Kat McPhee is the audience surrogate for Scorpion. Now that we are in the world of the show, do we need her to stick around?
I have a complicated relationship with Kat McPhee. I know many people view season five of American Idol as the best season of the show, but I disagree. One: season six had EVERYTHING1. Two: I did not care for season five winner Taylor Hicks, runner-up Kat McPhee, or really anybody from that season.2
Despite these misgivings, McPhee’s casting on Smash was as brilliant as it was baffling. From being credited to “introducing” to trying to go toe-to-toe with Broadway veterans, McPhee was in over her head yet the show would not factor that into its reality. All the lines you remember from that show? They came from McPhee. She was the Platonic ideal of everything Smash, the beige in which all other shades of blah could be compared.
I realize that sounds harsh, but the reason I was excited about Scorpion from the get-go was the description of her character Paige: a waitress who understands geniuses and can translate the world for them. As character descriptions go, that one scores rather high on the bonkers scale. Couple that with Kat McPhee, who carries a lot of baggage from her previous roles, and you have a recipe for disaster in the making. However, it is that baggage that allows her to do well as Paige.
Kat McPhee isn’t going to be winning Emmy awards any time soon. She’s clunky and doesn’t have strong presence as an actress. She allows herself to wear ridiculous costumes3 but doesn’t seem to play them for comedy. I don’t believe that she would have a son named Ralph in 2014. I understand Toby asking Paige directly “why are you here?” in episode 3 or 4. However, I can’t picture this show working without Paige or Kat McPhee. If she were gone, the role of audience surrogate/captain exposition would fall on Robert Patrick, which would not work. Though I’m not buying the love interest angle with Walter, if there were no Paige I fear the show would have had to go with a revolving door of romantic partners, which is less realistic.
Once again, Kat McPhee may have found herself as the Platonic ideal of beige for a goofy yet thoroughly enjoyable show. It’s an oddly specific niche, but one that may guarantee the American Idol runner-up/Marilyn Monroe runner-up/lieutenant exposition plenty of work for years to come.