Preview: NBC's Smash, Which Is Now Streaming Online

By Louis Peitzman

Jan 23, 2012

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Smash is not Glee.

Maybe we shouldn’t have to say it, but when you’re a big musical TV series premiering in a post-Glee world, you kind of have to draw the distinction. At the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month, the cast and crew of the buzzed-about NBC series were happy to spell it out.

“When Ryan Murphy did Glee he broke a great barrier,” said producer Craig Zadan. “I don’t think that any of us feel that the show is like Glee, but we feel grateful to Glee for opening that door.”

Smash is more grounded in Broadway than in high school: It tells the story of two young women vying for the role of Marilyn Monroe in a new musical based on the actress’s life. But it’s also about the production of the musical—the songwriting, the casting, the promotion.

“The first season, the plan is to take Marilyn all the way to an out-of-town tryout, so it’s her first really public presentation,” explained creator Theresa Rebeck. “And then the second season will be Marilyn—if we’re lucky enough to get there, would be Marilyn comes to Broadway. How does the show fare in New York?”

The dueling Marilyn hopefuls are played by former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee and Broadway star Megan Hilty. While these are the first major television roles for both, Hilty has plenty of experience with the real-life world that Smash depicts.

“The wonderful thing about the show is that there are so many people here that come from this world that it keeps it very authentic,” Hilty noted. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been backstage, looking around, going, ‘Where’s the camera? There needs to be a camera here.’ Because the drama that happens behind the curtain is way more interesting than what’s happening on the stage.”

McPhee has had acting roles before—she guest-starred on Community as Pierce's ex-stepddaughter Amber and appeared in The House Bunny—but she’s primarily known for her pop music career. That persona provides an interesting contrast to the more musical theater-based Hilty, both in terms of their voices and the characters they play.

“It is different because for me, I think of myself as more of a pop artist,” McPhee reflected. “And Megan here has got, like, the big Broadway voice. So I’m always trying to balance the two so that they are kind of cohesive together, that it makes sense in terms of the show.”

Smash's supporting cast is rounded out by a bevy of notable actors, including Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, and Anjelica Huston. Huston is just one of many significant cinematic talents making the move to television—and like all the others, she was asked to speak to that transition.

“Because [Smash] is beautifully written,” she said. “It’s a fantastic cast of actors, a phenomenal team of people behind the scenes. We’re working with the best of the best. I’d be a fool not to participate.”

Here’s another question: Why Marilyn? After all, the writers could have gone with a less high-concept musical-within-a-show. As it turns out, they did mull over several options—Rebeck actually had her eye on Victorian literature. But in the end, they decided Marilyn Monroe was the perfect icon to build the show around.

“Her story is one of tragedy, heartbreak, glamour, love, and all things that make for great drama,” Hilty said. “All things that people want to watch and are intrigued by, which is why we’re still talking about her today.”

The Smash pilot is now streaming online at and on iTunes and Hulu. It premieres Monday, February 6 at 10pm on NBC.

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  • RosarioVillamor Jan 28, 2012

    This show is just smashing! It's like watching a movie, only you get to have more drama coming in the next few episodes. At first, I didn't think Katharine McPhee could pull it off, but she did (though I like Ivy Lynn more for the part of Marilyn). I also love that they started out with a Marilyn musical. Can't wait for the opening night of 'Marilyn'! :D

    I give it 8 shining stars (2 each for Karen, Ivy Lynn, Jack Davenport and Debra Messing)!

  • silverswan1 Jan 27, 2012

    Wasn't Katharine in Shark Night 3D?

  • MattBoswell1 Jan 26, 2012

    I'm already a really big fan of this show. A much richer and well put together drama than many other music based shows right now. I recommend everyone at least check it out. I'm gonna be sure to follow the Facebook page closely,!/NBCSmash

  • shanfan14 Jan 26, 2012

    I won't be watching Didn't like McPhee on AI, neither voice nor personality, and whatever the song is that she's singing solo in the promos is unbearably nasal and shallow. There isn't any resonance or richness to her voice and I simply find it irritating.

  • kaydy69 Jan 26, 2012

    Hi guy's.

    Thanks for the email, I knew I was really going to enjoy this one when I first opened it thanks a heap " I was sure it was going to be a good read too or to".

    See ya

    Later bye.


  • TrevPlatt Jan 26, 2012

    This really isn't my kind of show - well, the premise isn't at any rate. Musicals just aren't my thing and I only got half way through the pilot. Having said that, it was well written, the cast is great, the acting was great and I did appreciate how they focused on the creation of a musical as a whole, rather than just the show itself. This series will have a much longer shelf life with the focus being on the people behind the scenes (and the two lead actresses - who were surprisingly well played by McPhee and Hilty).

    If I wanted to catigorise this I'd say it's like an Aaron Sorkin drama for musical lovers. A look at the personalities, politics and social interactions behind the scenes of an industry where the public only ever gets to see either a) the final, finished and polished product or b) the limited information released to the public - a concept that Sorkin has all but turned into it's own artform. The signs I saw from the first half of the pilot bode well for the series, but unfortunately, for me at least, musicals just don't interest me.

  • Miss_Mouse88 Jan 25, 2012

    Very good, I can't wait to see more! It feels much more like a proper musical movie (Chicago, Nine) than like Glee. And I'd rather watch this than Glee butchering more songs, that's for sure. Though the whole sleazy acting coach hitting on the pretty actresses is way overdone and I could really do without it. But I guess it's sort of gotten to the point where you can't do a musical show incarnation without that particular trope.

    I know we're supposed to root for McPhee's character but I found her personality and voice too 'top 40', if that makes any sense... I like the Ivy character much more, she has the big personality and voice that belong on broadway, so team Ivy for sure.

    The only part I disliked was the dance coach character, I just found him way too stereotypically horny and narcissistic, whatever.

  • hockeyrick Jan 25, 2012

    saw it last week, I like it, but just a 1st impression

    needs more tasting!!!!

  • joeca1234 Jan 25, 2012

    Better that i thought it would be. The singing while doing ordinary tasks kinds bores me and i go into cringe mode. The should have kept it like a drama, show rehearsals and auditions with performing and left everything to the season final to blow the viewers away. If they are going to do more "corny " singing i will pass on the rest

  • mksystem74 Jan 24, 2012

    I wasn't interested in this when I first heard about it many months ago, but that damn "beautiful" song gets you every time. I'd hear it over and over again and just think "maybe it won't be that bad." So a week or so ago I download the Pilot on iTunes for free and as I watched it, I enjoyed it more and more. And when it was over and I'm watching whats to come for the season I had one thing in mind, "NBC, don't screw this up.". Now, I don't like the time slot its in going against Castle and Hawaii Five-0, but there's really no other place for it. We'll see how it does, but I like it.

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