‘Smash’ Pilot review

(The cast of ‘Smash’.)

NBC’s new show Smash is being billed as ‘the anti-Glee‘, ‘Glee for grown-ups’. It is all about the makings of a Broadway show, and in particular the search for the perfect leading lady, in this case, a girl to play Marilyn Monroe.

Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) is a ‘green’ young actress, longing to pursue her dreams of stardom. She catches the attention of the director, Derek (Jack Davenport) for being the only girl to turn up to the audition not dressed as Marilyn. However, the favourite of the music writer Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) is seasoned Broadway actress, Ivy Lynn, played by the super-talented Megan Hilty. Thus, I believe that most of Smash‘s first season will be centred around the battle between Cartwright and Lynn for the role of Marilyn. I liked the characters of writers Tom and Julia (Debra Messing) and I’m intrigued by how producer Eileen Rand’s (Anjelica Huston) divorce will affect the future of the budding musical – will she have sufficient funds to put the show on at all?

(Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn.) 

I have to say that although I really enjoyed the pilot, I already have one major problem with this show. I feel that the audience is meant to be backing Karen, the naïve dreamer with the ‘light’ résumé, as the underdog – Karen is clearly supposed to be the star in the making. However, I found my sympathies lying instead with Ivy: the experienced chorus girl who wants her big break more than anything. Whilst not involved in the professional theatre world myself, I understand that many, many talented actors struggle for years to get decent roles, and many never succeed. I find myself hoping that Ivy will get the lead in ‘Marilyn, The Musical’: I think she deserves it more than Karen, as she’s spent years forging her career. Megan Hilty’s voice is superior to Katharine McPhee’s: although McPhee’s voice is nice enough, she sounds ‘pop-ish’ and I’m not sure her pipes are really cut out for Broadway (even in the context of a TV show). Also, I struggle to picture Karen playing Marilyn as she looks and sounds nothing like her, compared with Ivy who was oozing buxom blonde sex appeal. The only ‘Marilyn-esque’ glimpse I saw in Karen was in her performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’, dressed only in the director’s shirt – I like the way that she let Derek get within inches of seducing her, before saying, “it’s never going to happen” and walking away. I’d like to see more of Karen’s confident attitude, which she definitely have to display a lot of if she’s going to hold her own in the many rounds of the callbacks.

(Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright.)

I look forward to seeing how this show plays out: I just hope it doesn’t fall into clichéd, predictable Glee-like realms, as I think this show has a great premise, and has been pretty well executed so far… though of course it is very early days let…

On a final note, I loved the final song of the episode, ‘Let Me Be Your Star’, sung by Hilty and McPhee. It’s stuck in my head right now, and so I think it should be stuck in yours too. Listen to it here:


(All photos ©NBC.)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Brooke
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 02:07:53

    I don’t know if I will be watching Smash again. The scenes and characters were not interesting enough for me. I agree with what you said about Karen not looking like and sounding like Marilyn. Like you said, Marilyn was “buxom” while Karen is slender. Her voice was okay, but it wasn’t appealing enough for me.
    Why didn’t the costume department make Karen look more curvy?
    Ivy would have been a better choice. Then she would have to deal with maintaining
    her appeal and talent that got her into that role.


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