When Smash was going through development, this behind the scenes look of a production of a Broadway musical was instantly labeled “NBC’s version of Glee.” Both shows are deeply involved with music, characters, conflict, and personal triumphs; but that’s where the similarities end.
Smash is by far one of the most anxiously awaiting pilots of this TV season, and after seeing the pilot, I can understand why. This show gets everything right. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Broadway playwright Theresa Rebeck, Smash takes a realistic look behind the scenes of the difficulties about mounting an original Broadway play. Thanks to Rebeck’s extensive experience as a Broadway playwright, she captured the essence of life on Broadway.
The plot of Smash is very simple. Lyricist Julia Houston (Debra Messing – Will and Grace) and her partner Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) create the idea to produce a Broadway play based on the life of infamous Marilyn Monroe. Things start to get complicated very quickly when Julia and Tom butt heads over hiring director Brian Wills (Jack Davenport) over past issues had between him and Tom (this story line wasn’t explained, but seems very interesting, and surely to be explored in future episodes). Another conflict: the realistic relationship between Karen (Katharine McPhee) and her Midwestern parents about Karen giving up on her dreams of becoming a Broadway actress and finally getting a “real job.” Soon after that, Karen gets a callback for the part of Marilyn after impressing Julia, Tom, Brian, and the shows producer Eileen Rand (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Anjelica Huston). Karen doesn’t have the part of Marilyn just yet, she’ll have to battle Ivy (Broadway actress Megan Hilty – Wicked), who was a shoe-in for the part of Marilyn until Karen popped into the picture.
Even though it seems like a lot is going on in a short amount of time, everything works and comes together in the perfect way. This show isn’t afraid to recognized that dreams don’t always come true, but if you’re committed enough to your dream, anything can happen.
Smash is also about focusing on the realism of the Broadway community. The cutthroat competition involved in auditioning for a role against several other – sometimes prettier and more talented girls – but coming away the victor because you bring something new to the table. The realism of work getting in the way of your home life because you feel that you have something special to hold onto at work. The realism of butting heads with your partner, possibly jeopardize the final product, just to prove a point. Smash has all of this, and is told in an elegant and sophisticated way.
Will Smash be the hit NBC needs, or will it crash and burn?
NBC has a long record of having shows be highly touted by the network and critics alike, and the show not gaining any traction in the ratings, resulting in a quick and premature cancellation. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006), The Bionic Woman (2007), Knight Rider (2008) My Own Worst Enemy (2008) Kings (2009), Undercovers (2010), The Event (2010), and this seasons quickly cancelled The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect all come to mind. All of these dramas were high-profile shows in their perspectives seasons, just to be cancelled within 13 episodes. Smash could suffer the same fate, despite the great show that is here.
Despite the downhill battle that Smash is battling being on a network that hasn’t produced a highly succesful drama in years, Smash is scheduled behind NBC’s über successful The Voice – a perfect companion for this show. The great lead in coupled with the superb job that Messing, McPhee, Davenport, Hitly, and Huston do in this show, it will be a shame is Smash doesn’t find an audience.
Smash premieres Monday, February 6th at 10p.m. on NBC.
Here’s the full pilot of Smash.