SMASH: SEASON ONE
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
The biggest obstacle I had against watching “Smash” was the fear that it was a shameless “Glee”-inspired show. I suppose that’s the case, and I am doubtful that it would have been thrown into development if the television musical genre hadn’t been established by the Fox show a couple years ago.
Fortunately, “Smash” isn’t necessarily trying to be “Glee,” though by the end of the first season, it is definitely trying to sell its fair share of iTunes downloads. At least the series hasn’t turned into a jukebox of cast covers… but it is just the first season, after all.
The series follows the writing, development and production of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. There are multiple storylines, including the writing team, the no-nonsense producer, the diva director and the two actresses fighting for the lead role. Having known actors and performers all my life, I will say that this show has nailed the stereotypes and cliches.
From a dramatic standpoint, there’s a lot going on. In essence, it becomes a week-to-week soap opera about the Broadway circuit, and I suppose that helps hold the audience. However, when the series gets overly melodramatic is when I lose interest. I’m less concerned about the character’s personal idiosyncrasies and neuroses than I am about the drama behind the actual production.
The nuts and bolts of putting together a Broadway production is quite interesting, and the bitchiness of artistic types behind it comes with the territories. However, when the show breaks down is when I simply don’t like the characters. Katherine McPhee is a beautiful girl, but she’s woefully miscast as a would-be Marilyn. Similarly, Debra Messing’s sidestory which includes a hopeful adoption and a string of infidelities might be realistic, but it bored me.
Once the season gets on a roll, it threatens to go down the “Glee” rabbit hole with Uma Thurman as a high profile guest star, though that storyline is defused rather quickly. Something similar happens with Nick Jonas, though at least he’s not brought in as blatantly as Thurman is.
In the end, “Smash” is a decent drama that satisfies the audience’s want of Broadway productions. Let’ just see if it doesn’t suffer concept-rot the way “Glee” did in its second season.
The Season One DVD set comes with extended musical numbers, deleted scenes, a gag reel and a behind-the-scenes featurette that highlights the development of the musical-within-a-show.