Smash (TV series)
|Created by||Theresa Rebeck|
|Developed by||Robert Greenblatt (uncredited)|
|Theme music composer||Marc Shaiman|
|Opening theme||"5, 6, 7, 8" (Season 2)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||32 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||Brooklyn, New York|
|Running time||40–45 minutes|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original release||February 6, 2012 –|
May 26, 2013
Smash is an American musical drama television series created by playwright Theresa Rebeck and developed by Robert Greenblatt for NBC. Steven Spielberg served as one of the executive producers. The series was broadcast in the US by NBC and produced by DreamWorks Television and Universal Television. The series revolves around a fictional New York City theater community and specifically the creation of a new Broadway musical. It features a large ensemble cast, led by Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, Katharine McPhee, Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, and Anjelica Huston.
The show debuted on February 6, 2012, and its first season ended on May 14, 2012. Its second season premiered on February 5, 2013, and ended on May 26, 2013. NBC announced a change in their lineup in March 2013 and moved the show to Saturdays starting April 6, 2013. The series was cancelled on May 10, 2013. Second-season executive producer-show runner Josh Safran said the final episode of season two worked as a series finale.
The series, especially the pilot episode, enjoyed critical success. The first season received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography among four nominations. The series was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media ("Let Me Be Your Star").
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||15||February 6, 2012||May 14, 2012|
|2||17||February 5, 2013||May 26, 2013|
The show revolves around a group of characters creating new Broadway musicals, where everyone must balance their often chaotic personal life with the all-consuming demands of life in the theater. The series features original music by composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Season 1 (2012)
Julia Houston (Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle), a Broadway writing team, came up with the idea of a new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe titled Bombshell. Producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston), in the midst of divorce proceedings from her philandering husband, jumps on board and brings with her Derek Wills (Jack Davenport), a difficult but brilliant director. Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) is initially cast as Marilyn, but is forced to deal with competition from the talented, yet naive ensemble member Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee). Julia's former lover Michael Swift (Will Chase) is initially cast in the role of Joe DiMaggio. However, when Julia and Michael's reunion causes serious trouble in her marriage to Frank (Brian d'Arcy James), the decision is made to fire Michael. The role of Marilyn is recast with film star Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman), leaving Ivy devastated. After a somewhat disastrous out-of-town opening in Boston, Rebecca has fallen sick due to a peanut allergy and the actor playing Joe departs the production for a better gig. Derek subsequently casts Karen in the role of Marilyn and Michael is reinstated as Joe. Karen discovers Ivy has slept with her fiancé Dev (Raza Jaffrey), while Eileen finds out that her assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero) was the one who poisoned Rebecca and fires him. Karen gets through her debut and the season ends with the closing number being applauded by the audience.
Season 2 (2013)
As Bombshell works to open on Broadway in New York City, the show runs into legal and creative troubles which threaten its future. Meanwhile, the cast and crew (featured in Season 1) attempt to find work. Karen meets two aspiring friends and partners (Kyle, a stage writer played by Andy Mientus, and Jimmy, a composer played by Jeremy Jordan) and tries to get their work noticed, especially by Derek. Derek works with Broadway star Veronica Moore (Jennifer Hudson), who becomes friends with Karen. Ivy gets the lead in Liaisons, a show based on the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Bombshell needs work in order to open on Broadway. First, Peter Gillman (Daniel Sunjata), a dramaturg with whom Julia had a rocky relationship is hired in order to help re-write the show. Second, Jerry (Michael Cristofer) replaces Eileen as the show's producer after she had to step down when the federal authorities found out (through Jerry's orchestration) that she had financed Bombshell with illegal money. Jimmy and Kyle's show, called Hit List, eventually goes to the New York Fringe Festival and then they meet a producer for an off-broadway theater called Manhattan Theatre Workshop. Karen quits Bombshell to be in Hit List because she has to choose one of them. Ivy takes Karen's role as Marilyn Monroe in Bombshell. Hit List starts rehearsals. Karen and Jimmy's relationship starts to develop but may cause some disturbance in the work place with Derek's secret feelings for Karen. Hit List goes to Broadway produced by Jerry and Bombshell and Hit List go head-to-head at the Tony Awards. Hit List wins 7 Tonys, which is more than Bombshell, however Bombshell wins Best Musical and Best Actress (Ivy Lynn) in a Leading Role.
