February 7th, 2012
09:32 AM ET
Let's get this out of the way right now: "Glee," this is not.
After months of hype (not to mention online streaming), NBC's "Smash" premiered on Monday night, and it was easy to see that while plenty of singing is involved, the show has a very different tone from the Fox hit series. (Worth noting: "Smash" was originally pitched to Showtime in 2009, the year "Glee" premiered.)
"Smash" – as anyone who saw the endless promos probably knows – revolves around a musical adaptation of the life of Marilyn Monroe.
What's incredible right out of the gate is how fully formed the idea for the story is, not to mention the songs. For example, Ivy, the more experienced of the top two contenders to play Marilyn, had a showstopping baseball-themed number. (This show will make the actress who plays Ivy, Megan Hilty, a star – her rehearsal scenes alone!)
The ingenue, Karen, played by onetime "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee, wowed the producers with her rendition of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." Despite the fact that this scene has been shown the most in promos, it's still an extraordinary performance.
Karen, by the way, might as well have had a halo over her head. Despite the notion of "Team Ivy" versus "Team Karen," so far we were asked to sympathize with her a lot more. (She even does the right thing by refusing to sleep with the director, Derek – possibly eliminating any future Marilyn-esque performances of "Happy Birthday" for the rest of the series.)
In another very memorable scene, Karen is seen practicing her Marilyn, singing along with Ivy thanks to a video that was leaked online by the playwright's assistant (whose story arc could be very interesting to follow).
Speaking of the playwrights, Debra Messing's character, Julia, was drawn into making a Broadway musical, almost like it's an addiction. The moment it becomes clear that the Marilyn musical can work, she and her writing partner Tom are unstoppable.
In the meantime, Anjelica Huston wasn't given too much to do, but it's early yet.
With the possible exception of "Homeland", this was the pilot this season that had me dying the most to see what happens next. It didn't hurt that the way they left it off, with a terrific song – and Karen and Ivy almost running into each other before walking into callbacks – was absolute perfection. I think we'll see more than a few Emmy nominations this summer.
What did you think of the premiere? Are you in for the season, like me? Share your iReport or comment below.
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