I went into the pilot for Smash already wanting to love it. I used to adore Glee, but that ship has sailed (yes, yes, the Michael Jackson episode wasn’t half bad, but it doesn’t erase the pain of so. many. pointless. episodes.) I felt that a fresh, more adult take on the whole musical scene would be just what the doctor ordered to cure my Glee disease. And holy Lea Michele, I was right.
Smash is definitely a “grown-up” version of Glee: No camp, actual adults, real sex, people taking everything seriously. I laughed a couple of times, but this is by no means a comedy. This is much more musical drama. I was really pleased to see it was created by Theresa Rebeck, who wrote the fantastic play Seminar that I got to see last fall in NYC. It also has the names “Steven Speilberg” and “Anjelica Huston” stamped on the credits, insuring us the highest levels of quality.
Going behind the scenes of the making of a broadway musical is obviously not everybody’s cup of tea, so if that description doesn’t stir somethin’ up, this series is not for you. Me? I enjoy the hell out of a show, and appreciate the insane hard work and dedication that goes into putting it all together. By the end of the pilot you’ve watched as songs are written, learned, and at least one musical number is choreographed and performed. Not too shabby.
The cast was enjoyable overall. I forgot how much I like Debra Messing. She’s Julia, one half of the duo writing a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe, while juggling her family and an impending adoption. She’s harried yet smart, and as always, a joy to watch. Anjelica Huston is the producer, snatching up the production after the current show she’s devoted herself to was lost in her high-profile divorce. Huston’s Eileen wants Derek Miller (Jack Davenport) to direct the show, but Julia’s partner Tom has worked with the Brit in the past and the guy’s such an ass, he wants nothing more to do with him. I need to mention here that I’ve loved Davenport for a loooooong time, specifically in the show I really loved but the whole rest of the universe loathed, Swingtown. Here he’s scathing, sporting some scruff and that delectable accent, and BOOM! I’m fanning myself on the couch.
The two gals vying for the role of Marilyn are Katherine McPhee, the former American Idol contestant, and Megan Hilty, who actually has been on Broadway (Glinda in Wicked, which I do love). McPhee’s Karen is a midwesterner (there are several groaner midwestern jokes, but, being one myself, I can’t even argue with them because they’re true), trying to make it in the big city, going to auditions and always getting looked over. She’s beautiful and does have an excellent voice, but I don’t see the “it” factor that Derek and Eileen shit their pants over. Personally, I like Hilty’s Ivy for the role much better. It’s all part of the drama though, the powers-that-be butting heads over who should get the role. I wish McPhee had a little more charisma, but maybe she’ll grow on me as the season goes on.
While it wasn’t quite as magical as I’d hoped (the commercials airing today were a tad silly – “this is the series everyone has been waiting for”, “gloriously entertaining” – yeah, I mean, okay… ), pilots are just first glimpses into new worlds. I highly discourage ever making up your mind about a show after watching one measly episode, least of all the PILOT. Smash‘s first episode was a strong entry, featuring solid performances, catchy original songs, and lovely shots of the Big Apple. I’m signed on for this season, that’s for sure.