You’d be hard-pressed to find an article or review — this one being no exception — on NBC’s newest musical series endeavor “Smash” without hearing mention of its not-so-similar second cousin, “Glee.”
But that’s the catch. Seven episodes into its first season, this high-energy prime-time gamble has capitalized on and targeted its toe-tapping appeal to the audience of Broadway buffs and theater aficionados that “Glee” caters to only once in a blue moon.
The show, which follows the production of a made-up Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe’s life, is being received at a time when NBC is facing rating slumps steep enough to make any television or Broadway producer weep with chagrin. Its stars come from the different churches of television, film and theater — Anjelica Huston, Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty and the always-stunning Debra Messing, to name a few.
The championed selling point of “Smash” was that it’d have a similar appeal to “The West Wing,” the highly successful NBC drama that followed characters in a fictitious White House. Producers of “Smash” hoped that a show about Broadway could sell in the same way that “The West Wing” did by giving audiences a microscopic look at a cadre of characters in a shared setting. But it was the snappy dialogue and masterful plotlines from writer Aaron Sorkin that made “The West Wing” arguably the most successful show NBC has seen in years — not its premise.
That’s where “Smash” could invariably fall flat: The writing, the dialogue and the meat are severely lacking. What viewers get instead are overplayed colloquialisms that fail to capture the real, “this-could-be-my-last-shot” essence of people who work in the New York City theater scene. And just like a Broadway show, it could all flop at any minute.
It was a risk to pump such emphasis, money and promotion into a show so heavily focused on the dramas of the Great White Way, but isn’t that what showbiz is all about — taking odd, random and ballsy risks? Every once in a while they work out, and “Smash” is a testament to that truth. It’s got the music. It’s got the drama. And it’s got the characters. All it needs is a chance.