gain by the whole plot point?  Nada.  Except that it was bad, bad, bad.

5)  Once cast in a show in a featured role it is possible to audition for a bigger role.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  Just ask any actress who has played Nessa Rose in Wicked and auditioned for Glinda or Elphaba.  It happens.

Does it happen while dancing on a bar?

Oh sure.  Yes.  I was cast in The Phantom of the Opera while singing Glitter and Be Gay for Hal Prince at a Karaoke Bar on Bleeker Street.  Completely normal.  Happens all the time.

Did you all catch Daphne Rubin-Vega (the original Mimi in Rent) as the nasty publicist?

And even better, are you guys ready for the return of Bernadette Peters as Ivy's mother?  And on that note, I have to write a direct plea to the writers of SMASH.

Dear Writers of SMASH,

Please trash every other story line and focus only on Ivy and her mother for the duration of the series.  Give us stunning performances by Hilty and Peters.  Let us cheer and scream with musical theater geek joy.  Go out with a shred of dignity being the show we all wanted you to be.


Ever-hopeful Sharon Wheatley, supporter of SMASH (until last week when I finally fell off the wagon in a blaze of fury).