Winter TV First Impression: Does NBC's Smash Hit All the Right Notes?

The broadcast and cable networks have nearly two dozen brand-new shows (hopefully) heating up primetime this winter. To help you sort through those offerings, TVLine, as we did in the fall, is presenting some First Impressions. Leading off our wintertime list is.…

THE SHOW | NBC’s Smash (Mondays at 10/9c, premiering Feb. 6 aka “the night after the Super Bowl,” as Mr. Promo Guy makes clear)

THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Castle, CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 and Syfy’s Lost Girl (which debuts Jan. 16)

THE CAST | Emmy winner Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor), Tony Award nominees Christian Borle and Brian d’Arcy James, Jack Davenport (FlashForward), Katharine McPhee (American Idol), Megan Hilty (9 to 5: The Musical) and others; Peabody Award-winning playwright Theresa Rebeck is the series creator, while Steven Spielberg is an executive producer.

Hot for Winter: TVLine Presents Your January Premieres Calendar

THE SET-UP | Messing and Borle are songwriting partners who, on the verge of a planned break, instead get motivated to develop a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Huston plays a veteran producer who has her own reasons for investing in the project, Davenport is an in-demand yet prickly director, and McPhee and Hilty play Karen and Ivy, the very different actresses (read: green vs. seasoned) vying for the plum lead role.
THE GOOD | For starters, the lead cast is pretty damn perfect, from Messing as an accomplished lyricist juggling this venture with her want to adopt a baby (James plays her husband) to Davenport as a demanding, rakish director/choreographer, to McPhee and Hilty as, respectively, a wannabe Broadway baby and a chorus girl hoping to finally claim the spotlight. (We’re glad we’re not the ones choosing between the two.) The story is set up quickly and compellingly, and the pilot episode alone features multiple crowd-pleasing numbers (as well as a big ol’ cliffhanger). There will be the temptation to liken Smash to Glee – and surely NBC saw a chance to capitalize on the Fox hit’s buzz — but this is decidedly a drama, albeit one punctuated by music that stays with you long after the credits roll.

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | I’m two episodes in, and thus far no egregiously weak links have jumped out, save for the occasional step in the direction of expected “drama” (e.g. Karen’s beau, played by Raza Jaffrey, is frustrated when she stands him up at an important work dinner; it’s fairly obvious that ownership of the Marilyn idea will come into question). But even an Episode 2 twist in the adoption subplot doesn’t go quite where you think it will.

NBC Midseason Shake-Up: Community Benched, Plus Three Shows on the Move

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | It’s a lot to pin a network’s turn-around on one show, but with this and the yet-to-be-scheduled Awake — both promising, well-pedigreed dramas that have critics buzzing in a good way — NBC has a chance here to restore lustre to its line-up. Between its NYC location shoots (one scene takes place right downstairs from TVLine’s Times Square office), large cast and production numbers, Smash can’t be cheap, so it will be interesting to see how forgiving NBC will be as the freshman fights heavy hitters Castle and Five-0 for eyeballs, with Season 2 of The Voice as its lead-in. But Nielsens aside, this should be the smash hit the Peacock has been looking for.

Watch a video preview for Smash, then vote in our poll below.

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79 Comments
  1. Kiki says:

    The only way it compares to Glee is that Katherine McPhee’s Karen path represents what Rachel might have to go through in the future.

    • Tarc says:

      Really, there are no comparisos to Glee. Smash is nothing like Glee at all (nothing against either show, but they have nothing in common aside from there being (some) singing on a TV show).

    • Captain says:

      It’s a genre thing. People like to have a point of comparison. Glee is the only popular musical on network television so people are going to compare Smash to that but they are clearly very different shows aside from the fact they’re singing pop songs.

      • Tarc says:

        And even then, there is only a limited overlap: Smash is pretty much all Broadway, and Glee does everything (heavy on the pop, though more Boradway this year than usual).

