Uh oh! Debra Messing’s character “hates everyone who writes theater blogs” on “Smash,” a new NBC series about the creation of a Broadway musical. Here at theater-words, though, we’ve decided not to take that personally—after all, it’s none too often that our fabulous invalid hits network primetime, and with a parade of New York stage talent to boot. So: anti-blog sentiment and all, we loved the show.
But what about the world beyond Times Square? What will it make of “Smash” and Broadway? To find out, I recently watched the pilot (a free download on iTunes) with a theatrically disinclined friend. What was the reaction? Here’s what I found on the outside…
Q: Did you enjoy “Smash?”
A: Well, at first I thought it was going to be another “Will & Grace” rehash because the first scene is Grace [Debra Messing] in the kitchen with a Will look-alike [Christian Borle]. But then that sort of shifted when they were followed by a fierce Anjelica Huston and some catchy tunes!
Q: Catchy tunes?
A: Yes, the most memorable part of the show was the last song. To be honest, I was a little bored with the understory, namely the work that goes into a Broadway show.
Q: Um, you do know that that’s the entire premise of the show, right?
A: Yes, but you really just want to get to that final song with the passion and the glamour and the culmination!
Q: Right. So in the show two women are vying for a big Broadway role. There’s a chorus veteran and a newbie—
A: Yes, this voluptuous sexy blonde woman [Megan Hilty] and a frumpy no-name [Katharine McPhee].
Q: Katharine McPhee was a runner up on “American Idol.”
A: Well she doesn’t look like it!
Q: So she’s not going to win?
A: Obviously she’s going to win because she’s the underdog. You don’t want her to win, but she’s going to.
Q: What do you mean you don’t want her to win?
A: Well, she’s cast on the show to look like a trainwreck! Her parents make fun of her, she’s struggling to make it as a waitress… though, when she meets with the director at his apartment, she does show her true colors and reveal that she has some talent behind all those sad layers.
Q: You really don’t like her outfits, do you?
A:She was clearly shopping at the Salvation Army in Williamsburg.
Q: Were you able to get beyond the costumes and have some kind of emotional experience?
A: To be honest, I missed the middle twenty minutes because I was ordering dinner, but towards the end I got excited when I saw the clips put together from upcoming episodes.
Q: What do you think the two leads will do to beat each other?
A: Seduction! Sex! Backstage conflict!
Q: What do you think is going to happen to the songwriting team?
A: You mean Will and Grace? Well, obviously there’s going to be some conflict and then they’re going to fight over Will’s boyfriend, and ultimately they’ll write the show and it’ll be a SMASH, the namesake of the show!
Q: Does “Smash” remind you of any other series?
A: Well, obviously Showgirls.
Q: What do you think of Anjelica Huston?
A: She’s fierce!
Q: What about the New York setting?
A: There are some very predictable shots of people strutting through Times Square, but it works—the show’s about Broadway.
Q: Does “Smash” make you want to see a Broadway musical?
A: [very long pause] Probably not—I just want to see the song at the end of the episode.
Q: Do you think “Smash” will save NBC?
A: Well, it’s a leap of faith but I’m going to say a definite no. It’s for a niche market that nobody cares about, namely musicals.
Q: Nobody cares?!
A: Theater is a sad, sad desire and you should keep it to yourself.
Q: Oh gosh! Well, what do you think of people who, say, go to the theater several times a week?
A: I don’t think those people exist! [laugher]