Cast and characters
- Debra Messing as Julia Houston, a successful Broadway lyricist and the musical's co-writer. She is married with a son, but had an affair with Michael Swift, who played Joe DiMaggio in the initial Marilyn workshop. Houston is based on creator Theresa Rebeck.
- Jack Davenport as Derek Wills, the director of the musical, who will stop at nothing to make the show a success. He has an on-and-off relationship with Marilyn workshop star Ivy Lynn, though he has also shown interest in Karen Cartwright and had a physical relationship with Rebecca Duvall during the Boston preview before she left the show.
- Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright, an ingenue from Iowa, who lands a successful audition and becomes a serious contender for the role of Monroe. Somewhat new to show business, her naiveté is generally scorned by her peers, though her talent is rarely called into question. She played Marilyn for the Boston preview, when Rebecca Duvall left. In season 2, she helps Hit List get started and plays Amanda/Nina after she quits Bombshell.
- Christian Borle as Tom Levitt, a theatrical composer and Julia's longtime songwriting partner. He and Derek Wills have an acrimonious relationship stemming from a business fallout 11 years ago. Tom briefly dates a Republican lawyer but later becomes attracted to Sam Strickland, a dancer in the ensemble of Bombshell.
- Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn, a seasoned performer who, at the beginning of the series, is working in the ensemble of Heaven On Earth, another Broadway musical that Tom and Julia wrote. Ivy is favored by nearly everyone on board with the production to play Marilyn Monroe, but after the workshop flops, she is replaced by Rebecca Duvall. Throughout the show, she is in an on-and-off relationship with the Bombshell director Derek Wills and finds herself constantly competing with Karen in many different situations, eventually losing the role of Marilyn to her for the Boston preview.
- Anjelica Huston as Eileen Rand, the musical's tenacious producer, who is dealing with divorce proceedings from her husband, Jerry, which could threaten the musical and forces her to think outside the box in securing funds for the show. A running gag throughout the series is Eileen throwing drinks into Jerry's face.
- Jeremy Jordan as Jimmy Collins (Season 2), a working-class man from Brooklyn who is on the brink of self-destruction.
- Leslie Odom, Jr. as Sam Strickland (regular Season 2, recurring Season 1), an ensemble member, a good friend of Ivy who is gay and very much into sports. Due to their mutual friendship with Ivy, he forms a connection with Tom.
- Andy Mientus as Kyle Bishop (Season 2), a poor kid from Brooklyn with dreams of writing for Broadway. He is the writer of the book of Hit List.
- Krysta Rodriguez as Ana Vargas (Season 2), Karen's new roommate who is looking for her big break.
- Jaime Cepero as Ellis Boyd (Season 1), Tom's and later Eileen's conniving personal assistant who is attempting to receive credit for Bombshell and make his way as a show producer. As the first season continues, Ellis, convinced his suggestion of Marilyn created the show, takes more steps to be recognized as a producer, including giving Rebecca a drink mixed with peanuts, which she is allergic to, in order to remove her as the star. He boasts of this to Eileen as proof of his skills but she responds by firing him.
- Raza Jaffrey as Dev Sundaram (Season 1), Karen's live-in boyfriend, who works in the office of the New York City mayor's press secretary who ultimately forces her to choose between their relationship or her career. He proposes marriage but when Karen is unsure, a despondent and intoxicated Dev sleeps with Ivy. Upon realizing who Dev is, Ivy tells Karen of their encounter and an angry Karen breaks up with Dev.
- Brian d'Arcy James as Frank Houston (regular Season 1, guest Season 2), Julia's husband and a high-school chemistry teacher, who wishes that Julia would spend more time at home. He was upset when she confessed to her affair with Michael Swift and more so when he confronted Swift and learned Julia had cheated on him earlier in the marriage. They eventually separated in the season 2 premiere. In the final episode of the program Julia makes good with Frank and both of them go easy on their divorce proceedings. James was credited as guest star in the pilot, but was promoted to regular from episode 2. He made guest appearances in the second-season premiere and the series finale.
Development and production
Development began in 2009 at Showtime by then-Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt and Steven Spielberg, from an idea by Spielberg, who had been working on the concept for years; Greenblatt, described as a "devoted theater geek", had also produced a short-lived musical adaptation of the film 9 to 5 in 2009. The original concept was that each season would follow the production of a new musical; if any of them were "stage-worthy", Spielberg would make them into actual Broadway musicals. The series was inspired by The West Wing and Upstairs, Downstairs as role models for successful TV dramas. Garson Kanin's novel Smash (New York: Viking, 1980) provided the title and setting, although the plots have little in common.
