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Singing the Praises of ‘Smash’

Guest blog: A good, not great show is more than a grown-up version of "Glee"

Let’s start with some honesty.  "Smash" is not a great TV show. At its Capezio-covered heart, it’s a soap opera with the usual tales of backstabbing, ambition and infidelity livened up with dance numbers and jazz hands. It should come as no surprise that drinks get thrown and marriages fall apart. 

The series revolves around getting a Marilyn Monroe musical to Broadway and tells stories we’ve seen plenty of times before — the ingénue vs. the veteran, the lothario director, the ambitious producer.  But "Smash" is much more than those individual clichés. While it may not be a great TV show, it's a good TV show with enough great elements that it deserves a broader audience. Here are four of the reasons:

1. There isn't another show on TV with this concept, which should be welcome news for those of you exhausted by show about cops and lawyers and increasingly bizarre reality TV.  For those of you who've written this off as a grown up "Glee," luckily you’re mistaken. The songs serve the story but if no one sang a note, the storylines would still work because it's about the evolution of the characters. And if that includes a Bollywood fantasy sequence, all the better.

2. The caliber of the actors gives this show an edge for sheer quality of talent. Debra Messing and Angelica Huston add cache while pros like Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty and Christian Borle bring Broadway skills. The actors bring depth, heart and humor at a level that’s usually associated with film more than TV.

3. "Bombshell," the Marilyn musical, would be a Tony-nominated show, if it ever got to Broadway. The production numbers, the songs and the way the story's told make the show within a show and Marilyn’s life story a fascinating part of the series. All the benefits of a Broadway show but with more legroom and you choose your own intermission!

4. Much like Bombshell, which is being retooled for its New York premiere on the show, "Smash" is going in different directions in its second season than it did in its first. Characters were shed and an entirely new storyline involving a young "Rent"-like show is adding a new dimension and fresh talent. 

But my strongest argument for auditioning the show for your viewing lineup is that it has an all-too-rare ingredient: fun. (I can’t say that about many of my other favorite shows — I wonder if Breaking Bad ever considered a musical episode?). It’s not PBS, but it doesn’t quite fall into the category of mindless entertainment either. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just the right side of campy. Even though the show is on life support, ratings-wise, it deserves time to find its audience or to help its audience find it. Don’t let the jazz hands fool you: "Smash" delivers.