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One part Entourage to two parts Glee – but is it a Smash?


America's biggest new show boasts such a conspicuous marketing budget that, unless its title becomes self-fulfilling prophecy, it will seem like a failure. Smash, NBC's story of a Broadway musical, premiered on Monday.

Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, with original songs by the duo behind Hairspray and a script by a Pulitzer-winning playwright, it has smash hit pedigree.

It's also a calculated perfect storm of TV trends: the backstage procedural, lifting the curtain on pop culture (30 Rock, Entourage); the "dreams-come-true" reality show (X Factor etc) and the musical soap (Glee, Glee, Glee).

Previews of Smash, which comes to Sky Atlantic "in early 2012", centre on the casting of the title role in a new musical about Marilyn Monroe. A budding small-town starlet and an established diva clash in pursuit of top billing, while sleazy directors, seen-it-all producers and starry-eyed songwriters vie for control of the show. Katharine McPhee (as the starlet), is herself a reality TV casualty and finished as runner-up on the fifth series of American Idol. She's joined onscreen by Debra Messing (as a songwriter), Anjelica Huston (as the producer) and Jack Davenport (as the sleaze).

Its creators have invested the script with a wealth of Broadway insider detail and a castful of familiar Broadway performers. Critical responses to Monday's pilot episode were cagey, but The New York Times suggested: "Smash gets better as it goes along [and] by Episode 3 it shows signs of becoming an addictive pleasure."

Meanwhile, should the show be a success, plans are allegedly afoot to produce the show-within-a-show (working title: Marilyn: The Musical) on Broadway for real – a particularly expensive ploy for putting bums on theatre seats. But if it displaces the likes of We Will Rock You, then so much the better.