When I originally heard about NBC's new TV show Smash, I initially thought that the struggling network was attempting to do a more grown-up version of the hit TV show Glee. After watching the pilot episode off of iTunes, I stand by my initial assessment but I'm forced to add the show actually is so much more. I guarantee if you haven't heard of Smash yet, you're definitely going to very soon because it's one of those rare hits that will have people talking even though it's not typically their type of show.
I have to admit, the opening sequence of Smash’s pilot episode is cringe worthy. When the show opens, we see Katharine McPhee, dressed up glamorously on a stage singing the beginning part of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. However, after a few lines into the song we hear a phone ring and Katharine McPhee opens her eyes. Suddenly, she's now Karen Cartwright, an aspiring Broadway performer who just had her audition cut short by a phone call. She's dismissed and you can tell she failed the audition. She walks out of the audition room and so begins Smash.
Primarily Smash is about the development of a brand new Broadway play based entirely on the life of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. What sets this show apart from many others is the fact that it took a refreshing approach in his writing by not having a human antagonist. In this show circumstance is actually the villain. So instead of getting a backstabbing Broadway diva or maybe a conniving understudy what we are getting in its place is real life is the actual burden the characters must attempt to overcome. Staying true to the real life Broadway lifestyle the show made sure to create a believable stage atmosphere where not everyone likes one another, but they do respect one another professionally. This is why they are able to pull together putting aside their differences and work towards a common goal- produce a Broadway show, which for the time being they simply referred to as Marilyn.
Based on the previews I initially saw I was certain the show was going to be all about Karen (McPhee), but it’s really not. The show actually is about the entire team, and what each of them is forced to go through in a personal and professional level to try to make the show a success. Julia Houston (Debra Messing) has one of the more interesting back stories. Her character is attempting to juggle the demands of co-writing the show with the demands of her home life, which when the story starts is a bit hectic as she and her husband are attempting to adopt a child into their home. Tom Levitt (Christian Borle), the show's other co-writer, is attempting to get past a rocky professional past with the show's new director, Derek Wills (Jack Davenprt. Finally, there is Eileen Rand (Angelica Huston), the show's producer whose messy divorce proceedings may end up putting a financial clamp on the entire project before it ever really begins to take off.
What is perhaps the best part of the show, however, is the dynamic between the two women who aspire to be the show's Marilyn Monroe. Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright is a likable 24-year-old from Iowa who's extremely talented and beautiful but her resume is very green. Then you have Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) and equally likable, hard-working blonde bombshell with loads of experience who on the surface seems to be custom-built for the role of Marilyn. This dynamic is the one I will be watching closely because its development is what will either make Smash an actual Smash or a show that in 3 years very few people will remember.
While both women are up for the part, I think it plausible that reviewers will be split as for as which character they want to get the role. It's very easy to try to say Karen should get the role because after all she’s the adorable underdog and Ivy the conniving veteran- but in fact in a way both women can be viewed as underdogs. As the show unfolds I can't help but imagine fans of the show playing out a Twilight-like scenario with “Team-Karen” or “Team-Ivy”. NBC has a rare gem here with Smash and if they boggle it like they have other shows in the past it can be the nail in the coffin for NBC or if they leave alone and support it like other networks do their own shows it has the potential of becoming a flagship show and undoubtedly NBC's most talked about show in over a decade.
Smash is set to premiere on NBC the Monday following the Super Bowl.
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