Greenblatt then brought the project with him to NBC when he was made NBC Entertainment president in January 2011. Theresa Rebeck wrote the pilot script and is series creator. Executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron suggested Rebeck for the series to Spielberg and Greenblatt. NBC ordered production of a pilot in January 2011 for the 2011–12 television season.
Michael Mayer directed the pilot episode, with Spielberg serving as an executive producer. It has been reported that the pilot cost $7.5 million to produce. On May 11, 2011, NBC picked the project up to series. When the network announced its 2011–12 schedule on May 15, 2011, the series was slated to premiere in mid-season. NBC opted to hold the show for mid-season in order to pair it up with the hit reality show The Voice on Monday nights. On August 1, 2011, it was announced by the press that the show's series premiere date would be February 6, 2012, the night after Super Bowl XLVI, with heavy promotion through early winter on many of the network's properties before the premiere. At the NBC Press Tour, Greenblatt announced that Smash would have 15 episodes produced for the first season to coincide with The Voice.
The series is a production of Universal Television in association with DreamWorks. Theresa Rebeck is the creator of the series, as well as the writer of the pilot episode and five of the first season's episodes, including the season finale. The series has a large number of executive producers, including Steven Spielberg, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, David Marshall Grant, Rebeck, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman serve as the composers and executive producers. In March 2012, Rebeck stepped down as showrunner of the musical drama. On April 24, 2012, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Gossip Girl executive producer Joshua Safran would take the lead for the second season, while Rebeck would remain a writer and an executive producer. However, on May 2, 2012, Rebeck stated in an interview that she would not be returning to the show in any capacity.
Many of those behind Smash began the series with high hopes. Rebeck was a large part of that. As one early hire later described her to BuzzFeed: "She was this kick-ass woman showrunner who wasn't taking shit from the network. Someone who had a very clear vision who was going to stand up to the network. They were all good things in the beginning."
Despite her experience writing and producing in television, Rebeck had never been a showrunner, responsible for the day-to-day operations of a series, before. David Marshall Grant, a playwright and actor who had served in that capacity during Brothers & Sisters' final seasons, was hired as executive producer to help her with it. Rebeck was reportedly resentful, and worried that she was being set up to fail and Grant positioned to replace her. Very quickly she began shutting him out of key decisions.
Rebeck also decided she would not run a "writers' room," i.e., a regular meeting with the entire writing staff to discuss and perfect episodes and plotlines. "[They] really are not my thing, because I can only stand being in a room with people so many hours a day," she told New York. "And I feel like early drafts should be speedy because everyone changes their mind, so why spend a lot of time up front parsing sentences?" Instead she would follow the example of showrunners like Matthew Weiner and Aaron Sorkin and have writers submit a first draft, which she then revised.
Very quickly, the writers recalled, the show became a "dictatorship." Rebeck's opinion was the only one that mattered. She insisted on writing the second and third episodes herself, and writers said that the drop in quality was evident during pre-air screenings. During this time Rebeck was often fighting with Spielberg, who wanted Hilty, Greenblatt, or Grant replaced. As a result of these distractions, plotlines like Julia's adoption dilemma (mirroring Rebeck's real life) began to assume unusual prominence, and along with them secondary characters like Leo and Ellis became almost main characters—the latter because Spielberg reportedly liked him.
Since the writers never met as a group, they found that finished episodes often repeated the same character moments instead of advancing those characters, and that strange out-of-context moments, usually musical numbers set away from the stage, had been inserted. They were particularly frustrated in trying to write for Julia, whom Rebeck had based on herself and consequently would not allow to have any difficulties. Later in the season, they were hoping that Greenblatt would win some of their fights. "You know it's bad when our last hope was the network," one told BuzzFeed. However, many of them said the show's own problems were not entirely Rebeck's fault, since Greenblatt also intervened in things like costume design and Spielberg was not informed of the conflicts until near the end.
After she left the show, Rebeck, who, citing confidentiality requirements, did not respond to the BuzzFeed story at first other than to say she "was treated quite badly", spoke at some length to The New York Observer about Smash:
One of the points of contention last year was that the network thinks they have the right to say to the writer of the show, "We don't want her to do this. We want her to do this ... And I would sometimes say back to them, "She would never do that." And they'd look at me like I was crazy, and I'd be like, "Nope, it's not crazy, it's just who the character is." You have to respect who the character is. It has its own internal truth and you can't betray that. And if you don't betray that, it will not betray you. There is this sort of sense that if you don't fuck with the muse—if you don't fuck with the muse, the muse will stand by you ... It turns into bigger questions about power and art, power and storytelling. Is power itself bigger than storytelling? And I would say no.
