TV Review - Smash

Megan Hilty as Marilyn Monroe
in "Smash"
It's all about the behind-the-scenes drama of creating a new Broadway musical. It's all about the money, the ambition, the creativity, the egos and the interpersonal relationships, which include the jealousy and the disappointments. Some have compared this show to Glee, which is understandable. Both shows involve song-and-dance numbers. Yet, there is a distinct difference. As odd as it sounds, the world of Glee is a lot more open than the world of Smash.

Even though it's about high school students who now in their third season feel like they're being cyclical or repetitive, Glee can go to and explore so many more issues and avenues than Smash can. At least, Glee has that potential. Smash feels like it's more limited and finite. Glee could conceivably go on forever or way longer than Smash.

For example, Glee has a wide range of music that it can stage and perform and build around. Smash mainly can do only show tunes from the fictional Broadway musical that its characters are creating. The musical is about Marilyn Monroe and that's really what all the songs are. They're about her.

Each episode so far has shown us one song from the musical. The average Broadway musical can have any where from a dozen to twenty or so numbers. At the rate Smash is going, after about the twentieth episode, it would've hit a wall that beyond which would stretch believability as well as the audience's patience.

All the backstage gossip and that's really all it is, backstage gossip, like who's sleeping with whom, is good filler until the show hits that wall, but I'll be curious as to what it does after it gets to that point. Unlike Glee, this show doesn't seem interested in outside issues. It's narrowly focused on this one musical, which will eventually become a problem.

That being said, it's a problem that can be overlooked in the interim because the cast is extremely gorgeous and extremely talented. Many in the cast, like Glee, are real-life Broadway stars who bring those amazing abilities on the stage to this TV series. They all have great voices and great presences that more than shine. In fact, I think I'm in love with all the actors here, and, unlike Glee, the choreography is so much better.

Smash was created by Theresa Rebeck who is a playwright and a twice Emmy nominee for NYPD Blue. She was also a producer for Law & Order: Criminal Intent. It stars Debra Messing (Will & Grace) as Julia Houston, the writer of the Marilyn Monroe show. She has a teenage son who likes to smoke pot in Central Park and a husband named Frank, played by Brian d'Arcy James, who's estranged after a failed adoption attempt.

Jack Davenport (Coupling) co-stars as Derek Mills, the arrogant and easily angered director and choreographer of the Marilyn show. His strict and often severe treatment of the cast and crew can't be attributed to him being British but due to him possibly being a perfectionist.

Oscar winner Anjelica Huston also co-stars as Eileen Rand. She's the financier of the Marilyn show. This is her first time financing a show like this all by herself. Normally, she would do so in concert with her husband. Yet, she's currently in the process of divorce and wants no help or even association with him, and in this economy things are a struggle for her.

Christian Borle plays Tom Levitt, the man who comes up with the show's music and lyrics. He's Julia's best friend and confidant. He's also gay and dealing with the fact that while his lawyer boyfriend, John Goodwin, played by Neal Bledsoe, is sexy, Tom might not be all that sexually compatible with him.

Megan Hilty plays Ivy Lynn, the actress hired for the role of Marilyn Monroe. Despite being very talented, she has to face that she might not have gotten the part based on her talent. Meanwhile, Katherine McPhee, from American Idol-fame, plays Karen Cartwright, a girl in the chorus of the show who almost got the part of Marilyn.

Ivy and Karen are rivals at the beginning. It's a relationship that seems as if it's going to be perpetuated as a rivalry. If you've seen Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (2010), the rivalry between the two actresses are practically the same. A lot of the same dynamics are certainly at work.

Rounding out the large and impressive cast is Will Chase who plays Michael Swift, the actor hired to play Joe DiMaggio, a love interest for Marilyn Monroe, but Michael is actually a former lover of Julia. There's also Raza Jaffrey, the other British actor who plays Dev Sundaram, a businessman and fiance to Karen, as well as Jaime Cepero who plays Ellis Tancharoen, Tom's assistant whose idea led to Julia and Tom developing the Marilyn show.

I'll also make note of Phillip Spaeth from Philadelphia who plays Dennis, Wesley Taylor who plays Bobby and Leslie Odom, Jr. who plays Sam Strickland. All of whom are dancers in the Marilyn show. Finally, Emory Cohen plays Leo Houston, Julia's pot-smoking son. Because I think the entire cast is fantastic, even those smaller roles are worth me mentioning.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 10PM on NBC.

It's her character's audition song. Katherine McPhee performs Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." 


Popular Posts