    • Sandra Mills says:

      I agree. I am a huge fan of Glee (god help me), so I put off watching the Smash pilot for ages, as I was afraid it would leave me despising Glee for its writing and continuity even more than I do now.
      My fears weren’t really justified; though both shows contain singing and performance numbers, they can’t really compare. Smash is much more adult, and accepts that it’s a drama. Glee, while I still love it, is franchised kiddie fare. Hopefully some genre-competition will do it good. :)

  2. Jake L says:

    Ironically enough, with Terra Nova done and The Closer on hiatus until summer, the only two shows I’m interested in on Mondays this spring are Castle and this — and of course they air opposite each other. That said, I’m not breaking my regular Castle habit of the last few years for anything new, so will be catching this one online.

    • Lise says:

      Ditto. Big Castle fan, will have to check this one out online. Am never home on Monday nights, so can only record one thing.

      • CastleBuffySVU says:

        ^^Wow, said exactly what I was going to say. This actually doesn’t look too bad, but I can’t miss Castle for the world. Maybe buy it on DVD in the future if it’s successful.

        • HelpMan says:

          Let me help out all the Castle fans by telling you about all the new episodes. They catch the Bad Guy at the end of each episode.

          OK, now you are free to watch Smash.

          You are welcome.

        • Jerry says:

          Don’t any of you people have the “On Demand” service? It’s not difficult any more to catch a show that’s on opposite another that you like.

          But me, I’ll be watching Smash live every week. Can’t wait!

    • Nadine says:

      Same here.

    • Bear75 says:

      Absolutely agree. This show sounds right up my street, but I’ll not be going anywhere near the remote while the fab Castle is on. That the lord for Tivo :0) x

    • idolhead Ed says:

      Ever heard of a DVR? In fact Dish Network has one that will record 4 shows at once. In the spring they will have one that will record 6 shows at once with the network function that will record every network show all the time automatically and in HD. But as a Castle/Firefly fan I would leave Castle for this but since I have heard of a DVR I won’t have to. You can currently watch the pilot episode for free on iTunes. Tip: Let it download first. Awesome show.

  3. pv says:

    Its probably going to continue bothering me, but Lost Girl is not an original SyFy production. Whenever Being Human is discussed, its given the nod to it being British (when discussing that version)….so I would like to see the same courtesy given to Lost Girl and the fact that its being imported from Canada.

    • Miffy says:

      They’re trying to avoid publicizing that, because most Canadian TV is absolute crap.

      • Tarc says:

        Lost Girl is a great show, not to be missed. But I already can’t watch it live, so i’s no problem. And, come to think of it, I don’t watch much live anymore – I like watching what I’m in the mood for at the time, so I always have a selection of shows banked.

      • shaun says:

        Hmm,tell that to Flashpoint,Rookie Blue,Heartland and a few other shows.

      • MoreTears says:

        Most Canadian TV is crap in the same way most American TV is crap — i.e., most pop culture material is junk, and people with good taste and intelligence just have to sift through the garbage heap to find the little that is worth devoting their attention to. Since America is ten times larger than Canada, it just happens to have ten times more TV shows worth watching — as well as ten times more TV shows that are crap.

        • Tarc says:

          Well, sort of. And the good stuff also varies by taste. Lost Girl is my favorite Canadian show (and I LOVE it, but could see where it might not be everyone’s cuppa), but I watch gloablly anymore to increase the excellent to junk ratio.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I’m too much of a Castle devotee to change channels but I’ll definitely give it a shot online later in the week.

  5. CMG says:

    I’m really looking forward to this… but unfortunately for NBC, I’ll be TiVo-ing this while watching Castle live. I’ll be happy to watch this live too, if they move it to a more sane timeslot.

  6. Bridgette says:

    I DVR Castle and Hawaii 50. No room for anything new…. So yes, I’m skipping this

  7. kevin says:

    SMASH may have a good chance going up against CASTLE and HAWAII FIVE-O and the great follow up with THE VOICE and let’s hope we get more of the McPhee-ver in Katharine McPhee.

  8. Jess N says:

    What an awful time slot for this show. I’ll be tuning in to Castle live and will watch this one online. Is it bad that I’m rooting for Megan Hilty to win over McPhee?

  9. Katie Hart says:

    No way am I watching this instead of Castle, but I’ll be sure to check out the pilot online (and since I don’t have a Nielsen box, the only way NBC can count me watching is online, anyhow). It will be nice to have something to watch on those nasty weather nights when ABC doesn’t come in but NBC does.

