Stay Tuned
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Sunday, February 05, 2012

"Smash" Review: Will It Be the Smash NBC Needs It to Be?

Beginning tonight, NBC will start trying to turn its season around. It begins with the Super Bowl, followed by the premiere of Season 2 of "The Voice." Then tomorrow night, it's the premiere of the new musical drama from Steven Spielberg, "Smash."

In Thursday's "Stay Tuned" column, I shared my thoughts about the show NBC is hoping will live up to its name. If you missed it, here it is:

Last weekend, I finally got the chance to watch the movie, “Bridesmaids.” For months, I had heard just how hilarious it was so I just knew it was going to be one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.

But at the end of the two hours, I was still waiting for the hilarious. It’s not that the movie was terrible—because it wasn’t—I was just thoroughly disappointed that it wasn’t as funny as I thought it was going to be. In other words, my expectations ruined the movie for me.

I tell that story because I had the same exact feeling after watching the first two episodes of NBC’s new drama, “Smash.” After months of hearing how “Smash” could be the show that turns NBC’s fortunes around, I thought I was going to see something spectacular. And although the show is good, it never quite hits spectacular, once again leaving me disappointed.

Ironically, “Smash” is about a group of people trying to create a smash hit—in this case, for Broadway. Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) are longtime musical writers who are writing a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. The show catches the attention of successful producer, Eileen (Anjelica Huston), who hires the brilliant director, Derek (Jack Davenport), who Tom despises. The show seems to have its star in Ivy (Megan Hilty), until newcomer Karen (Katharine McPhee) walks into the audition room. Now the show’s team must decide who is the better Marilyn while working on all the other details of the show.

The songs are terrific and clever. There’s an elaborately choreographed baseball number where Marilyn learns about the sport after she starts dating Joe DiMaggio. And her transition into a 20th Century Fox studio star is marked with “The 20th Century Foxtrot.”

The cast is also fantastic. The problem is that there are just too many characters with too many stories. Julia and her husband are trying to adopt a child. Karen is struggling to maintain her relationship with the mayor’s press secretary. And Eileen is dealing with a nasty divorce. Because there are so many stories, they all start to feel a little like filler between the musical numbers. And quite frankly, the action gets a little boring.

The expectations surrounding the show are understandable since its executive producers include Steven Spielberg and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team behind the Academy Award-winning “Chicago.” But when people see it doesn’t quite live up to the hype, those high expectations could end up keeping “Smash” from being the smash NBC so desperately needs it to be.

“Smash” premieres Monday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Photo Credit: Mark Seliger/NBC