Smash – Pilot (S01E01)
After all the hype around the Steven Spielberg produced musical-drama, Smash finally premiered last night to an impressive audience of over 11 million. I guess that happens when your network broadcasts the Superbowl the night before and when you have a lead-in like The Voice. But in any condition, Smash impressed me on many levels last night and definitely shows a lot of promise. Hopefully they can keep up the tempo throughout the entire season.
We are thrown into the world of putting together a Broadway musical. The beginning stage includes writing songs, finding a director, some choreography, and holding auditions. The duo of Julia Houston (Messing) and Tom Levitt (Borle) are the songwriters and thanks to Tom’s newly appointed assistant, they agree to attempt writing a few songs for a Marilyn Monroe musical. After a video of one of their songs goes viral on the Internet, Broadway producer Eileen Rand (Huston) jumps on the project and ties director Derek Wills (Davenport) to the musical as well. The second half of the episode deals with veteran actress Ivy Lynn (Hilty) and struggling actress/waitress Karen Cartwright (McPhee) auditioning for the lead role of Marilyn Monroe.
What I was so surprised about from the pilot episode of Smash was how well everything worked together. There was a simplicity to the plot that made it easy to follow along, but there were enough dynamic characters to get the ball rolling in the show’s favor. Debra Messing and Christian Borle had a very strong chemistry that lit up every scene they interacted. But the show was far from being a happy-go-lucky type of musical.
My attention was really captured by Katherine McPhee’s performance as Karen Cartwright, the unhappy waitress and aspiring actress unwilling to let go of her dreams yet, but understanding her time is almost up. She’s receiving pressure from everyone, even herself, except for her boyfriend Raza Jaffrey. Knowing that this is probably her last straw to grab at before succumbing to her parents’ wish to join the real world, it seems that she’s willing to do almost anything for this role.
There is also conflict that stems from each character and when they tangle with one another, that makes for interesting television. The Tom and Derek spat provided the intensity for the pilot, but you know they are far from done with their hatred for each other. Eileen is going through a divorce and Julia and her husband are trying to adopt a child. There are more than enough story-lines to fill season one.
I am a believer that Smash should be a hit among any type of audience. It’s refreshing to hear original songs after Glee has ruined plenty of Top 40 songs from the past decade. But the main strength that the show has isn’t its gimmick of being a musical, it’s the story surrounded by strong characters and talented actors. I can’t wait to see Marilyn: The Musical come to fruition on Smash.