NBC wants new Monday-night lineup to be a ‘Smash’ hit

| Senior Cadenza Editor

‘Smash’ is NBC’s new comedy-drama about the making of a musical about Marilyn Monroe’s life. Megan Hilty, left, and Katharine McPhee compete for the role of Marilyn Monroe.Courtesy of NBC

‘Smash’ is NBC’s new comedy-drama about the making of a musical about Marilyn Monroe’s life. Megan Hilty, left, and Katharine McPhee compete for the role of Marilyn Monroe.

The new musical in town wants to be clear that it’s nothing like “Glee.” Other than the fact that it’s a musical, this is a statement I can agree with.

Tonight, at 9 p.m. CST, NBC will premiere “Smash,” its new follow-up to “The Voice.” The show has a grown-up premise, unlike its “Glee”-ful competitor. It centers around a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, and it offers an insider’s perspective into the heart of show business. It stars Debra Messing (“Will and Grace”) and “American Idol” season five runner-up Katharine McPhee, among other all-stars.

While the show sounds interesting, its plot seems somewhat hard to sustain. Messing’s character is part of a songwriting team that decides to write a show about Monroe, and within the first episode, it is already written and almost cast. The major conflict seems to arise when they cannot decide whom to cast in the lead role. Seasoned Broadway veteran Ivy (Megan Hilty) seems like the best bet to play the icon, but newcomer Karen (Katharine McPhee) captures the essence of the role in front of the casting team. What to do? Who to cast? I don’t know, but I also don’t know how long I’m going to care about whom a fictional musical is going to cast.

There are a number of subplots involving the characters’ personal lives, but the real winners of “Smash” are the songs. “Smash” will showcase both covers and original songs, which will be written by “Hairspray” vets Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. A large percentage of the cast comes from Broadway, and we know they’ll know how to sing. For some reason, I don’t feel like this is going to be a production in which auto-tune is involved.