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Smash's premise has promise

By Ella Jenak in Arts & Culture

New to late night TV this winter is the NBC musical hit, "Smash": a show about the creation of a fictitious Broadway production titled "Marilyn: the Musical."

While the show is similar to Fox's "Glee," in its "Broadway numbers," the plot is vastly different and attracts a more serious audience. "Smash" is not flashy or excessively humorous, rather it tells the story of Karen Cartwright, a green (as the show frequently refers to her) Broadway hopeful played by season 5 "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee.

McPhee is charming as Karen Cartwright, but her acting is not extremely compelling and her character lacks dimension. But, while Karen isn't particularly interesting, you can't help but root for her as she auditions for the role of a lifetime: Marilyn Monroe.

Naive Karen competes against seasoned Broadway showgirl Ivy Lynn for the role of Marilyn, making "Smash" essentially an underdog story. But Ivy's distinct lack of menace or malevolence hardly makes her the enemy. Uniquely, it seems Derek, the show's womanizing director, although not directly in the heat of the competition, is the show's antagonist.

The fascinating thing about "Smash" is that it doesn't simply focus on the lives of the performers, but also on the backstage challenges of the directors and writers. One of the writers of "Marilyn: the Musical," Julia, struggles with the long wait involved in adopting a child while the other, Tom, is at odds with the musical's high-and-mighty director ("Smash's" version of Simon Cowell).

Although the show's main character is far from fascinating, "Smash's" premise promises an ever-changing plot that will hopefully expand throughout the season as "Marilyn: the Musical" develops.

Tune in to "Smash" at 9 pm on Mondays on NBC.

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