Smash, NBC’s busted love letter to Broadway, should know a thing or two about hate watching. Tons of people tuned into this show because we loved to hate it. It was wildly inconsistent, utterly unbelievable, more ludicrous than Debra Messing in a revolving wardrobe of sweater capes. It wasn’t so bad it was good, it was so good because it was bad. Everything stunk to high heaven and made for as many mean-spirited tweets as there are light bulbs on the Great White Way. Well, everything stunk but the musical numbers, which is what everyone was tuning in for in the first place and always managed to deliver the thrills we were seeking. Now Smash going to get rid of its most hateful character.
Entertainment Weekly reported today that the characters of weasel-faced assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero) and the Prince of Yawns Dev (Raza Jaffrey) won’t be returning for the show’s revamped second season. The Hollywood Reporter says that both Julia’s cuckolded husband Frank (the woefully underused Brian D’Arcy James) and her married paramour and Joe DiMagio stand in Michael (Will Chase) are being kicked out. Sadly Julia’s son Leo, the mopiest teenager on all of television, will still be central to the story. Yes, you can’t get Dev out the door fast enough (hello, this is a show about the Rialto, not some minor functionary in the mayor’s office who happens to be boffing a chorus girl who isn’t even a star yet), but Ellis? You’re going to do this to our Ellis?
It’s my contention that Ellis was the only successful character on the whole show. He’s the only one with a consistent personality from episode one right up until the season finale last week. Since we first saw the impossibly heterosexual Ellis everyone hated him. He was meddlesome, insincere, and always going where he wasn’t wanted. He had no allegiance to anyone but himself (and a girlfriend who, shockingly he did not meet at summer camp in Canada). Ellis would do absolutely anything to get ahead and even though his methods were abhorrent, they always seemed to work. Everyone works with an Ellis and everyone finds him more detestable than spending your day off at the DMV. Know what that makes for? Good TV!
As with every other character, whose story lines were as battered as the chorus boys in Spider-Man: Turn on the Lawsuits, we never quite knew how we felt. We loved when Ivy would triumph over diversity and hated her when she became a silly drug addict. We loved Karen when she finally got hip to what being in a show was like, but we hated that she didn’t earn the part of Marilyn. We hated Julia when she wanted to adopt a baby and we hated Julia when she had an affair and we thought we were supposed to like her but we just hated her. Even then, we were conflicted. But Ellis, oh, everyone hated Ellis. And watching him get fired in the season finale was so incredibly gratifying, but everyone who has ever dealt with a real life Ellis will tell you that he’s harder to get rid of than a Winona Forever tattoo.
That’s why the show needs to keep him around. A show is only as good as their villain is bad, and Ellis was bad in a million tiny deplorable ways. For next season NBC has hired Gossip Girl showrunner Josh Safran to get the show on track. The man who gave Blair Waldorf a million lackeys should know that having someone who is meddlesome, eavesdropping, corrupt, and craven can drive plots for season upon season. Yes, we all hated Ellis, but we hated him for all the right reasons. This kid should stay in the show.
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