Quick Review: Smash
Didn’t have a chance to write anything about NBC’s new Smash two weeks ago when it originally debuted but thought I’d take a chance to post some quick impressions of its pilot. Anyone who knows me knows that I loathe Glee with an all-consuming fire of a billion suns so when Smash was announced – and looked conspicuously like NBC’s attempt to create its own insufferable musical – I had no interest. None. But then I watched the pilot teaser reel that came out last May around upfronts time like a good little wannabe TV critic and thought that it didn’t really look that bad and that there were elements that seemed interesting, so I filed that interest away for when the show would actually debut at midseason. After watching the pilot? This is a show that I could definitely see sticking with, at least for a few episodes. The first installment definitely wasn’t a blowaway one but it did take a world that I have little to no interest in – Broadway – and made it compelling enough for me to want to see what happens next. Its narrative is fairly cohesive – always a good sign – and many of the principal actors (especially Katherine McPhee as aspiring actress Karen Cartwright and Jack Davenport as lecherous director Derek Wills) are likeable enough that I could see giving over an hour a week for the time being in order to follow their story. The show has a clear goal in mind – to tell the story of how a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe could come together – and showing the production come together from all viewpoints  was a very smart choice when taking into consideration that there may be audience members such as myself who have no knowledge of how Broadway works. Simply put, I hate musicals and I don’t hate this. For the time being, even as I find it unlikely that I’ll be writing much about it, that’s enough to keep me interested in Smash.
 Actors, directors, producers, writers, and their respective loved ones are all represented here, giving us an almost all-encompassing look at what it takes to put a show like this together.
*I also found it kind of cool that Smash embraces technology like it does. Beyond the fact that NBC made the pilot available via various platforms (iTunes, Hulu, etc.) prior to its premiere, its characters seem believably tech savvy – using tools like DVD libraries, movies on laptops, and YouTube as part of their craft – which is something you surprisingly don’t see in a lot of television shows.
*Though the show clearly has a season throughline – the production of the Marilyn musical – the pilot really did feel like a network-lite version of an HBO pilot in that it creates the impression that it’s the first chapter of a book more than it does a first episode of a television series. That’s kind of a novel approach for network TV and one that I’d like to see occur more often.
*The show employs a pretty cool effect where a visualization of what the finished production would look like shows up when one of the characters is performing a number in rehearsal or in private.
*One misfire: Right now, I really couldn’t care less about the plotline of Debra Messing’s Julia Houston – co-writer of the Marilyn musical – and her husband trying to adopt. I get it… her husband doesn’t like that she’s all-consumed when she’s in production and is afraid that he’ll be raising the baby on his own should they get one. I just don’t care. Move on.
*And another: The false drama that occurs at the end of the pilot between McPhee and Megan Hilty’s character being unsure of who’s going to land the lead role in the Marilyn musical rings a little hollow. NBC’s positioned McPhee as the star of Smash so it’s really unlikely that she wouldn’t also be the lead of the show within the show, right?
*Katherine McPhee is rather attractive. Just an observation.
*Michael Cristofer is here as the estranged husband of Anjelica Huston’s producer character? Really like this casting as I really dug Cristofer’s work on the late AMC drama, Rubicon. Hopefully we see more of him going forward.
*”Screwing every blonde who opens her legs for you is childish.”
*”Let’s be honest, for me to audition, Marilyn herself would have to pop out of that envelope and do me right here.”
*”Great to see you, Tom. You look terrific. You lost some weight.”
*”Gay men piss me off.” “That’s an unfortunate position to take in the American theater.”
*”You need something to accentuate your breasts.”
*Episode below courtesy of Hulu.