This morning I walked into the bagel shop and saw a bunch of Smash-branded bookmarks stuffed into a box filled with pamphlets for donating to cancer research. Somehow this is the easiest way to describe how annoyingly hard NBC has been marketing this show. Harder than tomorrow's leftover bagels! But it got our attention. TV is full of musical shows (most of them reality garbage), but with the success of Glee and the scripted musical narrative format, we're starting to wonder, is this the beginning or the end of music as an integral part of a fictional television show? So although recapping is an awful business, we're going to be recapping the entire first season of Smash, even if it kills us. INTO THE WOODS!
The show starts with Karen singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Smash doesn't waste any time throwing us into the wild world of the theatre. Auditions! Sex! Revivals! Tea! WE NEED TEA! WHERE IS THE TEA?? We quickly establish the tent poles of Smash-world-- that Broadway is full of boring rehashes of My Fair Lady, our heroine Karen (played by Katharine McPhee) can't get a break, the successful Ivy (Megan Hilty) is good at ensembles but wants more, songwriter Julia (played by Debra Messing) wants to write a Marilyn Monroe musical with a Damn Yankees style musical-baseball break (much to the chagrin of her husband, who is worried about their adoption process but also hates the theatre like a good stereotypical American husband), and THE BROADWAY IS GLAMOROUS! OK Smash, dance for me.
A social worker arrives at Julia's house, and she immediately offers her tea. She then meets her writing partner Tom (Christian Borle) is working with Ivy on a Marilyn number, and asks for more tea. Apparently her character development is TEA. Karen is having dinner with her successful and absurdly supportive foreign boyfriend and her Midwest family, who are obviously poor and ignorant because everyone from Iowa is like that. You don't know Jack's lines in "Giants in the Sky," Iowa! They don't believe in her dreams, but her man knows "she's a star." Whew, we were worried she'd be a waitress for the entire show. Julia's tea-slave posts a video demo of Ivy singing their first and only tune on "YouLenz" (more like youLOLZ) and everybody mad. The Post is going to eviscerate them! Whoa SAT word. There are a lot of high school kids watching, this is good for them! Don't email things to your mother, kids. Or do? The Post winds up calling the leaked song a "smash," and here we go! Marilyn musical, next stop the Tonys!
Meanwhile Eileen (Anjelica Houston, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?) is going through an ugly divorce with her husband. Coincidence alert! He wants to shelf My Fair Lady, the musical she is producing, which likely means a meeting of the musical theater minds in the future. Tea-slave Jamie gets his job back due to the smash-leak. Julia and Tom meet with Eileen because they ain't got no money, and she suggests they recruit prototypical director/psychopath Derek Wills (Jack Davenport). He doesn't want to do it, he hates Tom, but like a good producer, Eileen puts together the pieces to make a SMASH. Am I doing this right? TEA SMASH!
Ivy sings a Marilyn number with Derek's choreography with Tom, Julia, and Eileen looking on. It's the first big musical number! The gang is (almost) all here! The combination of fantasy and reality during musical numbers appears to be Glee-level, so that's good. I don't think the world is ready for Chicago-level on TV. Derek and Tom are not convinced, even though the dancers were "delicious." Eileen won't quit, she proclaims under the lights of Times Square. Marilyn auditions get hilarious and cheesy. And finally we get to Karen's audition for Marilyn and WOWWWAWOWWA. She c-r-u-s-h-e-s it. She's the icon! She's the star! Ivy is hungover (or maybe pregnant)! Rule #4958 of TV, girls throwing up in awkward situations means pregnant. But let's focus on Karen, because she really got everyone making "whoa" faces during her Xtina song, despite the usual two-bar rule and the lack of actual orchestration in reality. Man, that piano has a SWEET BEAT. I guess that's why they call it a dramatization. Both of them get call-backs.
Karen needs to learn how to be sexy, because Iowa, so her boyfriend is "teaching her to accentuate the sex," which goes exactly as it sounds: HILARIOUS. Who says "breasts" in common conversation? What is Dev anyway? Australian? How is he working in the Mayor's office? Meanwhile, Ivy's life is not all foreign boyfriends and champagne, her car salesman brother is GOING TO NIGHT SCHOOL. New Yorker problems.
It turns out Karen's callback was to Derek's dope "successful director" apartment. Looks like she's really going to have to accentuate the sex to get this part. But she plays the scared bird instead, and flies to the bathroom. WILL SHE GO ALL THE WAY? She'll put on Derek's shirt (and nothing else), and do "Happy Birthday" Marilyn style and suddenly I don't want to ever date another actress until she says "not gonna happen" and walks out. SHE'S GOT THE PARTS! DEREK SAW NONE OF HER PARTS!
So Karen demonstrated her chops and teased the director, securing her role as the innocent who can get a little dirty. She starts the first original, non-embedded musical number (from the shower to the wadrobe) and we get a nice montage of everyone prepping for the actual call-back, and participating in it. This is Chicago-level. Smash, you crazy kid. Let's have a great season. Of tea and breasts.