Since Glee premiered over 3 years ago, it has had the unique distinction of being the only television program of its kind on any of the major networks. With the immense success of projects like High School Musical and other kids programs about music, Fox saw a great opportunity with Glee. Unlike its predecessors, however, the show was a little funnier, a little darker, and a little sexier. It tackled real issues like teen pregnancy and coming out of the closet and before the first season was up, it had started a full-fledged phenomenon. Its young stars were catapulted into stardom, particularly lead Lea Michele with her once-in-a-generation voice, as people across the country could not get enough of these singing kids.
However, like a lot of success stories, Glee started to believe its own hype. The episodes became more about famous guest stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Carol Burnett, Neil Patrick Harris, etc.) or tribute episodes (Madonna, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson) than about the plot. The story of the underdog show choir and its cast of misfits got lost somewhere along the way. I tuned in for the music (which to be fair is still top notch), but more importantly for the characters that I had actually started to care about. However, three seasons in, the writers seem to have lost their way and the show is starting to decline in quality and popularity. In tonight’s episode, fans will see yet another gimmick as Ricky Martin will play a new Spanish teacher… yes you read that correctly, Ricky Martin. I rest my case. But in all honesty, I probably will keep tuning in because there are some story lines that I feel still have potential (for instance new villain Sebastian was an inspired addition). But just a channel away, a new show is rising with the goal of knocking Glee of its golden pedestal. Enter Smash.
Smash boasts a pretty incredible resume. Lets start at the very top… Steven Spielberg himself is an executive producer, which should be an immediate indicator of quality work. Now to the cast: Academy Award winner Anjelica Houston is a regular as is Emmy Award winner Debra Messing. Jack Davenport (of Pirates of the Caribbean fame) and American Idol runner-up Katherine McPhee also star. The story line of Smash is refreshingly original; it follows the creation of a hit Broadway musical from the initial idea onward. NBC put the pilot on iTunes for free about a month ago as a promotional tool, and having heard good things about the show, I jumped at the opportunity. When the credits rolled on my laptop screen, I smiled to myself. This show was great, really great, and I knew immediately I was hooked. The characters seemed real, if a bit cliched, but I found myself caring about them and their stories’. The musical numbers were superb. I thought that Glee was well directed but Smash has them beat. It feels way more professional (and rightly so, I mean Glee is supposed to be high school after all) but even so, I was enamored with a couple songs in a way I didn’t expect. My favorite moment by far was the final minutes when the two young actresses are singing their hearts out at the callback. The song is an original composition, made specifically for the show, and it’s absolutely fantastic. In fact, I downloaded the tune off iTunes, which I almost never do. It ended the pilot on a strong high note and left me eagerly anticipating the next episode.
I think Smash has the chops to match and even overcome Glee‘s success. As viewers start abandoning Glee, they could be migrating to Smash. It fulfills America’s love of cheesy song and dance, but it couples that with great writing and a captivating storyline. I also think the show will make newcomer Katherine McPhee a legitimate star. She gets to showcase her flawless voice a couple times in the pilot, and in a cast full of heavy hitters, she was able to stand out. Last night, the pilot formally aired on NBC and I watched it with my mom. Her reaction was priceless; she, like me, was instantly sucked in. Afterward, we excitedly talked about watching the next episode together. I think this is good news for Smash that a teenage daughter can love a show as much as her mother. Oh, and just for the record, I don’t think my mother has ever seen an episode of Glee… just saying 😉