NBC Shouldn’t Be So Quick to Smash “Smash”

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Around this time every year, the TV networks start announcing which shows will be canceled or renewed for next season.  So, naturally, in this 24-hour Internet news cycle, this is accompanied by rampant speculation on the blogosphere about which shows will be canceled or renewed.  Earlier this week, I stumbled on a huge roundup article on The Huffington Post which sought to assess each show’s chances.  Most of my favorite shows earned a “likely to be renewed” designation (Castle) or an “on the bubble” designation, which still gives them some hope (Revenge, The Good Wife).  However, I was disheartened to see the “likely to be canceled” designation next to one of my favorite shows, Smash, with the article citing massive underachievement for the season premiere in the ratings, which could spell doom for the show.

For the uninitiated, Smash follows several characters as they aspire to put on the next big musical on Broadway.  The musical they have chosen to write is entitled Bombshell, and is based on the roller-coaster life of America’s first modern sex symbol, Norma Jean Mortenson Marilyn Monroe.  Say what you want about the plot and acting, which have fallen off during the end of the first season and into the second, but there is one reason why this show deserves another shot: its music.  Smash has grabbed audiences’ attention with excellent choral renditions of popular songs.  And unlike other competitors (cough, Glee, cough), Smash also has a sterling repertoire of original songs that are part of Bombshell.  Take a listen to two of my favorite originals:

“Let Me Be Your Star” (sung by female leads Megan Hilty and Katherine McPhee):

“Don’t Say Yes Until I Finish Talking” (sung by Christian Borle and chorus):

Smash’s covers are just as good.  Here’s two of them, alongside the original versions:

“Cheers (Drink to That)” (original by Rihanna, Smash version by Hilty & McPhee):

The Smash version, to me, sounds much more energetic and believable.  Rihanna’s version sounds lethargic in comparison, and that weird faux-British accent (at least I think it’s supposed to be British) she tries to put into her vocals just doesn’t do the song justice.  It makes her sound stoned (sure wouldn’t surprise me to learn she was when she recorded it).

“Shake It Out” (original by Florence + the Machine, Smash version by McPhee):

I’ll admit, the difference is less stark here.  While I think Florence + the Machine is a bit overrated, they are good songwriters and performers, and you can see that on this song.  I think McPhee’s voice is stronger and projects better, though.  Now, I suppose you could make an argument that Florence sings the way she does for artistic reasons, and that wouldn’t be totally off.  But I just like the cleaner and silkier quality of McPhee’s voice, and thus prefer the Smash version.

In the second season premiere, Anjelica Huston’s character, Eileen, says that she “wants the world to see what it would miss if Bombshell went away.”  I wonder if that wasn’t a slight jab at the negative critical response to the show at the end of season one.  I think, if only for the great music it gave us (here’s a complete list of you’re curious), Smash deserves to at least air its entire second season, and have a fair shot at a third.

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