February 13, 2013

Life Imitates Art: How to be a Smashing Success

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Musical shows, such as Glee and Smash, are like road kill: They’re pretty much awful to look at, yet people—myself included—can’t take their eyes off of them.

At one point in time, I was actually a fan of both shows: Glee’s renditions of popular tunes were youthful and charming, and the reasonably realistic storylines were peppered with clever one-liners. Smash, too, was believable, beautifully weaving the stories of two very different Broadway up-and-comers with that of the creation of a musical about Marilyn Monroe, the woman who epitomizes the struggles with fame.

But the shows are starkly different now. Glee has morphed into an incomprehensible, geeky love fest that just makes more obvious the fact that it’s an awkward amalgamation of late-twenty-and-early-thirty somethings posing as high schoolers who sometimes belt out songs that just kind of fit with the ridiculous plot lines. It’s still relatively popular, but its ratings are definitely not what they used to be.

Smash became a tired and predictable melodrama the moment the writers unnecessarily magnified the petty drama between the characters, both caricaturing the characters themselves and losing focus of the show’s strongest point: the musical. And it doesn’t seem like things are looking up for the NBC show. As its lackluster second season debut last week indicated, Smash will continue to recycle the very same storylines with the same sub-par and unconvincing acting that critics and hate-watchers alike loathed last season, likely facing a premature end (but hey, at least the creepy assistant and the painfully annoying son are gone, right?).

Needless to say, I’ve relegated these shows to being my background noise when I am doing something else. But they’ve helped me realize something: people are a lot like TV shows. Those who are compelling, hilarious and personable are much more favorable than those who try too hard. Ask yourself this: at a party, would you rather hang out with the mellow person who’ll crack jokes at all the right times, or the person who unpredictably launches into histrionic descriptions of their neighbor’s dog’s private parts in a desperate plea for attention (true story)? Sure, you’ll focus on the second person for a bit as per the road kill effect, but chances are that you’d actually be able to sustain a normal conversation with the first person.

This is college, and during these four years, we’re all trying to discover who we are. The reality is that by the time we reach graduation, very few of us will have actually succeeded in doing so. It’s not an easy process; sometimes we’ll make fools out of ourselves and sometimes we’ll grow distant from the people closest to us. Most people find it easier to pretend to be someone else to please everyone, instead of just focusing on the strengths they have that will attract the ones that matter.

Not to sound like Oprah, but I think that the important thing is to make sure that, no matter what you do, you’re honoring who you really are. If the teams behind Glee and Smash would focus less on which characters should sleep with each other next and more on what they originally intended the shows to be about, they’d certainly gain and maintain a more loyal and attentive following. Yes, there will be storylines audiences won’t agree with—writers can’t please everyone—but, for the most part, viewers will be watching with more enthusiasm and seriousness than they are right now.

Take a lesson from that and strive for a happy medium in everything you do. You shouldn’t go out on a limb for attention (I mean, come on, no confessions of borderline bestiality should ever take place at a party), but you can’t just stand around and wait for it to come to you either. Seek out different opportunities, take risks, make mistakes; but most of all, stick to what you know and love. It is truly amazing how much things change their tune for the better once you do that last part.

Original Author: Karina Parikh