2012 winter TV preview: 'Smash' | EW.com


2012 winter TV preview: 'Smash'

NBC hopes to take center stage with this razzle-dazzle drama from Steven Spielberg about the making of a Broadway musical

Staten Island is home to the gorgeously baroque St. George Theatre, where former American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee is once again in the spotlight. But instead of singing for a crotchety Brit and a loopy ex-pop star, the 27-year-old is belting out an original tune on the set of NBC’s new show Smash, which follows the making of a Marilyn Monroe musical. Dressed as Norma Jean Baker, the girl who would become Marilyn, McPhee stands calmly as the platform underneath pushes her toward the camera and the playback begins. ”The music starts playing/It’s the beat of her heart saying…” She raises her hands, pleading with the audience: ”Let me be your star!”

That last lyric may as well be the unofficial slogan for Smash, the highly anticipated drama from NBC that the media have pegged as a potential ratings bright spot for the downtrodden network. Hatched from an idea by executive producer Steven Spielberg, the show mixes the politics and behind-the-scenes drama of mounting a big Broadway musical with splashy numbers led by two ingenues (McPhee and Broadway actress Megan Hilty) battling for the lead role. Says NBC Entertainment president Robert Greenblatt: ”It’s about the hope of getting your dream. It’s the same thing that gets people excited about American Idol or The Voice. Out of obscurity comes the next Celine Dion.” With a cast that includes Emmy winner Debra Messing and Oscar winner Anjelica Huston, the producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago), composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman (Hairspray), and, of course, Mr. Spielberg, it’s no surprise that Smash is an incredibly ambitious hour of TV. ”It feels like something new and exciting is being born,” says Messing, who plays Julia Houston, the co-creator of Smash’s musical-within-a-musical. ”You look around and you see people at the top of their game.”

But the series has some obstacles in its path, primarily a home on the fourth-place network. NBC is hoping Smash and its returning reality hit The Voice will boost its numbers. ”It will be a phenomenal building block for us if it works,” says Greenblatt. ”If for some reason it doesn’t, I think it won’t be the end of the road.” Says Messing, ”I don’t think we feel [the pressure], and that’s a good thing. Obviously, we want to deliver for Bob and for NBC.”