  10. JS says:

    Castle has plenty of viewers, I think you should give this show a chance. I don’t think it will do Castle or Five-O much harm if some don’t tune in for one week to give another show a chance.
    If Smash interests you, I suggest you watch the pilot and if you don’t like it you can go back to your regularly scheduled show.

    • CastleBuffySVU says:

      I know what you’re trying to say, but as a hardcore Castle fan, I’d just really rather this at another time, another night. Then they’d have more of a chance getting my viewership consistently.

      • JS says:

        True. I agree that it should air at a different time or day, especially since Castle and Five-O rule Mondays. But I think people should give it a chance instead of ruling it out completely just because it clashes with them shows. As a new series it needs all the help it can get.

  11. jennrae says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this for months…Alex F. Wong is in the pilot, too!

  12. cuius says:

    “…A little more than a week after Debra Messing announced that her decade-long marriage to producer Daniel Zelman was kaput, she’s jumped into a new romance. The actress, 43, is reportedly seeing Will Chase, her co-star in the forthcoming NBC series “Smash.”

    The hype has started.

  13. Guy says:

    The only problem i have is i am a huge Castle fan and i have been looking forward to Smash as well. Lucky for me they air on different nights here in Australia. The downer i see is Monday is a super competitive night and something has to give. With any luck it will hurt Hawaii Five-0. I seriously don’t see how this show gets its viewers? Oh wait its on CBS after a comedy block. I know H50 doesn’t do that well with viewers outside America so yeah. Here in Australia it barely rates above 550k viewers.

  14. bettyd says:

    I have been looking forward to this since I saw the promo last summer. It should be fun! I hope adult drama not the Glee teenage high school psuedo drama

  15. Christina says:

    This is probably my most anticipated show of the 2011-2012 season period. I will be catching this. It’s time period has me a bit worried though. Castle and Hawaii 5-0 are tough time slot companions.

  16. champmav says:

    Why do networks program this way? Why not give a new show every chance to catch on by programming it against less highly rated competition? It again shows the complete disregard the “business” has for it’s audience. There may be some defensible principle they are following by this kind of move, but I fail to comprehend what it is. Help anyone?

    • Liz says:

      Where would you suggest NBC schedule the show? People always say that shows should be put in “easier” timeslots, but there’s no such thing (unless you count Saturdays). If you look at the ratings, you’ll see that every time slot has some kind of established hit.

      Again, where do you think NBC should schedule the show?

      • tarc says:

        There certianly ARE easier slots – there is a lot of junk on the TV, But really, the best option is simply to record all the shows you like and watch them whenever you want. It’s easy to do, and very, very freeing.

      • Trent says:

        Liz is absolutely right. CBS has highly-rated procedurals or “comedies” in almost every timeslot, so where else should NBC program this show? Smash is my most-anticipated show of this season, so hopefully the Voice lead-in will help it gain some traction.

  17. Templar says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this. Castle has been circling the drain for me. I can’t stand the new chief and Fillion is packing on the pounds. The will they/won’t they with Rick and Kate is stupid. And since Rick doesn’t carry a gun, Kate going into hairy situations with just him as backup is ludicrous.

  18. Stacie says:

    I wonder if NBC is going to try to advertise this thing during the Super Bowl this year?

  19. bk8718 says:

    Is Awake still coming? I didn’t see it on NBC’s midseason schedule, and I seem to remember production shutting down at one point. I hope so, I think it’ll be really good, even if I don’t think it’ll deliver the ratings NBC needs.

  20. Newco says:

    Wow, Just made a tough time slot tougher…. I’ll definitely check this out for sure, but Castle is a my live choice for that time slot and then I’ll flip a coin between Smash and H50 on who to watch online first…

  21. Whimsical says:

    Will DVR this and watch Castle live. Hopefully, they will take the DVR viewers into account when figuring the ratings.

  22. David says:

    Yes I will watch. I have Dancing w/ The Stars and The Voice on Mondays but this looks like the type of show you watch no matter how busy your viewing schedule is.