Following the show's cancellation, Kate Aurthur, the writer of the BuzzFeed story, reposted an email exchange she had with Rebeck. Pointing to the show's decline in ratings during its second season, Rebeck asked, "If in fact [I] was the problem with [the show], wouldn't things have gotten better—rather than dramatically worse—once [I] left?" She accused Aurthur of relying on a single unnamed source and asked that the story, which she called "wildly untrue", be taken down.
NBC announced on June 9, 2011, that they had signed a deal with Columbia Records for a soundtrack of the series. The deal gives Columbia worldwide digital and physical rights to the first season, with options to subsequent seasons. The deal includes both original songs written for the series and any covers of songs featured on the show.
A Bombshell cast recording, featuring original songs from the first and second season of the show, was released on February 12, 2013, selling 16,000 copies in its first week. It contains all 22 songs written for the fictional Bombshell musical and features lead vocals by Katharine McPhee (Karen Cartwright) and Megan Hilty (Ivy Lynn) as Marilyn Monroe.
Several songs were written and performed for the series' season two fictional musical, Hit List. On October 15, 2013, it was announced that Hit List would be staged in concert format at 54 Below on December 9. Smash stars Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus and Krysta Rodriguez were scheduled to perform. Because of demand for tickets, an additional performance was scheduled for December 8.
Bombshell musical numbers
Hit List musical numbers
Original Broadway production
During production of the show, executive producer Craig Zadan said: "We stand on the set, watch the Bombshell numbers and say, "Wouldn't this be great on Broadway? And so far that's where we've left it. Our priority now is producing a great TV show".
In June 2015, following the sold-out performance at the Minskoff Theatre, it was announced that Bombshell would head to the Broadway stage. The executive producers of Smash and the Bombshell concert, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, are set to executive produce the Broadway production. No timeline for the show has been announced.
In May 2020, shortly after a virtual cast reunion during a live-streamed concert, it was announced that a musical based solely on the plot of the series was in the works for a Broadway production. Spielberg, Greenblatt, and Meron are all attached as producers, with Bob Martin and Rick Elice penning the book to Wittman and Shaiman's score, and Bergasse returning to choreograph. Of the announcement, Spielberg stated, "Smash is near and dear to my heart, and it seems fitting that a new musical inspired by what we did on the show would eventually come to the stage. I'm beyond thrilled to be working with this incredible creative team and my producing partners, who began the Smash journey with me over 10 years ago."
The pilot of Smash received positive reviews from television critics, but the critical response was less positive as the season progressed.
Review aggregator Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 of reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 79 based on 32 reviews. Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post called it one of the strongest new shows of the season. The Huffington Post writer Karen Ocamb praised the writing and the creativity of the series. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times called the show a "triumph" and also went on to say that the creator Theresa Rebeck as well as her team, "have managed to capture the grand and sweeping gesture that is musical theater and inject it with the immediate intimacy of television." David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the program a rave review: "[It's so] good you can't help wondering why no one thought of it before, a compelling mix of credible real-life melodrama with a fictionalized approximation of what it takes to get a Broadway show from the idea stage to opening night." Tim Goodman from The Hollywood Reporter called the pilot episode "Excellent, a bar-raiser for broadcast networks", and superior to Glee. He also praised writing and acting for the series, comparing it to the quality of a cable television series. Matt Mitovich of TVLine called the cast "pretty damn perfect" and complimented the musical numbers. Robert Bianco of USA Today gave the show three and a half out of four stars and wrote, "Unless you're allergic to musicals in general and Broadway in particular, you should find that a compelling central story, a strong cast, an out-of-the-procedural-mold premise and some rousing, roof-raising numbers more than compensate for any lingering problems." Tanner Stransky of Entertainment Weekly ranked the pilot episode as the 8th best television episode of 2012 saying, "After we watched the subsequent 14 episodes of Smash with a mixture of fascination and dismay (seriously, did Debra Messing's Julia wear a men's pajama top to meet her lover?), it was difficult to recall that the pilot was positively magical. But it was. In fact, that episode-ending performance of 'Let Me Be Your Star' (featuring dueling divas Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee) was among TV's most watchable and gleeful three minutes of the year. Rare is the series whose high-water mark is its pilot, and Smash is a shining example."
