'Smash' review: Staging a 'Coup.' Badly. How badly? 'Toxic garbage,' she said.

“The Coup,” the first episode of Smash since its second-season renewal was announced, and the first since The New York Times reported that Smash show-runner Theresa Rebeck would not be returning in that role next season, was a confounding mess, and I write that as someone who’s rooting for this show to succeed. The hour consisted of one major plot-line that began and ended, thus adding nothing to the forward momentum of the show but gave Katharine McPhee a handy pop-music video for her resume. The Julia-has-an-affair storyline ended with absurd abruptness, as Michael Swift met Julia at a playground, pointed to his family and said, “They’re everything to me and I’ve been really stupid.” McPhee’s Karen was enlisted to rehearse a new, non-Julia-and-Tom-written, godawful song with the band One Republic but didn’t feel right about it, because “Julia has been so kind to me.” Really? Have Julia and Karen shared one scene together? If so, it was so slight it escapes my memory.

Smash has become so bereft of good-hearted people that the show had to import one — from Micronesia! — to serve as its good conscience. That would be guest star Grace Gummer as Eileen’s daughter. She’s a globe-trotting do-gooder who single-handedly scotched the whole we-need-to-create-a-Marilyn-for-a-new-generation angle by calling her mother aside and scolding her. A chastened Eileen immediately apologized to Julia and Tom and even Derek, who had fomented this mutinous musical number. Then Gummer was off to — I kid you not — “Alaska, to count wild salmon.” Apparently counting fish is more pleasurable than staying in Manhattan with a fresh $3 million in your trust fund, if it means having to hear Karen sing “Touch Me” again. “Toxic garbage,” was Gummer’s phrase. Oh, but as a parting gift, the daughter managed to completely furnish and decorate Eileen’s new, empty apartment with red-and-black motif Crate and Barrel items in less than 24 hours.

Karen’s boyfriend was given a subplot that had something to do with his professional ethics, but I was just starting to grasp what it was when the whole thing imploded, never to be heard about again, I think.

Ellis did a lot of snooping, called Tom a “loser,” and said he wants to be a producer. Then he was presented as working for Eileen, to the sniffy shock of Tom, Julia, and Derek. This was supposed to be a comic scene, I think.

To cheer up Ivy, who was back-stabbed in a couple of places in the show this week, the gang took her bowling, where Smash staged a sub-Glee production number set to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music.” It served absolutely no function in the storytelling (you know, the way musical numbers in musical shows are supposed to) other than to get the episode to a commercial break, I think.

Tom had a shouting match with Derek, whom he accused of being a “homophobe” who didn’t even know that a male New York Times critic “was having sex with your father.” What was less believable was Tom’s assertion that Derek had the Times critic “in his pocket.” At least I think it was less believable.

And I’m someone who’s still invested in this show, who’ll still tune in next week. At this point, Smash is like having the Spider-Man musical in your own home every week, only with the stars of the show taking turns crashing to the floor instead of the masked stunt-people.

What do you say, fellow Smash-ers?

Twitter: @kentucker

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