Sunday, February 5, 2012


by Amy K. Bredemeyer

What? You mean you haven't seen Smash yet? I know it doesn't officially premiere until tomorrow, but it's been available in so many ways for so long now! Well, don't say I didn't warn you - with so much out there about this new show, I have no qualms about posting this before it technically debuts. I mean, I've been looking forward to it forever - and the pilot didn't disappoint. Yes, there were a few things I might have done differently, but I think that there's absolute promise for a big hit. I don't know that all of the Super Bowl advertisements helped - the promotion for this show has been thick for months... so I sure hope it didn't alienate anyone on-the-fence about the drama. And, now that I've talked about the series as a whole, let's talk about the pilot. Except, I don't even know where to begin. The casting? The premise? The ensemble talent? Even the cinematography could generate a couple of paragraphs or praise. So, I'll just take a step back and make a few general comments. First, I'm thrilled that Debra Messing is in a new show and think that the role is great for her... but I'm not a big fan of the adoption storyline. Second, all of the tension between various characters already has me on edge, and I tend not to fall in love with shows that get me all worked up all the time. Third, I could have done without that "Beautiful" song, but otherwise the singing and dancing was right up my alley - and gorgeously done. Finally, I kinda dislike Ivy already and I think that I'm reallllly jumping the gun on that... and it bothers me.

Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC
Smash "Pilot" (S01E01): [Opening with a beautiful performance of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" brought me back to my roots - The Wizard of Oz was the first community show I ever took part in!] Tom, a songwriter/lyricist, comes home from a business trip to London. His writing partner, Julia, picked him up at the airport, so we're introduced to her as well as Tom's personal assistant, Ellis. They talk about Marilyn Monroe as a popular culture icon - and how it failed as a musical. Julia returns home to her husband, Frank, and son, Leo, and we learn that the family hopes to adopt a baby. [wow. that's a LOT of time and money and effort. Absolutely going to be a major factor in Julia's work life.] Julia picks her husband's brain about a Marilyn Monroe musical, and he's immediately concerned... she had promised to take a year off to help with the adoption. Well, Julia is clearly very tempted by this vague project, as she's up until all hours watching a Marilyn Monroe movie that night. The next day, the family has their first meeting with a social worker (largely off-camera), then Julia jets off to a song rehearsal... for a Marilyn piece that she and Tom wrote on the fly. [doesn't sound like she's going to take a year off...] There's some tension between Julia and Ellis, which quickly escalates when Ellis takes a video from a private recording session and sends it to his mother, who posts it online. [whaaa??] He's fired, since people will post awful, trolly things on the internet before a first draft of the show would ever be completed (they're up to three songs and an outline by this point). [yeah! I'd not only fire him but make sure he never works as a person assistant in theatre again!] Well, Ellis apologizes, gives them croissants, says that he knew it was wrong and did it anyway, and Tom takes him back, much to the chagrin of Julia. [Tom's weak. got it.]

Elsewhere, divorce proceedings are going on between husband-wife producer team Jerry and Eileen. She'd been working on My Fair Lady, but that gets tied up in escrow, so she decides she wants in on the Marilyn project. She talks with Tom and Julia about auditioning a director... one who has a mutual hate relationship with Tom. [great - more potential tension on the set!] Next thing you know, we're watching a full run-through of the song about Marilyn and a bunch of baseball players. [love!] There are visions of the production going through the creators' minds, but Tom is worried that they'll have issues with Derek as the producer, even if the man is brilliant. [the lines of the number flow beautifully, the music jumps, but I wasn't a huge fan of "Marilyn" the character. I'm not her biggest fan to begin with, so I'm not surprised.] Derek also wants a famous actress to headline the show, so auditions aren't going so well with no-names. Tom favors Ivy, who has an ensemble role in Julia & Tom's current show. Ivy has been turned down for leads many times in the past. [having Tom console her as she's being introduced didn't jive so well with me.] Another standout in the early auditions is Karen, a twentysomething from Iowa who works in a coffeeshop. She doesn't dress as Marilyn or sing one of her songs, but still gets called back, along with Ivy. [just two girls at callbacks is interesting to me, as someone who spent a seven or eight years doing "the theatre thing."]

Karen has that "Midwest innocence" about her, and is told that she needs to play up "the sex" at the callback... so she works on playing up her breasts with the help of her live-in boyfriend, Dev, who works in the mayor's office. Derek asks Karen to his place late at night to work with him privately. [and the smalltown girl thinks nothing of it!] She explains her preparation process of working with Some Like it Hot, but Derek just makes her more nervous. So, she goes to the restroom, comes back wearing a white button-down, sings a sultry "Happy Birthday Mr. President," then leaves, thinking that nothing will happen if she doesn't sleep with him. [Derek's a womanizer... got it.]

The callbacks result in no choice being made and it becomes clear in the "future scenes" that the two girls are in heavy competition for this role. [the music lead-in to the callbacks was quite powerful!]
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