Chris Harnick of The Huffington Post wrote, "How has the rest of Season 1 been so far? Not so phenomenal. That's not to say it has been downright terrible—there have been some highly entertaining moments—but it certainly hasn't been goosebumps-inducing, like the final moments of Episode 1, set to 'Let Me Be Your Star.'" Kevin Fallon summed up the response in The Atlantic, writing that "there's been an almost visceral reaction to how rapidly and sharply the show's quality has dipped, and just how much promise Smash has thwarted...In other words: It's bad." Fallon cites other critics in demonstrating the general acceptance of this opinion.
Awards and nominations
Smash received a number of awards and nominations. In 2012, it was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one for Choreography.
In June 2011, Smash was one of eight honorees in the "Most Exciting New Series" category at the 1st Critics' Choice Television Awards, voted by journalists who had seen the pilots. Due to the already positive buzz surrounding the show, NBC offered early viewings of the pilot on different platforms. From January 15 through January 30, 2012, it was screened on selected flights of American Airlines. From January 16 through February 6, 2012, the full pilot was offered for free on iTunes, Amazon Video, Xbox, and Zune.
The ratings for the Season 1 premiere were strong but ratings steadily dropped as the series progressed. The pilot episode was watched by 11.44 million viewers and had an 18–49 rating of 3.8/10. It was also the third-highest rated new drama debut of the 2011–2012 television season (behind Once Upon a Time and Touch) and delivered the biggest 10 p.m. rating of any drama in this television season. The program also had the highest 18–49 rating and viewership for an NBC series in the time slot since November 2008, but ratings declined in subsequent episodes. The fourth episode, aired on February 27, was seen by 6.6 million viewers and received a 2.3/6 rating in the 18–49 age group. However, the show's fifth episode, aired on March 5, saw a 17% increase in ratings. It had an 18–49 rating of 2.7/7 and was seen by 7.76 million viewers. But ratings for the show decreased in later episodes, with the eighth episode dropping to an 18–49 rating of 2.1/5 and viewership going down to 6.4 million viewers. Nonetheless, it has become NBC's #1 drama in adults 18–49 and total viewers. The series was also up 160 percent in adults 18–49 versus NBC's season average in the time period prior to Smash (with a 2.6 rating vs. a 1.0, "live plus same day") and in total viewers, Smash has improved the time period by 100 percent (7.7 million vs. 3.9 million).
For Season 2, Smash was scheduled for Tuesdays at 10 at mid-season starting February 5, behind the low-rated The New Normal and several weeks before the new season of The Voice premiered, and the ratings cratered, with the February 5, 2013 2-hour 2-episode season premiere getting a 1.2 rating in the 18–49 demo. The ratings slid further to 0.9 for the 3rd episode and stayed around that number through the sixth episode, when NBC announced it was moving Smash to Saturdays as of April 6, 2013 and changing up its Tuesday lineup to put its dating reality show Ready for Love behind The Voice.
|Season||Timeslot (ET)||Season premiere||Season finale||Rank||Viewers
|18–49 Average||18–49 High||18–49 Low||Ref|
|1||Monday 10:00 p.m.||February 6, 2012||May 14, 2012||#51||8.94||11.44||5.34||3.2||3.8||1.8|||
|2||Tuesday 10:00 p.m.
(February 5 – April 2, 2013)
Saturday 9:00 p.m.
(April 6, 2013)
Saturday 8:00 p.m.
(April 13 – May 11, 2013)
Sunday 9:00 p.m.
(May 26, 2013)
|February 5, 2013||May 26, 2013||#113||2.72||4.48||1.80||1.4||1.2||0.4|||
The first season of Smash was released under the title Smash: Season One as a widescreen four-disc DVD box set on October 29, 2012 formatted for Region 2. The DVD formatted for Region 1 was released on January 8, 2013. Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, the set features every episode and includes several DVD extras including behind-the-scenes footage and making-of features as well as extended and deleted scenes and a blooper reel. Also included is an UltraViolet copy of each episode.
The Target exclusive edition of the season one set includes a fifth disc that includes the full-length music video for "Touch Me" performed by Katharine McPhee, as well as twenty minutes of additional interviews with Jack Davenport (Derek Wills) and Megan Hilty (Ivy Lynn).
Season 2 was released on DVD on August 6, 2013.
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