Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Smash'
Katharine McPhee stars in what is almost the Anti-'Glee'
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Smash" (NBC)
The Pitch: "It's 'Glee'... Only for people who like their musical theater undefiled."
Quick Response: Although the instinct is to think of "Smash" as NBC's answer to "Glee," the network's decision to air this midseason drama at 10 p.m. isn't an accident. The network hasn't scheduled "Smash" at 10 at the risk of narrowing its audience, but rather scheduled it at 10 p.m. in recognition that "Smash" probably isn't going to be for everybody. "Glee" twists itself into pretzel shapes to be a Big Tent show, an Everybody's Special, Everybody's Welcome show. And "Smash" is not "Glee," which is what I appreciated most from the pilot. It's a serious-minded, process-oriented, Let's Put On a Show drama in which love for Broadway and love for the IDEA of the legitimate musical theatre isn't just paid lip-service. And I liked that. It's an adult show in which people sing a lot. As such, I think "Smash" is actually a far riskier show than "Glee" ever was. To paraphrase The Bard, the musical's the thing and even though "Smash" features Emmy winners (Debra Messing) and Oscar winners (Anjelica Huston) and Tony winners (incomparable "Rubicon" co-star Michael Cristofer) and "American Idol" near-winners (Kat McPhee) and recognizable Broadway folks like Brian d'Arcy James and Megan Hilty and Christian Borle and recognizable TV folks like Jack Davenport and Dylan Baker, there's no indication that anybody thinks themself above the ensemble. Everybody's just playing their role and everybody's doing it well enough and within the proper limitations. So do I think Katharine McPhee is an evolved thespian? Well no. But do I think she looks beautiful, sings well and conveys the necessary innocence as a callow ingenue? Absolutely. Messing, Huston, Davenport, really everybody has been smartly cast and there are no sore thumbs sticking out. There are dangers to doing a TV show or movie about an original musical and the biggest danger is that the people on-screen will be raving about the brilliance of a new song which, in point of fact, is only so-so. I felt that with the original song in the pilot and fear it's an inevitable ongoing concern [Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are established Broadway hitmakers, so their involvement obviously isn't a bad sign. Perhaps future original songs from the show-within-a-show Marilyn Monroe musical will be better.]. I also found "Smash" to be an oddly "cold" show, focused-yet-distanced, in a way that's opposite from "Glee," which is a "hot" show, pandering-and-universal. I'd think this were a choice that had been made, but since upfronts, NBC brass have been talking about the emotional reactions people have had to "Smash." Tears and whatnot. I had none, ending up interested but not involved. But I appreciated the cast, appreciated the serious approach to the subject matter and appreciated the New York specificity. I wonder how long the show will be able to stay methodical and semi-realistic, before process has to be pushed aside for sensationalism.
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Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.
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