This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Reality TV’s search for spunk.
- The redemption of Smash.
- The most disturbing video of the week.
- Moira Rose, slaying as always.
- Jamie Lee Curtis’s epic clapback.
Megan Hilty Gave TV’s Best Performance
It was, at a time, the best and most exciting series to air on a modern network television. It was, by its end, also one of the most ridiculous and critically maligned, partially responsible for the entire concept of “hate watching.” It was Smash.
Smash returned this week for a live-streamed reunion benefitting The Actor’s Fund, as well as the premiere broadcast of a 2015 charity concert that stripped the wild ride of the series down to its most indisputably masterful element: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s original music, the choreography Joshua Bergasse created specifically for the show, and the jaw-dropping talent of its main cast performing it.
And that is how, for a few hours on Wednesday night, a massive swath of people still passionate about the show’s complicated legacy—hi, my gay boys—belted from the rooftops about the astonishing, award-worthy performance by an actress in a role she played eight full years ago, and demanded praise, justice, and attention for her exceptional work. This week, as she arguably did then, Megan Hilty gave the best performance on television.
On Smash, Broadway veteran Hilty played Ivy Lynn, a chorus girl up for her breakout moment playing Marilyn Monroe in a bio-musical called Bombshell. But ingenue-from-Iowa Karen Cartwright (American Idol alum Katharine McPhee) also caught producers’ eyes, and the two had to battle it out for the role, to the steam-out-of-the-ears frustration of everyone who watched and could see that Hilty was glaringly better suited for the part.
(To that end, it was a pleasure to watch that concert all these years later sans that exasperation, and be able to simply enjoy McPhee’s own talents without the context of the storyline.)
Here are some facts about Smash:
Its pilot, no matter where the show went from there, ranks as one of the greatest that has ever been produced.
“Let Me Be Your Star,” the big duet sung by Hilty and McPhee in that first episode, is one of the greatest musical theater songs ever written, despite not technically ever having been performed on Broadway. (At least not yet.)
And Megan Hilty performing the torch number “They Just Keep Moving the Line” in season two is—and this is utterly sincere, not my normal hyperbole—one of the most thrilling, impressive, absolute best things I’ve ever watched on television.
Her performance of the song live at that benefit concert was every bit the fireworks show that the original airing was, and it was just one highlight of Hilty’s explosive work that night. (That someone could perform two production numbers at the caliber of “National Pastime” and “Let’s Be Bad” and still be alive and breathing?!)
So as we generally do all the time anyway, we’re thinking about how talented Megan Hilty is this week. And, of course, thinking about Smash. Forever.
American Idol Will Haunt Me Forever
This happened last Sunday, but it has haunted my dreams, my nightmares, my every waking hour—my entire state of being—ever since, and therefore demands further discussion.
On the season finale of American Idol, which had contestants performing remotely from quarantine, judge Lionel Richie debuted a remake of “We Are the World,” a noble gesture to cheer everybody up. It was horrifying.
Richie recruited the finalists as well as an all-star roster of Idol alumni—Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jordin Sparks, Phillip Phillips, Kellie Pickler, and McPhee among them—with each of them recording themselves singing various lines of the song directly into their cameras.
Their floating heads were then transposed using CGI over a montage of various national landmarks, marking the first time decapitated singing celebrity heads have been used as a tourism ad for the United States and also a symbol of healing. Historic. Also, cursed.
Anyway, the entire thing is out of its damned mind and if I had to see it, so do you. We go through the trauma together. Only then can we heal.
How do you artfully photograph a celebrity for a splashy magazine profile during a pandemic when everyone is in isolation? When it comes to champagne problems, it may be a vintage Dom Perignon.
(Or, considering that, in spite of ingeniously pivoting to find ways to produce content and excellent, necessary journalism amidst one of the most significant news stories of our lifetimes, magazines and news outlets are hemorrhaging revenue and being forced to lay off or furlough thousands of staff members...maybe it is an actual, very real problem!!!)
In any case, we’ve seen Robert Pattinson and Naomi Campbell shoot themselves for cover stories. Entertainment Weekly produced an illustrated cover to commemorate LGBT Pride and, well, at least they tried. This week, Vanity Fair revealed a photo shoot it did with Catherine O’Hara by drone at her L.A. home. It’s so good! (See the photos here.)
We can tend to be hysterical when it comes to Catherine O’Hara, but let’s just says she’s the greatest gift this world has ever received, the light that exudes from her could possibly be the cure for the coronavirus, and if she doesn’t win an Emmy for the final season of Schitt’s Creek there will be no other recourse but to cancel television and erase the entire concept of acting completely.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Activia Yogurt!!!!!!
Don’t even think about coming for Jamie Lee Curtis, celebrated actress and iconic benefactor of the poop yogurt fortune. One Twitter user learned this the hard way, offering some misguided criticism of Halloween, accusing Curtis of pandering to political buzz in order to cash a paycheck. Her response made me scream louder than Laurie Strode in the original movie.
What to watch this week:
The Lovebirds: Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae in a rom-com. It’s charming. Don’t overthink it.
AKA Jane Roe: Possibly the opposite viewing experience from The Lovebirds, but remarkable.
Homecoming: In season two, Janelle Monáe is the new Julia Roberts, a phrase I just like typing.
Barkskins: A solid weird streak in this, as far as bleak 17th century settlement dramas go.
What to skip this week:
Love Life: It’s, like...fine. Just aggressively fine.