The SMASH Reality Index (S2, EP14)



By NineDaves and Linda Buchwald

When SMASH first started, there was a lot of debate as to where the real world theater line and the fake world theater line would be drawn. Back then, the line was pretty blurry. But theater superfans could easily make adjustments in our heads. Heaven on Earth is at the Shubert, meaning Memphis (and now Matilda) doesn’t exist? Sure. Christian Borle doesn’t exist, but Peter and the Starcatcher still happened? Okay, we can make that adjustment. Catch Me If You Can posters hang in almost every producer office and rehearsal studio around? Doubtful, but we’ll get past it.

Yet deep into this SMASH’s second season, it’s much harder to see where the line is drawn. (We pick apart those fake possible Tony nominees below). And that problem didn’t become clearer than in this week’s episode, “The Phenomenon,” where we learned Hit List bookwriter, Kyle Bishop, had in fact died after last week’s car accident. Suddenly, there was a major outpour from the theater community about Kyle’s brilliance, and a debate about whether or not to go on with Hit List’s evening performance, and talk of a Broadway transfer after all. And yet, NO ONE MENTIONED JONATHAN LARSON ONCE! NOT EVEN ONCE!

It’s not like they haven’t referenced RENT on SMASH before. Give credit where credit is due, yo!

And sure, Kyle’s death may not follow Jonathan Larson’s story exactly (Larson died of an aortic dissection on RENT’s opening night, not for forgetting to look both ways before crossing the street, a la Bishop). But shit if the after effect wasn’t pretty damn dead on. Down to the eventual staged concert performance. And to have Jesse L. Martin playing the Artistic Director of a New York Theatre Workshop-like theater, with a RENT poster hanging behind him, who NEVER ONCE MENTIONS IT? Bananas.

(We won’t even talk about Daphne Rubin-Vega here because Agnes is kind of the best character on the show and can really do no wrong in our eyes).

But the biggest problem with “The Phenomenon” was that it tried to make Kyle Bishop just that: a phenomenon. Unfortunately, we never really cared about Kyle enough for that to resonate. Sure, Kyle’s a sweet guy. But were you ever really rooting for his character? Kyle was a doormat, who couldn’t have an idea of his own without checking with 100 people first. He was a terrible bookwriter. He cheated on his boyfriend. Heck, for as much as we rooted for Kyle, even we have to admit we weren’t really moved by his death. We’ll miss Andy Mientus, of course. But cute fanboy Kyle Bishop? Yeah, bye.

