Advanced Smash Review: Does It Meet Expectations?

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In case you hadn't turned on a television or opened a magazine in weeks, NBC premieres Smash on February 6.

The network is admittedly placing a lot of stock in this musical drama, running ads everywhere it can, including every commercial break of last night's Golden Globes. It's also making the Smash pilot available in many markets On Demand, or online; even running it on a few airlines.

But will all the marketing payoff? Does the series actually meet expectations for a network desperately in need of a hit? Based on the premiere, which I screened a few weeks ago, the answer is actually an unequivocal YES.

Here's why:

Marilyn vs. Marilyn

Smash is not Glee. Are the comparisons understandable? Sure. But can they please end now? Comparing these two programs to one another is akin to comparing one lawyer-based show with another for no other reason than the occupation of the leads. Aside from the act of characters singing, it's almost difficult to imagine to more dissimilar shows.

Glee is not exactly a series that cares about plot or character development. Smash, conversely, concluded one episode with immediately invested in a number of individuals. Debra Messing plays Julia Houston, a writer who wants to adopt a child and stage a musical based on Marilyn Monroe. Her and her husband clash over whether the timing is right for the latter.

Christian Borle plays Julia's writing partner, and he has an unexplained history/rivalry with Jack Davenport's Derek Willis, the show's director. Then there's Anjelica Huston's Eileen Rand, who is in the middle of a divorce, while simultaneously hoping to produce Marilyn.

These are all rich characters, played by industry veterans. There's a lot of material to mine here far beyond the musical itself.

Choosing teams. TV viewers are accustomed to shows asking them to choose teams, but never in this fashion. Forget the sultry vampire you hope ends up with Elena Gilbert, or the Alabama native you're yearning kisses Zoe Hart.

Smash pits one stage star against another, as Megan Hilty portrays veteran Ivy Lynn, the favorite to take on the play's lead role... until Katharine McPhee's Karen Cartwright shows up. While it's somewhat irritating for NBC to continually be "introducing" us to McPhee in every ad - she was on the highest-rated show on television for months, after all - I can see where the network is coming from. She's outstanding in this role.

A whole new world. The best part of Smash is the way in which it integrates you into a world never before depicted on the small screen. You legitimately feel like you're behind the scenes of a Broadway production. The most apt comparison I can make it to The Good Wife, in terms of an adult drama that treats its viewers like adults. There's quick banter, lively scenes, no stopping to dumb anything down for the audience.

It's a really, really good pilot. I can't vouch for anything beyond this one episode, of course, and this is NBC. So there's potential for it to get totally messed up. But Smash was my favorite screener of the 2011-2012 season and I'll be anxious to see what readers think about it after everyone gets a chance to watch.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


SMASH is fabulous. Fairly realistic in terms of its relationship to the real world of Broadway theater, and with a cast that blows me away. In truth, I think that SMASH is a real, honest-to-goodness, Broadway caliber musical that just happens to be on TV instead of being on stage. To me, this is the simplest way to describe its brilliance.


For ANYONE who is working, or has worked, professionally, meaning under an Actors Equity Association contract - which is the only way to work on a Broadway show - this world of Smash is total bull, B.S!! The lines of sexual harassment and union rules that are crossed as though it's an everyday occurrence is ridiculous. Thanks NBC for giving me, as a teacher, another unreal representation of the world of the performing arts to use to guide my students. Like Glee wasn't enough! Ugh! Most of dumbed-down, non-show biz Americans don't know the difference, so you probably have a hit! Yay!


The pilot was incredible. I hated your reviews of Dexter, but you were spot on here Matt... even if your grammar is terrible! "HER and her husband"? Really? "To imagine TO more dissimilar shows"? You really need to work on your writing. Anyway, I'll praise Smash hoping for the next episodes to be just as good. Here's to NBC making a comeback!


It was really good. Great actors! I thought Katharine McPhee did an outstanding job.


We found the pilot a little too cliched (characters, plotlines) to be thoroughly enjoyable, though it has promise. The Ivy character is interesting if they don't turn her into the villain, but there's an inherent danger in how predictable some of these stories could become. Our take here:


I was all set to heed this review, until I saw this "editor" had written "her and her husband..." Are you kidding me?! It's SHE and her husband. Back to third grade grammar class, Michael. Pathetic.


I am honestly surprised by the negative comments about this show. I just watched the pilot and I love it. Everyone has different tastes so that's that I guess.


Just watched the first episode online. This show is horrible, pitiful acting and a very forgetable cast. I am a big fan of Broadway and I think that this show will do more to turn people off then to help make people want to go see a real show.


Uh @LuLu --- It's "IT'S" (IT IS... contraction, get it?) not Its... C'mon. Your snarky comment was just as illiterate as whatever you thought you were "correcting". Moron.


People who don't care to watch this have been raised on Two and a Half Men and The Real World.


Smash Quotes

Sam: Ivy's doing the nasty with the Dark Lord, huh?
Dennis: That's what I said.
Karen: Who's the Dark Lord?
Sam: Sauron himself, Derek.

Eileen: If that were a real Degas, what would you pay for it?
Julia: That? ... It is a real Degas.
Eileen: Yeah.

Smash Music

  Song Artist
Song Never Give All the Heart Smash Cast
Smash cast the national pastime The National Pastime Smash Cast iTunes
Song Beautiful Smash Cast