'Hit List''s prospects aren't looking good, thanks to Jimmy's erratic behavior -- but a last-minute accident could change everything

By Hillary Busis
April 28, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT
Will Hart/NBC
S2 E13
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Five hundred sev’nty-two minutes, not counting commercials

Five hundred seventy when far less would suffice

Five hundred sev’nty-two minutes, not counting commercials

How do you measure the life of a dead plot device?

Sure, it’s possible that poor, sad-eyed Kyle survived his sudden brush with oncoming traffic. But it’s a lot more likely that he didn’t — and, based both on what we know already and the official descriptions of Smash‘s next two episodes (those who don’t mind being quasi-spoiled can read them here), that his death will turn him into a Jonathan Larson-style Theater Martyr, giving Hit List even more buzz and galvanizing a gang of producers to bring the show to the Great White Way after all.

I’ve got to say, if the show ends up going this way, that the twist wouldn’t be half bad — though I do wish poor Kyle hadn’t had to (probably) die in order to set it into motion. Smash features a serious dearth of likable characters, and if Kyle’s gone, then Ivy, Eileen, Bobby, and Linda the Stage Manager should get ready to do even more heavy lifting.

You may notice that Tom is conspicuously absent from that list. That’s because he spends tonight’s episode acting like UrJerk, the jerk against whom all other jerks are measured. (You’re off the hook, Jimmy. Actually, what am I talking about — I’ll deal with you in a minute.) To refresh your memory: On Bombshell‘s opening night, Julia asked Tom to write a Great Gatsby musical with her. He said no to the idea, then came running back to her when his City of Angels gig fell through. At that point, though, Julia had already decided to do Gatsby by herself.

That is, to be sure, a sucky situation for all involved. But it’s not the personal betrayal that Tom’s taking it as — and he certainly has no license to claim the high road, given both the way and the reason he turned Julia down in the first place. Tom, of course, doesn’t see things this way. He demands that Julia throw out what she has and write the show with him, even though by this point Julia’s also promised Gatsby‘s director’s chair to Tom Collins Scott. What a tangled web Smash weaves!

Though at first Julia acquiesces to her partner’s crazy demands, sense eventually wins out. She tells Tom calmly but firmly that she’s doing Gatsby without him, though she’ll be happy to prioritize a project with Tom over that play. Tom, however, has caught Incurable Douchetitis — possibly from Jimmy; Kyle must be a carrier — and he responds by acting like a spoiled child, accusing Julia of being the selfish one, and intentionally tanking a public Q&A with Julia (moderated by Ivy) purely out of spite. Eric McCormack never would have let this fly.

NEXT: We’ve never seen Jimmy and Season 1 Ivy in the same room. Coincidence? I think not.

Tom and Juila’s platonic marriage isn’t the only thing that’s in trouble. Bombshell tickets are selling, but not briskly enough to keep the show open through Tony season. To make matters worse, Eileen and Kickass Agnes — hey, someone else to add to my shortlist of likeable characters! — have just learned that a ton of big-name producers will the attending that night’s performance of Hit List. And if the show transfers to Broadway, it could sink Bombshell‘s Tony chances.

What Eileen and Agnes don’t know, though, is that Hit List‘s leading man has been a grade-A mess ever since The Magical Karen Cartwright (her Christian name) decided to embrace her inner Mary J Blige. He’s leaving the theater wearing his costume (which, to be fair, looks just like his normal clothes); he’s sleeping around and staying out all night, possibly at Brother Adam’s Den of Iniquity; he shows up late and wasted to a big photoshoot, costing the show the cover of New York magazine. Suddenly, Jimmy’s starting to look like a pretty good match for Season 1 Hot Mess Ivy.

It is only at this point that Derek decides it might be a good idea to cast an understudy for the role of Jesse. Dude, it’s an Off-Broadway show, not a high school play. Anyhow, there just happens to be a great guy available for the part: Sam, who comes to the audition wearing The Pale Striped Scarf of Broken Dreams. Jimmy, predictably, throws a big fat temper tantrum, stopping just short of demanding that Derek placate him with Gummy Gumballs and Chewy Chompers. Derek, bless his heart, responds by telling Jimmy that if he screws things up at that night’s show, Sam will replace him for good.

Naturally, Jimmy follows up this talking-to by ducking into the theater just ten minutes before that night’s performance. He grabs a bag of drugs right before he goes onstage, then proceeds to screw things up at every turn — missing his entrances, ignoring his blocking, randomly wandering through hordes of anemone-dancers. It’s not quite as disruptive as Ivy’s infamous (and apparently long-forgotten) onstage meltdown at Heaven on Earth — but it does result in Karen getting a minor injury when Jimmy isn’t there to catch her after she’s shot by The Diva at the end of the show.

