Saturday, December 16, 2017
TV and Media

Preview: With this grownup musical/drama, NBC finally has a 'Smash' in its hands

Twenty-four hours after gathering one of the biggest audiences in TV history for the Super Bowl, NBC will unveil its own Hail Mary pass for the current television season.

That's when the network debuts what may be one of the best new shows of the winter — certainly, the best new show on NBC this season — the drama about the creation of a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, Smash.

To be fair, Smash is more than a drama; it's what I like to call a "dramusical," equal parts scripted drama and musical numbers, plunging viewers into the very specific world of Broadway performers with a Glee-style habit of morphing song rehearsals into glitzy, dreamlike production numbers.

Just the sort of thing guys might want to see a day after gorging themselves on smashmouth football.

Snarkiness aside, Monday's debut may be NBC's last chance to salvage a sinking season in which half of the six new shows they unveiled this fall have already been canceled.

Thanks to NBC's many months of promotion and publicity, some viewers and critics have already grown tired of the show, calling it "Glee for grownups" in a way that isn't necessarily a compliment.

But I enjoyed the way producers seemed to work hard at making the musical numbers connect to reality; in one case, an audition by a women gunning for the lead role morphs into a look at how the number might unfold in its final version.

In another, producers check out a prospective co-star singing Bruno Mars' hit Grenade in an off-Broadway show.

And for those of us who left high school for college quite some time ago, it's a pleasure to see a music-based show with characters worrying about divorces, affairs, workplace romances and adopting kids — grown-up stuff for grown-up fans.

The series has a long list of big names backing the venture, including executive producer Steven Spielberg, Tony/Emmy/Grammy winning composer Marc Shaiman (Hairspray) and the godfathers of the modern musical, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Hairspray, Chicago, CBS' Gypsy)

In this case, at least the big names have brought some quality. Debra Messing (Will & Grace) is the headstrong lyricist who helps take a suggestion from her composer's assistant and develop it into Marilyn: the Musical.

Anjelica Huston is a producer divorcing the husband who was her longtime work partner over his infidelities. Now that she's on her own, raising money from the sexist, aging businessmen who control most Broadway financing becomes a humiliat ing challenge.

And, as much as some critics have snarked about it, Smash re-introduces us to Katharine McPhee, the American Idol runner-up who shines as an Iowa girl hoping to hit a home run in her first Broadway role.

McPhee is relatable and earnest, competing for the Monroe role alongside a stage veteran with a hidden "advantage."

More than anything, Smash shows how today's TV networks must fool viewers into watching the classic elements of variety shows.

In a world of iPads, video games and DVRs, it's no longer enough to let talented singers and musicians walk onstage and perform; their songs must be swathed in big productions, thrilling drama and well-placed pop cover tunes.

Here's hoping NBC finally connects with the long bomb and scores with Smash. Because, at long last, the fourth-place network has given us something worth talking about.

Comments

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingMiddleweights: Lemieux vs. Saunders9:30 p.m.HBOCollege basketballButler vs. PurduenoonFoxMiami at George WashingtonnoonCBSSNLouisville vs. MemphisnoonESPN2Detroit vs. MichigannoonESPNUNC-Greensboro at N.C. StatenoonFSFSeton Hall at Rutgers...
Published: 12/15/17
Adam Savage’s ‘Brain Candy Live!’ at the Straz Center: Canceled

Adam Savage’s ‘Brain Candy Live!’ at the Straz Center: Canceled

Looks like the idea of Brain Candy Live! returning to Tampa Bay in 2018 turned out to be a myth.The interactive science spectacular, co-hosted by MythBusters' Adam Savage, has canceled its upcoming North American tour, including a May 5 event at the ...
Published: 12/15/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Salma HayekSalma Hayek has spoken out against Harvey Weinstein, calling the producer a "monster" who threatened her career and her life after she reportedly denied his sexual advances. Hayek said working with Weinstein on the film Frida was like "goi...
Published: 12/15/17
What to watch this weekend: ‘A Christmas Story Live,’ Star Wars movie marathon, Hollywood Christmas Parade

What to watch this weekend: ‘A Christmas Story Live,’ Star Wars movie marathon, Hollywood Christmas Parade

OH, FUDGE! A CHRISTMAS STORY LIVE!The trend of live musicals broadcast on television isn't slowing down anytime soon, and A Christmas Story Live! — based on the classic holiday movie and Broadway musical — was ripe for the next taking. Fo...
Published: 12/15/17

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingSuper lightweights: Vargas vs. Herrera10 p.m.FS1College basketballWomen: Southern at USF7 p.m.1040-AMMaryland-Eastern Shore at Creighton8 p.m.FS1College footballDivision III, final: Mount Union (Ohio) vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas)7 p.m.ES...
Published: 12/14/17
Harry Potter’s Nymphadora Tonks, Natalia Tena, joins A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Harry Potter’s Nymphadora Tonks, Natalia Tena, joins A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

The bubble gum pink-haired, shape-shifting witch Nymphadora Tonks from the last four Harry Potter films is headed to A Celebration of Harry Potter next month.Natalia Tena marks her first appearance at the annual wizarding world celebration Jan. 26-28...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

The Monmouth University Polling institute released the results of their Christmas poll today.
Published: 12/14/17

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingSuper Bantamweights: Salgado vs. Diego De La Hoya10:30 p.m.ESPN2College basketballBethune-Cookman at USF7 p.m.820-AMValparaiso at Northwestern8 p.m.Big TenSouthern at Baylor8:30 p.m.ESPN2College volleyball, NCAA semifinalsNebraska vs. Penn...
Published: 12/13/17
Uber Eats is delivering 'free' chicken McNuggets across Tampa Bay

Uber Eats is delivering 'free' chicken McNuggets across Tampa Bay

You'll still have to pay the delivery fee, but the 10-piece McNuggets are free.
Published: 12/13/17