Freitag, 4. Januar 2013

Smash (NBC/RTL2) Review

The NBC musical drama series Smash, which premiered in the USA in February 2012, started airing yesterday on German national network RTL2, so I'd like to give some info about the show and my thoughts on it.


(pic taken with my smartphone in front of the TV)

RTL2's image as a TV station is pretty trashy (their current slogan is "It's fun"). While they used to air some good drama series in the past (24, Sleeper Cell, Heroes, Californication), they've been quite impatient with their US shows recently, pushing them to late night or early morning slots or cancelling them altogether when instant ratings success didn't happen.

Their latest idea is the so-called "Event-Programming", which means they show complete seasons of a show on consecutive days - for example 3 or 4 episodes on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. They did that with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones on national holiday weekends (I think Easter was one of them). I didn't have the time to watch these marathons on RTL2 and bought the DVDs instead. With Smash, I'll try to watch it all live ... we'll see if I succeed. It started airing last night, so I've seen the first 4 episodes now.

Smash has been compared to Glee, but I see more similarities with Fame - although both had the "school" element Smash is lacking. The show is about the development of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe.

These are the main characters:

Julia Houston, the writer of the show. She's played by Debra Messing. I never really watched Will & Grace, but you gotta love her hair - the red colour, the waves - I'd love to have hair like that! Her look is supposed to be "bohemian chic" I guess, and of course she wears big black-rimmed glasses, as everybody who wants to give him-/herself an intellectual or geek/nerdy attitude seems to do nowadays ...
She's likeable, although I don't quite understand where that adoption storyline comes from. To explain: she and her husband Frank have a teenage son, but for some reason want to adopt a Chinese girl, which is a very difficult and long procedure. I think it comes up in episode 3 that their son always wanted a sibling. But why it has to be a baby from China I don't know. The storyline is only there to create tension between Julia and her husband, it seems.

Julia Houston

(pic of Julia looking guilty taken of my TV screen)

Tom Levitt, Julia's gay writing partner, in other words the composer of the musical. Not too much is revealed about him in the first few eps, except that he hates director Derek and loves singer/actress Ivy (not in THAT way, of course, because, as I mentioned, he's gay).

Ellis, Tom's new assistant, is sort of the villain of the show. He comes up with the idea for a Marilyn musical in the pilot, but thinks he isn't given enough credit for it. Julia doesn't like him and she has every reason not to. He likes to eavesdrop on private meetings and steal stuff. And what he's doing at the workshop I don't understand ... but every show needs a villain : )

Derek Wills is the British director and choreographer of the musical. He's played by Jack Davenport - probably best known for his part of (Captain?) Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I saw him first in the BBC comedy Coupling as Steve, the most normal of the 6 characters. He's hot. I wonder if his hair is really going grey or if he had to colour it for the part of Derek. In Smash, he's a player, which became clear in the pilot when he called Karen to his apartment at night. I wouldn't call him a villain, though, even if he can be mean to the actors/singers.

Speaking of Karen Cartwright, she is one of the 2 women competing for the role of Marilyn Monroe. She's a brunette and the typical mid-western girl next door. She works as a waitress  to make a living and goes to auditions hoping for her big break-through. Her voice is brilliant and I like her. Her boyfriend Dev is English (with an Indian background) and works in the City Hall.

Her rival is Ivy Lynn, who looks very much like Marilyn Monroe (blonde and curvy) and is Tom's first choice for the part. I prefer Karen because Ivy is such a diva.

The songs are a mix of pop songs (such as Beautiful by Christina Aguilera, sung by Karen in the pilot) and original songs from the Marilyn musical. In my opinion they all sound great. Some of the musical songs are really catchy, especially "Let me be your star". Their presentation in the show combines scenes from the rehearsals with kind of "dream sequences" from what the musical could / will look like on stage - well done!

If you want to start watching the remaining 11 episodes of season 1 (and there will be a second season), tune in to RTL2 NOW!! The songs are great and if you like musicals, I can recommend this show!

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