  23. T says:

    Darn NBC for putting it on opposite Castle… I was really interested in Smash. It has a fabulous cast, and I love Katherine McPhee, but I’m going to have to catch it online. I just can’t fathom not watching Castle live! Too in love with Rick and Kate right now! :)

  24. Theo says:

    Clearly NBC needs to stop wasting it’s own money by putting a brand new show in one of the most contended slots of Mondays. They need to fire whoever is purposefully making sure that the network is failing. They need better scheduling

  25. Lisa says:

    Castle has many fans, and I doubt they’ll kill it if it doesn’t meet post-Superbowl expectations. So with that, I’m going to watch “Smash” live and Castle on Hulu. I usually end up watching every TV show online anyway.

  26. brian says:

    So ready for this show. Have we heard anything on Awake yet, as to when the pilot will air?

  27. rachel says:

    OY. I really want to want to like this but i just REALLY hate Katharine McPhee!! The rest of the cast looks phenom.. ugh I just cant get over my irrational dislike for McPhee. Ever since IDOL when she came off as so pompous. I am hoping the blonde steals all her thunder and is the “star” that is born!

  28. Anna says:

    I come from a family that watches Castle live and records H5-0; so maybe we’ll try this On Demand.

  29. Renee says:

    Is he really? WOW. Love Alex Wong.

  30. Renee says:

    My comments no longer “reply to the post”. Anybody else having that issue?

  31. Tee says:

    That timeslot belongs to Castle, but I might dvr it if we’re not recording something else.

  32. Ethel says:

    I’m a big Castle fan but luckily for me I have a DVR so I can record this while watching Castle. The downside is I am not a Katherine McPhee fan so my interest in this show is not as great as it should be. But, I will give it a chance and pretend she is singing opposite what’s his name…..oh yeah Taylor Hicks

  33. Steve says:

    Unfortunately, none of the voting options in the poll are quite right…
    I have been looking forward to this show ever since I heard that it would bring the delightful Debra Messing back to my small screen. It would have been an automatic lock in my schedule except it picked an already overcrowded space. Castle is my current favorite show, period, and I’ve become invested in Hawaii Five-0, so no room.
    If NBC wants to play nice and make the show Internet friendly, I might give it a shot there, but if we’ve learned anything from NBC, it’s that NBC doesn’t learn anything.

  34. Lisa says:

    I’d like to check it out but I definitely won’t be missing Castle for it. Hopefully it will be OnDemand or I’ll have to watch it online.

  35. Kat says:

    I don’t watch its competition so I’ll give it a shot for a couple of episodes at least.

  36. Dennis says:

    Now that Messing is back on TV, she can try to reclaim her title of TV’s most annoying female from Casey Wilson. It will be close.

  37. em says:

    I’m excited for this show. I like the idea of Glee and its musical numbers, but I can’t deal with most of the characters and the teenager storylines. I actually never liked Katherine McPhee on AI, but she’s grown on me a lot after her acting roles.

  38. Andi says:

    If this show was on another day like let’s say Wednesday I would watch it and give it a chance but mondays are a CBS night for me and my family from 8 pm to 11 pm. I would give it a chance if it wasn’t the same time as Hawaii five-0….

  39. Mika says:

    This makes me happy that CTV plays Castle at 8pm my time so I don’t have to worry about choosing between it and Smash.

  40. Kay says:

    This was the new show I was most excited for. They had me at the premise and I love Megan Hilty.

  41. Scott says:

    not sure why they deleted the post. All I said was “Ladd looked so young.”

  42. virancini says:

    I agree! something about McPhee is just so ingenuine. That blonde girl is way more like Marilyn

  43. Paul W says:

    Katherine McPhee and Megan’s Hilty’s numbers and the New York city scenery were the highlights of the show. Other than that…a bit on the dull side. I hope the dialoge and story lines get better. Also, do we really want to see a show within a show about Marilyn Monroe? Here’s hoping it gets better. I will root for it!

  44. Sara says:

    It is 20 minutes in, and I already dislike a majority of the characters. I severely dislike Katherine McPhee’s character already. I think I might like Megan Hilty’s character though. Oh, here is Anjelica Huston. Hopefully this will get better.