Stars: Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Jack Davenport, Angelica Houston
Writers: Theresa Rebeck
Director: Michael Mayer
Network: NBC, airs Mondays
Original Telecast: February 6, 2012
Of all the new TV series, SMASH seemed to be the least appealing to me. My initial perception, like many, that it was a more adult version of GLEE set in the world of Broadway. It looked like it had limited appeal across the board.
Then something magnificent happened. I actually watched the pilot episode and was blown away. Granted, I am reviewing the “Pilot” episode, but since the second episode was also made available, I jumped right into it, intrigued to see if the series would crash and burn.
It did not.
SMASH brings to mind another insider-esque show, Aaron Sorkin’s seriously underrated STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (set in the world of musical-variety television) both in its rapid fire story-telling and its amazing attention to detail.
The story for SMASH focuses on Broadway songwriting duo Julia Houston (Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) who have agreed to take a temporary hiatus from writing, only to find them sucked into creating a musical on the life of Marilyn Monroe.
Surrounding them is investor/producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and temperamental but brilliant director Derek (Jack Davenport).
The series though, while dealing with the machinations of bringing a Broadway show to life, really digs into the heart of the matter with the two potential performers that could, would or should be Marilyn in their Broadway production.
On one hand, you have Ivy Bell (Megan Hilty) an ambitious performer who has been in the background on Broadway for years. She’s paid her dues and is yearning for that big break. She’s a favorite of Tom and Julia, which keeps her in the running, but Derek is also looking for someone new. Someone fresh. Someone unrefined and he finds that in just of the Midwestern bus Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee).
Where SMASH could have gone awry is to paint Ivy the villain and Karen the underdog, but writer Theresa Rebeck instead creates two very appealing, complicated and deserving individuals. Each have their flaws and strengths, but in some small way, you’re rooting for both of them.
While SMASH it looks like it will continue down the path of who will or won’t get the part of Marilyn, that mystery is thankfully resolved in Episode 2. The real fun of the show is about putting on, well, a Broadway show. All the characters are nuanced and very engaging and the show moves at a very fast clip.
That, unfortunately, could be its undoing, much like STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. It’s a smart show, perhaps a bit too highbrow. It’s bad, when you’re talking about network television as highbrow, but if it catches on, it’s a wonderful thing.
And if show keeps the quality beyond the two episodes I’ve seen, it’s very possible NBC could have a potential smash on their hands. It doesn’t hurt that your show is actually called SMASH (and THE VOICE as a lead-in), so NBC is halfway there.
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Related Link: TV Review – SMASH – Season 1 – “The Callback”
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Article: TV Review – SMASH Series Premiere