By Hillary Busis
Updated December 20, 2019 at 12:03 AM EST
Credit: Will Hart/NBC

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

  • Movie

If there’s one thing critics enjoy more than rhapsodizing about something they love, it’s gleefully picking apart something they despise. And this season, the hottest punching bag on TV is Smash — a backstage drama that went from NBC’s Great White Hope to a total mess in about four episodes flat.

The same writers who once praised Smash‘s pilot are still watching the show — but instead of extolling its virtues, they’re writing with relish about how fascinatingly awful it’s become. And even though I haven’t been as hard on the series as some of my ink-soaked colleagues, my weekly Smash recaps include their share of snarky, frustrated jabs. The clunky dialogue, the nonsensical plot twists, the infuriating romantic entanglements, the slow but steady deification of Karen “Iowa” Cartwright — all of it combined makes the devoted Smash viewer feel like an Ivy-style masochist.

Here’s the thing, though: Even if I weren’t paid to do so, I would still tune in to this crazy, sequin-soaked quasi-catastrophe every week. What’s more, I wouldn’t be watching only to find ammunition for another joke about Terrible Ellis. As bad as Smash can be, I refuse to purely hate-watch the show. That’s because I’m still more excited about the parts of Smash that work than I am incensed at the parts that don’t. And despite everything, I still think that an extended hiatus and a new showrunner may be able to transform this series into the tight, funny, pathos-laden hit it’s always wanted to be. Just call me a cock-eyed optimist.

Yes, it’s true that the five major problems I outlined way back in March are still dragging Smash down — especially the show’s continued insistence on making Karen a saint and Ivy a conniving devil. (Sleeping with Dev? Really, show?) But between Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Anjelica Huston, Marc Shaiman, and Scott Wittman, there’s just too much talent involved in Smash for me to give up on the show entirely — or accept it as so-bad-it’s-good fare. So when I tune into the finale tonight, I won’t just be waiting for Leo to say something dumb or counting the ridiculous number of scarves onscreen; I’ll be wishing and hoping for a conclusion that puts Smash in a good spot for Season 2.

But where do you stand, fellow Smashochists? Has this show become one you purely hate-watch — or are you, like me, still holding on because you want to see it rise from the ashes of its first season?

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A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

  • Movie