Let’s see how the rest of the episode worked itself out …

Totally True

  • Tom calls Kyle and leaves this awkward voicemail: “I feel like a teenager. Maybe because you’re a teenager. Oh my god I’m going to delete this and rerecord this.” Plus 15.
  • Leigh says she was late because the line at Starbucks was “atrocious.” Ivy says the line was fine, and Leigh had to sign autographs and pose for pictures. “She did everything short of bless a baby!” Ivy teases. “I did that yesterday,” responds Leigh. Plus 10.
  • Eileen and Anges are extremely focused on the Tony nominations – and seem to be running a campaign like they’re going for an Oscar. This may seem over the top, but then again, we’ve seen some intense Tony campaigning in our day, right Cubby Bernstein?
  • “As we get closer to the Tonys, things are looking up for Bombshell,” Eileen briefs Tom, Agnes, Leigh, and Ivy. “Imitation of Life is closing, which isn’t a very good omen.” That’s pretty consistent with how the community approaches nominee predictions, as Tony nominators tend to have short memories. Though producers of Motown the Musical would probably say differently (they lost the nomination for “Best Musical” to two closed musicals this season – Bring it On and A Christmas Story).
  • Harold and Maude is struggling to retain the magic it had on the West End,” Eileen continues. While shows like Matilda can be hits in both London and New York, sometimes British hits don’t transfer as well here. Enron, anyone? Heck, even Billy Elliot’s box office power wore off fairly quickly here and it’s still going strong in London.
  • “And if Road House gets a nomination,” Eileen says, “I’m going to retire.” Ha ha ha ha. We bet people said this about Leap of Faith.
  • Tom points out that Drood and Pippin are contenders for directing. The directors of those shows, Scott Ellis and Diane Paulus, both were nominated for Tonys this week! Way to call it, SMASH!
  • Agnes says the key to keeping at the top of the Tony contender list is marketing. She is consistently the only person on this show who is good at her job.
  • “You were a bright light in a bad show,” Leigh says to Ivy about Liaisons and her Tony nomination chances. Hey, it worked for Carolee Carmello in Scandalous!
  • “It would be embarrassing to beat my own daughter,” Leigh says to Ivy, of their Tony rivalry. Plus 100.
  • Yet again, new opening credits! This time, they’re closest to Season 1’s credits. Plus 10!
  • Julia is remembering a work session she had with Kyle. It’s too bad we had to wait until Kyle’s dead to see that he actually had smart ideas about story structure.
  • “Has anyone talked to his parents?” Julia asks the cast of Hit List. FINALLY SOMEONE ASKED THAT QUESTION. PLUS 50!
  • Scott and Derek debate whether to go perform Hit List after Kyle’s death, and we can’t help but wonder whether Jesse L. Martin is having major Rent/Jonathan Larson flashbacks. He says as Scott, “Hit List is Kyle’s show. I can’t think of a better way to honor him.” We’ve read Anthony Rapp’s book, so we know these conversations were happening the day after Jonathan Larson died.
  • “We need to be very sensitive about this,” Agnes says, of Bombshell’s stance on Kyle’s death. “We don’t want to be silent, but we don’t want to look like we’re jumping on any kind of grief parade either.” Plus 10 because we love that Agnes is always on point.
  • Julia wants the marquee lights dimmed on Broadway for Kyle, and Eileen reminders her that that tradition is only meant for Broadway veterans. Plus 50 because Eileen finally gets something right about how Broadway works!
  • Jimmy finds out that Kyle’s dead from the entire cast of Hit List, as they just stand there blankly listening to his rant. At first he thinks it’s a joke, and then he storms off. Plus 50 because that entire scene played out just as we’d expect.
  • In another flashback, we learn that Kyle has to write down ideas immediately or they’re gone. We’ve definitely woken up in the middle of the night to write down ideas before we lose them.
  • Tom reminds Kyle in a flashback that you can’t change a show once it opens. So much for that “theater is a living breathing thing” shit you were spewing before, Kyle.
  • Kyle tells Tom that he “has notes” about Bombshell. Plus 500 because every fanboy and fangirl alike wish they could give the creatives of their favorite show notes. Especially the morning after fucking them.
  • Kyle’s advice to Tom is to make “At Your Feet” a more upbeat number, as it’s the second song in the show and Marilyn would want to remember that melancholy moment in her life through rose-colored glasses. Plus 50 because damn if that isn’t the first good idea we’ve heard from Kyle.
  • “Sometimes the truth is too hard,” Kyle reminds Tom. “Sometimes you want to remember things better than they actually are.” Perhaps this is a little too literal here, as SMASH is clearly trying to get us to remember Kyle as some saint, but we can apply this sentence to almost every show we’ve seen and liked.
  • Christian Borle sings Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” to get Kyle to stop worrying. Plus 500 because Christian Borle doesn’t get to sing nearly enough on SMASH, and dammit we want him to sing to us the morning after we hook up!

(Quick aside, what is with this resurgence of Billy Joel on television shows? SMASH has used him back in episode 4, and Glee and How I Met Your Mother also used him this season. Just asking!)


  • “Should I duck?” Jerry asks when Eileen picks up his drink. And a few minutes later she actually throws a drink in his face for the first time all season! Plus 1,000!

  • Tom wants to dissolve his partnership with Julia so that she can do her Gatsby adaptation on her own without him getting in the way. See! He’s good after all! Plus 50.
  • Despite cancelling the show, folks still show up to rush Hit List. “They want the show,” says Scott. .“Maybe we should go on tonight. Maybe it’s what everybody needs.” Plus 50, because they should totally go on and they’re obviously going to.
  • Ivy called Derek to see how he’s doing, and decides to call out of Bombshell to be with Derek because she’s a good friend and a nice person and that’s why we love her so much.
  • Meanwhile, Ivy’s calling out on Bombshell already? Damn the All That Chat message boards are going to be ON FIRE.
  • Plus 50 for showing that more than one stage manager works on a Broadway show. We’ve always seen them floating around with Linda the Stage Manager before. ‘Bout time one of them finally got a line!
  • We can’t help but be moved by Jimmy tearing up singing this Hit List song “The Love I Meant To Say.” Damn you SMASH.
  • In case you’re wondering, the reason “The Love I Meant To Say” is so great is because Shaiman and Wittman wrote it. Plus 50.
  • Kyle tells Karen that Ivy is better as Marilyn in this flashback Karen’s having of Bombshell‘s opening night and we’ve never loved him more.
  • OH HEY BOND 45!
  • Tom had the idea to dim the Bombshell marquee lights in honor of Kyle and damn it if that isn’t sweet.
  • Again, Ann Harada may me off the show, but that’s no reason we can’t have THE ANN HARADA LINE OF THE WEEK. “I can’t believe Eileen Rand didn’t think I’d get a Tony nomination for my hilarious turn in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” WE LOVE YOU ANN!

