Up in the Death Star of New York’s Rockefeller Center, NBC hype men have been pushing this as though the very existence of the network depends upon it. $25 million spent on billboards, taxicab spots and newspaper ads show resolve and not a little desperation. With ratings and revenues plummeting and much of their programming honking like Michael Douglas in Falling Down NBC are staring down the barrel. Their solution is Smash – Glee for grown-ups, the story of Marilyn the Musical coming to Broadway. Marilyn as in Marilyn Monroe? But they tried that – it was a disaster wasn’t it? That’s exactly what Frank Houston (Brian d’Arcy James) tells his wife Julia (Debra Messing) when she has the crazy unworkable idea. Put family first, Jules. She and husbland are in the process of adopting a Chinese baby to join to their nausey grown-up son and the family blewnit and when Julia is on Broadway they just never see her. Best to just put the Marilyn idea to bed, pretend it never happened and get on with happy family life.
Tell you what though, how about we just take Marilyn lookalike and Broadway stalwart Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) to belt out the one number Julia and collaborator Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) have written for the show? It can’t do any harm – unless someone like Ellis (Jaime Cepero), Tom’s personal assistant, secretly films the song, it ends up on YouTube and people kind of dig it. This unworkable Marilyn musical could work! So fuck you husbland and fuck you Asian babe – we’re going to Broadway baby!
This unworkable Marilyn musical could work! So fuck you husbland and fuck you Asian babe – we’re going to Broadway baby!
Not so fast, wise-ass. Yeah Julia and Tom can string some songs together but Broadway shows don’t make themselves. First they’ll need a producer. Enter Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) a ballsy old stager who’s divorcing philandering husband Jerry (Michael Cristofer) and needs a project for distraction. And at the helm? Renowned Brit poonhound and director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport). The shot callers are in place. Now all they need is their Marilyn.
But they’ve got their Marilyn, right? Ivy Lynn, the Marilyn lookalike who did the Marilyn song and was the Marilyn smash on the Marilyn YouTube – if anyone is a shoo-in for a role then it’s Ivy “Marilyn” Lynn for the role of Marilyn in Marilyn, the story of Marilyn Monroe. Apparently not. Much like Elvis entering an Elvis lookalike contest and finishing fourth, Ivy has unlikely competition from some young pup from Iowa called Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee). Karen may not look, sound or sing like Marilyn but according to Derek (who wants to put his cock in her) she has that raw untutored innocence about her – just like Marilyn (before she had 4000 schlongs and 3 metric tons of barbiturates in her).
According to Derek (who wants to put his cock in her) she has that raw untutored innocence about her – just like Marilyn (before she had 4000 schlongs and 3 metric tons of barbiturates in her).
I don’t really buy that – I think Karen’s totally wrong for the role but Derek’s not wholly neutral or sane belief sets us up for an X-Factor final style duel between Ivy and Karen for the role of Marilyn. I think we’re all supposed to be equity partners in Team Karen but I don’t give two shits about her or her English borefriend who “works at the Mayor’s office”. If Karen isn’t having an affair by the end of this series I consider it an opportunity missed both for her and the show.
As for Smash, it does have its good points. The musical numbers are strong, Ivy is a great Marilyn and Karen can sing well enough. It’s good to see Jack Davenport back to playing Miles from This Life again after the GashMoremerde debacle. Hymen Cowell has given Americans another British archetype to exploit and I think Derek is very much in the Cowell tradition of snarky Brit who knows his shit. I guess I’m yet to be sold on buying into Karen, her dreams or her struggle. She looks all the world to me like just another hot chick with an annoying borefriend who even career anthrax Terra Nova blowrunner Brannon Braga couldn’t stop from being a success. You want me to root for the underdog, give me an underdog motherfuckers – a dog that’s under, not a cheerleader with a split nail.
The verdict: SMASH! Aaaa-aaah, saviour of the NBCiverse.
Marks out of 10: 7