Through four episodes of "Smash," the new NBC musical debuting Monday night at 10, I kept waiting to hear the music.
Not the literal music, mind you. There's plenty of that to be heard and enjoyed in this backstage drama about attempts to make a Broadway musical out of the life of Marilyn Monroe, some of them original compositions by the award-winning team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, some of them contemporary pop hits covered by a cast that includes "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing and Broadway actors Megan Hilty and Christian Borle. Shaiman and Wittman's songs for the show-within-the-show are energetic and everything you might expect from the duo who wrote the Tony-winning "Hairspray" score. And the pop numbers position the show as every bit the "'Glee' for grown-ups" NBC so desperately wants it to be. (If anything, comparing it to the narrative mess "Glee" has become is damning it with faint praise; "Smash" is much more coherent with its stories and characters.)
But even though "Smash" is a solidly-crafted show with a terrific cast (the ensemble also includes Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport), great New York atmosphere and, yes, those songs, I never heard quite what the show wanted me to hear, or what a number of other critics I respect have heard. I never heard the music.