Monday, January 23, 2012

Smash - NBC

Smash is a new series on NBC created by Theresa Rebeck (from an idea by executive producer Steven Spielberg) that revolves around an ensemble of people trying to put on a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe.  Of course it isn't so simple for everyone as just putting on the show (which isn't easy anyway), there are personal issues that may or may not derail the whole thing.  I watched the pilot episode of the new series last night with my wife. It premieres on NBC on February 6th.

(Spoiler Alert! Synopsis of show dynamics below.)

The show has an impressive cast.  Julia (Debra Messing, Will and Grace) is one half of a successful musical writing duo, who's promised her husband she'd take the year off while they try and adopt a baby.  Her partner  Tom (Christian Borle, Tony award nominated actor) is the other half of the duo that writes the music.  When Tom's assistant questions why no one has done a Marilyn Monroe musical, it sparks something in the two of them that can't be stopped.  They absolutely have to write it, which puts a strain on Julia's relationship.

Eileen (Anjelica Huston, take your pick of films) is the producer of the musical who's going through a messy divorce from her husband Jerry (Michael Cristofer, who was amazing in Rubicon) that threatens to derail the show.  Derek (Jack Davenport, Flashforward) is the brilliant but sleazy director that has a bad history with Tom, who fights for his pick of who should play Marilyn, while Tom fights for a different lead.

Karen (Kathrine McPhee, American Idol runner-up) is the girl next door, who's just trying to catch a break in the big city.  She has talent, but lacks experience.  She tries out for the Marilyn musical and gets a call back.  She's Derek's choice, while Ivy (Megan Hilty, the musical Wicked) has been hand picked by Tom.

I liked the pilot.  I think the show could have a lot of potential.  They wrote their own songs, which were composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and are treating it like an actual musical, which is a really unique twist for television.  I'm not sure how the show will play out.  If the musical ends up being staged at the end of the season, where do you go from there?  I guess we'll just have to see.

One thing that's pretty clear, is the show will trump up the rivalry between Karen and Ivy, but I wonder how they can sustain the tension of it for a whole season.  I know Uma Thurman has a five episode arc in the show, and rumor has it she plays a big time actress who wants to be in the show.  If that's the case, I guess they can throw the rivalry between Karen and Ivy on its ear, and make them join forces to oppose the new girl.

The characters were well fleshed out and likable, even Ivy, who I believe was the shallowest of the bunch (just nosing out Julia's husband), but I think it was intentional so later they can reveal how layered she truly is.  There was nothing I found irritating about it at all, so I would recommend the show (based on the pilot) and will likely tune in for episode 2.

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