Monday, February 6, 2012
I've missed a lot of the huge publicity blitz for NBC's tonight-premiering musical drama Smash, though from what I've read if you live in New York that would have been impossible. One thing I truly don't quite get as a bragging point is the "Monday after the Super Bowl" line; do they really think that a song-filled soap opera about a Broadway musical is going to appeal to the same people who are watching the Super Bowl? Sure, football gets you the big tent, but this seems a comically mismatched mating. Of course, if I were NBC I'd also be milking every possible viewer connection I had, and for NBC that's not particularly easy these days.
Everything I've read is adamant about not glibly making Smash out to be "Glee for grown-ups", but you've got to start making comparisons someplace. There's no better show than the tune-filled, angst-laden teen musidrama to ease you into Smash territory; I'd reckon that fans of Glee should definitely tune into Smash. They'll love the highly-wrought musical renditions, something that will also appeal to everybody who's watching The Voice, American Idol and The X Factor, too. We're getting a pretty good base going as potential Smash viewers, and that's part of the challenge. There's also a lot of talent on the bench, with names like Spielberg, musical whizzes Zadan and Meron and the like. An impressive provenance doesn't hurt (but it doesn't guarantee a thing, either).
Who else will like Smash? Lovers of fabulous melodrama like Desperate Housewives will get a kick out of it, and how about folks who adore the bitchy goings-on of the various Real Housewives of... franchise? Definitely. You've got a Will & Grace vibe going on with co-stars Debra Messing and Christian Borle, not only in an actual star crossover but in the gay-loves-gal friendship between the two tunesmiths. (Borle is way more "Jack" than Will from W&G, though.) Admirers of Thatcherian strength will go for Angelica Huston's strong-willed financial backer in a big way. Which way one falls on the Ivy (Megan Hilty) vs. Karen (Katharine McPhee, from American Idol) question could become as heated as Republican vs. Democrat. You've also got the bastardly British stage director (Jack Davenport, Coupling) to spread around some nasty Simon Cowell-esque vibes, plus this bloke is an over-confident and under-skilled ladies man, too, which is sort of fun.
Certainly Smash has a lot going for it, but could it signal a turnaround for NBC's fortunes? Wow. That's a tall order. The origins of Smash were at Showtime where now-NBC exec Robert Greenblatt once had it on his plate, and one wonders if it might have worked in the cable world better than on broadcast. I don't think it's guaranteed SRO anywhere, but the stage has been set, the cast assembled, and the the musicians warming up; now it's up to the TV audience to decide if Smash has what it takes.
I'm on the fence on this one. Smash seems more fairy tale to me than Once Upon a Time and a great deal more precious, not something I normally crave. Aficionados of the very notion of quality series TV will probably feel an obligation to watch Smash, as I do. I just hope I can learn to love it, too.
Smash premieres tonight and will air regularly on NBC at 10pm on Monday. Check out the series website here. You may want to read some opinions on the show here from TheWeek.com, or The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman's take, Mary McNamara from the L.A. Times, and many other reviews which you can easily find aggregated at Megacritic.com.