NBC did virtually everything it could to persuade Americans to tune in to the first episode of “Smash” last night. The network spent weeks running non-stop commercials for the Monday-after-the-Super-Bowl premiere. Star Katharine McPhee was dispatched to events like the Golden Globes and the NFL Honors to ensure that “Smash” was always lurking somewhere in the collective consciousness. The pilot was made available for viewing weeks online and Xfinity OnDemand.
The only thing NBC executives didn’t do (as far as I know) is go door-to-door with DVD copies of “Smash” and invite themselves in to host spontaneous private screenings. (“Hi, I”ve got a six-pack of beer, some reduced-fat microwave popcorn and a copy of a fabulous new show in which Debra Messing gets to rant about theater critics. Where’s your television set?”)
But now that “Smash” has finally, officially aired, the question is: Did all that effort pay off?
Ratings have not been released yet. So for now, all we have to go on are reactions to the series. Critics have generally been positive — The Post’s Hank Stuever calls it “quite the little sunbeam,” praising the show for “endearing characters, an instinct for backstage meows and a firm grip on its own sense of camp control.”
But some, including New York Magazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz, wonder why the show feels “sanded down and softened.”
That’s a good question. The pilot for “Smash” — a show that sets out to capture the lyric crafting and audition angst behind a potential Marilyn Monroe musical — is filled with suggestions of so much drama, drama drama. But there wasn’t a moment during the first episode when I tingled with any sense of anxiety or danger. This felt more like callback-conflict comfort food than an edgy, nitty-gritty look at the how the showtune sausage is made on Broadway.
But as a starting point for a new series, I was totally okay with that. “Smash” dished out some glossy and well-choreographed musical moments (the Marilyn baseball number was fun, even with the constant cuts to Messing’s delighted face reminding us to be delighted), and offered up a potentially intriguing new rivalry for the masses. For those who never met an Edward-vs.-Jacob-style debate they didn’t like, we now have this question to chew over: In the matter of who should be cast as Marilyn, are you Team Karen (McPhee) or Team Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty)? While my polling on this matter has been highly informal so far, it appears that many “Smash” fans are Team Ivy Lynn.
The bottom line is that “Smash” the pilot was certainly enticing enough to keep me watching and to merit some attention from anyone who values quality scripted television over, say, Snooki urinating at a bar over on “Jersey Shore.” But what did you think? Did you watch “Smash ”? And will you watch again? Weigh in by posting a comment.