By the time Ghost Karen ascends to the Heaviside Layer in Hit List‘s big finale, it’s clear that Jimmy’s gotta go. (But as that shot of him during a quick change proved, at least he’ll have his bountiful muscles to keep him company.) Kyle, a glutton for punishment who perhaps doesn’t realize he’s been freed, says that he’d like the be the one who informs Jimmy that he’s being fired. Maybe the elf is simply looking for material for his next show, The Asshole Cometh.

NEXT: “There’s edge, and then there’s cliff”

Despite Jimmy’s screw-ups, Hit List manages to score a standing ovation from everyone sans Eileen and Agnes. Even so, though, the producers Scott had hoped to woo don’t seem head-over-heels in love with the show — and they’re on the fence enough that they’re apparently swayed by an undercover Agnes, who muses that Hit List seems “a little culty, like Hedwig or Rocky Horror. It’s a little edgy.”

Waaaiiiit a minute. Because Hit List features drug use (presumably), a single gunshot, and, like, a bunch of Spring Awakening-inspired jumping around, it’s “too edgy” for Broadway? These guys do realize that a play about a dude who likes having sex with a goat ran for 309 performances on Broadway over a decade ago, right? Say it’s unpolished, say it’s unfocused, say it’s more like a glorified concert than a cohesive musical — but do not try to convince us that “edge” is the reason a producer may choose not to bring Hit List uptown.

Ahem. Let’s switch focus to the bar where Hit List‘s cast and hangers-on have converged. Everyone’s having a grand old time — Kyle’s adorable mother is asking Karen to sign her program! Ana’s discussing her aerial acrobatics, which are apparently in the show for real! — when Jimmy swans in, high as a kite. His buzz is quickly harshed when Kyle quietly informs him that he’s out of the show as soon as Sam can get himself off book. And since Sam currently has nothing to do but watch sports games and poke at his Tom voodoo doll, that’s due to happen sooner rather than later.

Then Jimmy climbs onto the bar, and for a moment I hope against hope that he’s about to serenade us with a growling, angry rendition of “One Way Or Another.” Alas, he’s not; he’s simply going to deliver one last, bitter “f— you” to everyone he blames for his problems, particularly Karen and Kyle. And as the cherry on top of his bile sundae, he informs Kyle’s cute lighting designer boyfriend that Kyle slept with Tom last week.

At that, Ana steps in and practically wrestles Jimmy off his bully pulpit (accent on the bully). But the damage has already been done — especially after Jimmy adds in one last dig about how Kyle’s totally in love with him. Kyle finally decides to just cut Jimmy off cold turkey, and that very night he hand-delivers a bag full of his ex-BFF’s junk to Slim Shady’s drug den. He walks away, tears welling… and unfortunately, he’s concentrating too hard on singing Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” to see the car that’s barreling toward him. So long, sweet, simple Kyle! Take comfort in knowing that you just helped Jimmy Collins win a Pulitzer. Actually, wait — can a man be posthumously arrested?

NEXT: Next week, on “Unappealing Characters Arguing: The Series”

Footlights

– Tonight’s other quasi-big development: After Ivy refuses to answer any of his calls, Derek walks Karen home and perhaps finally sleeps with her. Guys, I say this with all sincerity: You two deserve each other.

– Sup, Kathie Lee Gifford in a Marilyn wig? Did you guys know that the host of Today‘s fourth hour has written a number of musicals, including one called Key Pin It Real that features a lead character named Key Pin?

– In Smash‘s world, Bombshell‘s greatest current Tony competitors are musical versions of Moonstruck (starring Marisa Tomei, who just broke her leg) and Imitation of Life (which, according to Agnes, is DOA), as well as an unnamed Andrew Lloyd Webber stinkbomb.

– But even though the way is clear and the light is good, Eileen isn’t resting. Come on, lady — you’ve got to realize that making Ivy perform at the Brighton Beach Senior Center will not help you secure any awards.

– Does anyone else think that Hit List‘s backstage area looks exactly like Kyle and Jimmy’s apartment? I was seriously confused about why that auditioner went all the way to Greenpoint before I realized we were still supposed to be at the Manhattan Theater Workshop Club.

– Also, was it just my screener, or was the lip synching in “Don’t Let Me Know” — Karen and Jimmy’s sad Hit List duet — particularly poor? Karen’s voice sounded like it was coming through a filter or something.

– A sample of Hit List‘s “edge”: The show opens with a recording of a woman who instructs the audience that they’re welcome to leave their phones on. “Record the show in its entirety, for all we care!” she continues. “We don’t own it any more than you do!” Far out, man!

– And another: At one point, dancers use a bunch of iPads to construct a giant picture of Karen’s face. Real groundbreaking stuff here.

– By the end of the episode, Bombshell‘s sales are up — but Eileen seems like she might consider producing Hit List anyway. Will Kyle’s death be just the push she needs?

– On second thought, maybe Kyle doesn’t die. The preview — like Hit List‘s final song — seemed awfully jaunty.

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