Opportunism has been mentioned in my previous Smash reviews for good reason: Ellis (Jaime Cepero) is the modern day Eve Harrington (with gender and race cast aside). In fact, the great majority of the characters in Smash are opportunistic in their own different ways and “Publicity” highlights this fact with gusto.
Upon hearing that Karen (Katharine McPhee) is Derek’s (Jack Davenport) muse for Marilyn, Rebecca (recurring guest star Uma Thurman) invites her on a series of nights out on the town. Sizing up the competition, Rebecca’s intentions are clearly transparent. Naturally, Karen’s Mid-Western ways see the good in everyone, and see her excitedly following Rebecca around town with glee. Appearing in every gossip column, Karen’s new friend strikes a chord of bemusement in Dev (Raza Jaffrey).
Barely five minutes into the episode and Karen is found in a bar and on a stage singing yet another jukebox hit. Regardless of the song or the sentiment of the moment, McPhee always appears as genuine and engaging and Thurman provides some devilish delight as a friendly antagonist.
Meeting in a modest Indian restaurant one night, Rebecca and Dev finally meet as they both dine with Karen. Unafraid of stirring the proverbial love pot, Rebecca provokes Dev’s weakness towards Karen’s career ascension. As the two develop a verbal spat, Karen envisages a Bollywood musical number in her head.
“One Thousand and One Nights” – the original song in question – is a triumph and marks the most fun seen on the series so far, going that one step ahead of “Let’s Be Bad”. A squirmish start quickly (and surprisingly) develops into three minutes of pure adorned fun. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s inspired music is catchy and buoyant and is magnificently brought to life with vivacious energy from the art and costume departments.
In less exciting developments, Julia (Debra Messing) and Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) have trouble when Leo (Emory Cohen) runs away from home. This storyline has been served well past the used by date, and its didactic nature is detracting and tiresome. The rather preachy point of infidelity tearing up the family was made long ago, and yet Julia is pushed even further to the limits of accepting the blame of her family’s implosion.
Wisely returning with some added infectious flavour, series creator Theresa Rebeck returns on script writing duties with directorial assistance from Michael Mayer. Their combined efforts alongside the exertions of the cast and crew provided for an exuberantly entertaining episode.