Oh Hell No!

  • At the end of last episode, Karen invited Derek to her apartment. At the start of this episode, it’s 5 in the morning and they’re still drinking. Karen asks Derek to stay, even though he has to be at Sam’s put-in rehearsal in three hours. They probably spent the whole night talking about Karen. Minus 50.
  • Karen kisses Derek and they have a totally lame makeout. Are we supposed to be rooting for them to hook up? Are they the Ross and Rachel of SMASH? Minus 100.
  • Um… “Ghost Jimmy” sings Radiohead’s “High and Dry” to real Jimmy, following him around the city, and it’s perhaps the most ridiculous moment of SMASH we’ve ever seen. And we still remember when Ivy Lynn and Karen Cartwright broke into that impromptu “Cheers (I’ll Drink to That)” performance in Times Square.
  • Seriously, no matter how much we enjoy the idea of two Jeremy Jordans, this is fucking terrible. Minus 500.
  • Also, Jeremy Jordan may have sounded good on “High And Dry,” but he should have done Jamie Cullum’s cover.
  • Jimmy makes his way to Karen’s apartment window to talk to her, rather than ringing her bell like a normal human being. Is that supposed to be romantic? It’s fucking creepy.
  • Also, Karen’s window is made of wood, like she lives in some country farm. This is NYC. Her building would have windows stronger than that.
  • “What do I need to do to be the person that you saw in me?” Jimmy asks Karen. “Because when you look at me like that, I know that’s who I really am.” BARF. MINUS 50!
  • Kyle’s voicemail says “It’s Kyle, leave a message!” The Kyle we know would have had a longer outgoing message.
  • Tom moves to dissolve his partnership with Julia and it’s making us feel like we’re watching our parents get a divorce. Sadface x100.
  • Scott says that if he loses Julia’s Gatsby play, he will lose his job. First of all, shows fall through sometimes at off-Broadway theaters and the artistic director doesn’t lose his/her job over it. He can find a different show.
  • Also, we said this before and we’ll said it again – Scott shouldn’t have told his board about Julia’s Gatsby adaptation before she even wrote the damn thing. It doesn’t even have a title!
  • Eileen is upset that Jerry took out a full-page ad in The New York Times in support of Bombshell. Are you sure this wasn’t Ellis? Minus 10.
  • That full-page ad for Bombshell in The New York Times includes a pull-quote about Julia’s book. Sure, her book was supposed to be strong, but we doubt it would have gotten its own pull-quote! People don’t flock to musical for the book, after all.
  • And for the sake of all things good in this world, SMASH, the category is not “Supporting Actress in a Musical.” IT’S FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL. You’d think one of the four Broadway stars (and two Tony-winners) in the room would have pointed that shit out!
  • Let’s take a deep dive into these crazy/amazing predictions for Tony nominations:


  • For Lead Actress in a Musical, we have Kate Baldwin in SeeSaw, Jennifer Damiano in The Beauty Queen, Audra McDonald in The House of Flowers, Karen Cartwright for Hit List, and Laura Osnes for Oliver.
  • First of all, Kate Baldwin did not win the 2010 Tony. She was nominated for Finian’s Rainbow, but she didn’t win. The Tony went to Catherine Zeta-Jones for her head-spinning turn as Desiree in A Little Night Music.
  • Eileen says that Hit List is not transferring to Broadway. Yet Karen Cartwright is still on the board as a contender for a Leading Actress in a Musical Tony. Explain.
  • Laura Osnes would be a terrible Nancy in Oliver.
  • Audra McDonald could fart on Broadway, and she’d get a nomination. And while she’s lost Tonys before (she has seven nominations and only five wins) – and we love Ivy Lynn – there’s no way Ivy would beat her. And there’s NO way Karen Cartwright would beat her. Why isn’t Agnes freaking out about Audra McDonald!?!


