So ‘Smash’ might be onto something

I admit when I first heard about Smash, I was beyond skeptical. The only season of American Idol I watched religiously was season 5. The one with Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Paris Bennett, Elliot Yamin, and Mandisa.

You may have heard of some of them.

Anyway, looking at that list it’s clear Katharine McPhee is just basic. She’s pretty and her voice is alright but her eyes are flat when she sings and so far, she’s lived the life of a middling public figure. So all the heavy ‘introducing Katherine McPhee’ nonsense, the ‘Beautiful’ cover, the cliched storyline (another Marilyn story, really? really??) made me really reluctant to get with Smash. The worst case scenario was that Smash would suck but become a huge hit anyway, just to spite me. Or it could be really good and hook me in, only to spiral out of control in epic Glee proportions.

Luckily, Smash has done neither of those things. The plot is pretty cliche. Young Iowan beauty is trying to make it in the Big City. Meanwhile hotshot musical-writing partners toy with the idea of writing another musical even though one of them (played by Debra Messing, who I find really inexplicably annoying in this show), promised to take it easy, so she and her teacher husband, and son (who cannot act) can adopt a Chinese baby. Anjelica Huston plays a disgraced producer trying to hustle after her ex-husband basically left her destitute and Jack Davenport plays a lecherous director.

Smash is certainly an ambitious undertaking. It’s so meta. A show about the makings of a musical, complete with musical numbers in their nascent stages and dancers in really nice sports attire. Katharine McPhee is barely tolerable, her too-good-to-be-of -this-world boyfriend (British Indian, a twist) is in sore need of some character development, but other than that, the show is pretty good. It does its job. The music is actually decent. Megan Hilty, who plays McPhee’s rival is really good. It’s been a while since I’ve responded so viscerally to a powerful voice, and that’s what hers is. Since it’s so obvious that McPhee is supposed to be the favorite, I find myself rooting for Hilty on both the show and in real life. That the rivalry for the role of Marilyn has at least for now resolved itself, makes the show all the more intriguing. That it didn’t fall (at least not yet) for the obvious plot convention is a promising sign.

So I’m going to see how it goes. I’ve learned to be somewhat slow and tentative with these things. With Glee I fell head over the heals. The breakup was inevitable.

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