I know what you might be thinking. Smash must be another tv show where the cast breaks into song and dance. Of course, that love for musical theatre is a definite highlight of the show, but this is no Glee. Smash cares to tread down a more drama-filled path and has more in common with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (RIP). You'll be in for a ride, even if it is a rocky one.
Let me explain. Smash follows a team of producers (Eileen, played by Anjelica Huston), writers (Julie, played by Debra Messing, and Tom, played by Christian Borle), actors (Karen, played by Katherine McPhee, Ivy, played by Megan Hilty) and a director (Derek, played by Jack Davenport) as they collaborate on a new Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. As you might imagine, there's plenty of drama, gossip, infidelity, jealousy and insecurities to go around, but nothing as infectiously raw or gritty as Steven Spielberg's idea for the tv show, which was originally developed by Showtime. This incarnation of the show is much "cleaner" than a cable tv show, aesthetically and plotwise, but it still wears its heart on its sleeve, even if it sometimes loses sight of its purpose.
The pilot episode sets off on an ambitious start with lots of show-stopping musical numbers and equally breathtaking vocal performances. The next few episodes follow suit in quality and left me wanting more (it's already rare enough that I'd like a musical show like this, but for me to stick by it for more than a few episodes is simply crazy); however, by about the sixth episode the drama starts to become stale.
It quickly becomes apparent that the reason why each character's inner demons are so lackluster is because of the characters themselves. Aside from the musical numbers, none of these characters are particularly compelling, even if they seemed so at first glance, no matter how much drama unfolds. Sad to say, Smash becomes a story full of lackluster melodramatic subplots with a strange cheeriness that becomes all-too apparent as it transitions back and forth. It simply tries too hard to be the cable show it was originally intended on being.
Maybe it's the combination of the two that makes the experience so much more jarring, which is a shame considering how promising the first few episodes were. By attempting to overflow the story with unnecessary amounts of drama to mask its characters, Smash quickly meanders into something still pleasing to the eyes and ears, but no longer as engaging as it once was. If you really want to enjoy Smash, watch the first few episodes, but don't expect anything quite as mesmerizing later on.
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