  • For featured actress, we have Victoria Clark in The Beauty Queen, Leigh Conroy in Bombshell, Ivy Lynn in Liaisons, and Katie Finneran, Patina Miller, and Chita Rivera for something (most likely Annie, Pippin, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood – since that’s what they were all on Broadway with this season, and Tom already mentioned Pippin and Drood).
  • By throwing real shows that were on Broadway this season, it kind of confuses things. Like, Drood and Pippin really were/are on Broadway in both the SMASH and real worlds. But then why are Laura Osnes and Victoria Clark, who were both also nominated for Tonys this week, not in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella?
  • Patina Miller would have been eligible for Lead Actress in a Musical for Pippin, not Featured.
  • Liaisons would not be eligible for any Tonys. It lasted a week, about the same amount of time as The Performers, which wasn’t eligible for Tonys this season. If Ari Graynor can’t get a Tony nomination for Featured Actress in a Play, Ivy Lynn shouldn’t be able to get one for Featured Actress in a Musical.
  • Speaking of Ivy Lynn, the Post-It note next to her on the Featured Actress Board says “Broadway Debut!” But… it wasn’t her Broadway debut. She was in seven Broadway shows before Liaisons.
  • What the hell does The Beauty Queen sound like? Because Victoria Clark and Jennifer Damiano have voices we can’t imagine would sound good singing the same score.
  • Also, someone over at SMASH must REALLY love Jennifer Damiano. This is the second or third shout-out she’s gotten this season!
  • Finally, this list reminds us that Chita Rivera should have been nominated for a Tony IRL for Drood. She was so good in that role!
  • Karen and Derek apparently “stopped themselves” during their makeout session, and Karen is now claiming that “nothing happened.” UGH. THEY ARE SO LAME.
  •  About ten minutes into the episode, we finally have confirmation that Kyle is dead. Jonathan Larson 2.0!
  • Sorry, but that car was not going fast enough to kill Kyle.
  • And why did the cops call Tom to tell him that Kyle’s dead? Sure, Tom may have been a recent call, but they would have looked through Kyle’s phone for contacts like “Mom” or “Dad.”
  • Also, even if they did call Tom, they wouldn’t have just told him over the phone that Kyle is dead. They would have asked him to come down to the station to identify the body or some shit like that first.
  • Jimmy Collins. Karen Cartwright. Jerry Rand. Eileen Rand. Leo Huston. These are all characters we’d rather see killed off of SMASH, in order of preference.
  • Julia says that Amanda’s character can’t sing a song in Hit List after she’s dead. Clearly, she didn’t see Ghost The Musical.
  • Kyle says he was in school the night Broadway dimmed the lights for Wendy Wasserstein. Wasserstein died in 2006, meaning Kyle was in school in 2006 and WE’RE ALL SO OLD.
  • Kyle’s idea for letting the Hit List audience grieve Amanda’s death is to have her die “in the arms of the man who loved her and he sings the song that brought them together in the first place.” It’s a nice idea, and we don’t want to shit on the dead here, but BOY is it heavy-handed. Minus 20.
  • Scott wants to continue with tonight’s Hit List performance, and everyone seems pretty outraged by it. But like… should they be? Call us rude, but this doesn’t seem like a terrible idea here.
  • Kyle’s parents were at Hit List just yesterday. They’d still be in town. Why aren’t they here? Why hasn’t anyone called them yet? Minus 100.
  • Also, they may have broken up the night before, but Blake had a pretty close relationship with Kyle. When is his flashback coming? We’re guessing never. Minus 10.
  • Hit List’s stage manager Marissa (played by Montego Glover) and Scott say they’re going to call all the ticket holders and tell them the show is cancelled. Themselves? That’s weird!
  • Marissa is a terrible stage manager. Linda the stage manager wouldn’t have let Jimmy leave like that in his distraught state!
  • It’s the morning after Tom and Kyle hooked up, and yet they’re both in full pajamas? Surely one of them would be shirtless and in his briefs! Minus 60.
  • Kyle wants to introduce social media subtitle transitions in Hit List to walk the audience through the story behind the story. We have no idea what this means, as we still haven’t gotten a grasp of the story IN FRONT OF the story. Besides, these sound like the modern day version of Rent’s answering machine messages. Minus 50.
  • Jerry says he wants to give Eileen money to help with her Bombshell Tony campaign, and she says no because she’s a complete moron. Minus 10.
  • Derek decides to perform Hit List as a concert with music stands. Plus 50 cause it’s the right decision, but minus 100 because this is exactly what they did for RENT and NO ONE IS SAYING IT.
  • Karen isn’t at Hit List because she’s gone to find Jimmy. Let’s hope she finds him dead too!
