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I'm closing the curtain on 'Smash'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Usually if a new show has a bad episode, I'll write it off as a fluke and give it at least one more chance. However, Monday's "Smash" (10 p.m., NBC) was such a spectacular flameout that I'm not sure it's going to get a reprieve. I found it so terrible, in fact, that I couldn't even finish it.

I think the problem was a culmination of aggravations that have been building from the start. The show's premise is interesting and the feeling of being a showbiz insider is fun, so I've stuck with it as much to see what it could become as for what it actually is. The progression through this week has been kind of like the mountain-climber game on "The Price is Right": the show was building toward something potentially great only to overshoot and plunge over the edge like the poor yodeler so often does.

The two straws that broke the camel's back this week were Ellis' ascent to Eileen's assistant and the requisite non-"Marilyn" musical number.

Ellis was tolerable for about five seconds in the pilot, before taking on the role of the conniving backstabber. This week, he was such a simpering sycophant in order to land a job with Eileen (Angelica Huston) that he was unbearable to watch. Seriously, I fast-forwarded through most of his scenes. Instead of evolving as a character, like the chorus members have done, Ellis has devolved.

The non-"Marilyn" related musical numbers have annoyed me from the beginning. If you've got a show that's centered on a Broadway musical and you have a talented Broadway team writing its songs (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman of "Hairspray"), why do you need to shoehorn in covers of pop songs? Oh, that's right; you don't.

This week, they gave up on even pretending to tie the song into the story. Instead, Ivy and her crew just went crazy to "Dance to the Music" at a bowling alley. It would have been one thing if they'd simply decided to sing along; they are, after all, a group of musical theater actors. But breaking into a full-on dance routine up and down the alley's lanes? Puh-leaze. Leave over-the-top antics like that to "Glee."

Like the cover songs, Debra Messing's character, Julia, has irritated me from the start. Her family subplot was one of the worst things about the pilot, but I think now I'd actually prefer a return to the adoption angle instead of the nonsense of her son's mild delinquency.

Also, they tossed aside the storyline of the affair between her and the play's male lead this week. True, it was perhaps the least steamy love affair ever captured on film, but it was also the only interesting thing about Julia. (And, sadly, it also means the exit of the excellent Will Chase).

This week saw big changes for Dev, too, presumably to make him more interesting. I like Dev (and the actor who plays him, Raza Jaffery), and I understand the need to grow him into a role beyond that of Karen's boyfriend, but once again, like the yodeler, the show went too far. His quest for a promotion was needlessly complicated by the absurd angle of him initiating a sexting blackmail scheme against his opponent.

Eileen also took a hit this week, ridiculously backing down from pursuing potential changes for the musical after basically being called a meanie by her daughter, who appeared out of nowhere. Her character was already starting to get silly by so overzealously embracing a "slumming it" attitude (unlikely after living the life she's been accustomed to for so long), but this laughable scene flew in the face of the strong woman they've established her to be so far.

Even though she wasn't as prominent as her husband, Eileen was still a producer before this. She knows it's a tough business and that sometimes producers have to make decisions for the sake of the production that not everyone will like.

(And speaking of the musical's changes, what was the point of having OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder helping with that? At least when Nick Jonas was on, he was playing a character and not just being a random famous face thrown into the mix.)

"Smash" has already been granted a second season, although creator/main writer/showrunner Theresa Rebeck will not be returning. Whether new blood will be a help or a hindrance remains to be seen, but either way, if the show continues on the path it started down this week, it will be more suited for Off-Off-Broadway than the Great White Way.

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Series premieres: "Punk'd," 10 p.m. today, MTV (revival of the celebrity prank show); "The Pauly D Project," 10:30 p.m. today, MTV ("Jersey Shore" spin-off); "Escape Routes," 8 p.m. Saturday, NBC (driving competition starring the Ford Escape SUV); "Dance Moms: Miami," 10:30 p.m. Tuesday (spin-off); "Betty White's Off Their Rockers," 8 p.m. Wednesday, NBC (senior citizens prank show); "Best Friends Forever," 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, NBC (sitcom about two girls and a guy living together).

Season premieres: "The Killing," 8 p.m. Sunday, AMC; "River Monsters," 9 p.m. Sunday, Animal Planet; "Giuliana & Bill," 8 p.m. Tuesday, Style.

Returning: "Rules of Engagement," 8:30 p.m. today, CBS; "Bones," 8 p.m., and "House," 9 p.m., Monday, Fox.

Season finales: "Kitchen Nightmares," 8 p.m. Friday, Fox; "Merlin," 10 p.m. Friday, Syfy; "Bayou Billionaires," 9 p.m., and "My Big Redneck Vacation," 9:30 p.m. Saturday, CMT; "Intervention," 10 p.m. Monday, A&E; "Dance Moms," 9 p.m. Tuesday, Lifetime; "Tabatha Takes Over," 10 p.m. Tuesday, Bravo; "Happy Endings," 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC.

Series finale: "One Tree Hill," 8 p.m. Wednesday, CW.

Specials: "25th Anniversary Kids Choice Awards," 8 p.m. Saturday, Nickelodeon; "Academy of Country Music Awards," 8 p.m. Sunday, CBS; "Great Expectations," 9 p.m. Sunday, PBS (part one of two, "Masterpiece Classic"); "Saving the Titanic," 10 p.m. Sunday, PBS (drama told from the engineers' POV).

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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