  • Tom turns Bombshell’s “At Your Feet” into a big dance number for Leigh and little Marilyn, and we get to see the last 30 seconds of it. Minus 500 because we should have gotten to see the whole thing, Minus 200 because an upbeat number like this has no place in this episode, and Minus 10,000 because YOU CAN’T CHANGE A SHOW AFTER IT’S OPEN. Sure, it’s happened before (see: Spamalot removing the “Britney Spears” line in “Whatever Happened To My Part”), but that’s very rare. And it’s usually not a giant change like this!
  • Karen finds Jimmy hanging in the spot he used to go with Kyle to write sometimes – on the Greenpoint waterfront. Jimmy’s sitting on the ledge. “You’re not thinking of doing something stupid Jimmy, are you?” Karen asks. Like what Karen? Jumping the short distance into the water and catch a cold?
  • Actually, now that we say it, Minus 50 for Karen not pushing Jimmy over the ledge herself.
  • “He was coming to talk to me,” Jimmy says of Kyle, blaming himself for Kyle’s death. Um… first of all, Kyle wasn’t coming to talk to you, Jimmy. Kyle was dropping off your stuff. If anything, he didn’t want to talk to you. Second of all, how do you know where he died? No one told you that information. You ran away like a little child having a temper tantrum. Just… minus 100 for all of your bullshit!
  • “I couldn’t sleep with him because I love you,” Karen tells Jimmy. Every conversation they have makes us barf. Positive side? We’re losing so much weight!
  • There are way more people in line for Hit List than can fit in the theater. That’s including standing room. They’re going to have a fire hazard on their hands!
  • Scott lied and said that Julia convinced everyone to perform Hit List. Why would he even lie about that? Clearly Derek was the one who made the decision. This is ridiculous!
  • Again, Marissa mentions that she called all the Hit List ticket holders to tell them the show was on. Herself? Give that girl a raise!
  • Julia thinks Scott is exploiting Kyle’s death, and breaks up with him, taking her Gatsby adaptation with her. Look, it’s a fine line between honoring and exploiting, and we’re glad they’re having this conversation, but this seems like the biggest non-issue ever.
  • They still haven’t started Hit List? What time is the show going on? Bombshell was on their second number like, 30 minutes ago!
  • Also, Karen got from Brooklyn to downtown pretty damn quickly. The L never runs that fast. Minus 50.
  • No entrance applause for Hit List? And the lights of the house are still up?
  • In Jimmy’s flashback, Kyle tells Jimmy that Amanda from Hit List must die so that Jimmy’s character can learn something. Oh hey, do you think Kyle had to die so that Jimmy could learn something? Is that what they’re trying to tell us? They’re being really subtle about it.
  • Meanwhile, say what you will about all the talented young composers Hit List has, but when it comes to crafting an actual song for the core emotional moment of the show, they have to turn to Shaiman and Wittman. Ha!
  • Jimmy shows up at Hit List right before the last number, interrupting the performance. Suddenly he decides he doesn’t want to sing the song in a concert staging, and instead wants to do it like they do it in the show. And then, with the snap of his fingers and in under 30 seconds, the entire stage is transformed. Sets, lighting, the full band – all in place just. like. that. Minus 100.
  • Also, good thing Hit List doesn’t have costumes! This feels just like the regular show!
  • The whole Hit List cast takes a bow, except for Sam who doesn’t seem to be anywhere to be found. He performs the whole show except that one number and he doesn’t get a bow?
  • Derek tells Ivy that he didn’t sleep with Karen because of her. That’s not how we remember it! It sounds like it was more of a mutual decision!
  • Also, telling Ivy you didn’t sleep with Karen shouldn’t be a reason for Ivy to take you back. You still only went with her when Karen rejected her. AND you two still did a pretty decent amount of making out.
  • Eileen makes nice with Jerry because Kyle’s death has reminded her that “life is shorter than we think it is.” Um, Eileen? You knew about Kyle’s death when you threw a drink in Jerry’s face. This shit doesn’t work.
  • Jerry’s bringing Hit List to Broadway. Come on Eileen, you didn’t see this coming?
  • “Are you mad at me?” Karen asks Jimmy when he rejects her offer to go and talk. OMG GIRL SHUT UP.
  • Jimmy’s “not drinking anymore.” Yeah okkaaaaaay.
  • Oh hey previews for next week! We saw you last week! Minus 50.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Were you sad about Kyle? Be honest now …

For more SMASH goodness, follow NineDaves and Linda on Twitter.

About MICHAEL KNUDSEN 6053 Articles
MK (Michael Knudsen) first started PopBytes back in September of 2003—while trying to make a website for his design portfolio, the site quickly turned into one of the premiere online destinations for all things pop culture! A native New Yorker, he currently resides in Los Angeles with his partner Ivan along with four dogs, four cats and two parrots. Follow him on Twitter @PopBytes.