Furthering the comparisons of NBC’s new musical series Smash with a little show called Glee, comes the announcement that network has signed a deal with Columbia Records to release a soundtrack for the upcoming drama, and that its star, American Idol season five runner-up Katharine McPhee, will also get a solo record deal. According to the press release, the soundtrack will include “original compositions” by songwriters Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman, responsible for the hit Hairspray and current musical Catch Me If You Can, plus “covers of a variety of existing hits that will combine to tell the narrative of this musical series.”
Glee has obviously gone the soundtrack route before (or six or seven times over) and its stars have experimented with solo careers thanks to their newfound television fame (see: Mark Salling, Matthew Morrison, Naya Rivera). Maybe we’re just high off last night’s Tony Awards (or just raging theater geeks ourselves), but who says that more than one strong musical-themed television show on a major network is a bad thing? At least it’s not Kardashian-related! (And with that, Kris Jenner is writing an email pitch to Ryan Seacrest as we type this.)
With a general descriptor of “musical television show,” the obvious similarities are there: singing, dancing. Check. But the tales of an Ohio glee club and the creation of a Broadway show are vastly different, and its post-high school cast and 10 p.m. time slot suggest subject matter more risque than that of Will Schuester’s booty dropping. (But it looks like they beat Ryan Murphy to the Rachel and Kurt’s Broadway ambition-spinoff, which seemed all the more inevitable after this season’s NYC finale.) Smash stars McPhee (who has released three solo albums since Idol to moderate success, though “Over It” still gets plays on our iPods) as a Broadway hopeful, along with Will & Grace‘s Debra Messing, Christian Borle and Angelica Freaking Houston, through the inception and production of a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, with McPhee and Megan Hilty (9 to 5, Wicked) in contention for the lead role. From the extended preview below, it’s unclear whether the music will occur solely in rehearsal-related scenes, or if they will go the Glee route of having characters perform their inner monologues through song.
If we’re keeping score, NBC has
ripped Fox off before ridden the coattails of two of Fox’s musical shows before (Glee and American Idol), with the creation of The Sing-Off, its a cappella competition show and most recently The Voice, swivel chairs and all. Plans for soundtracks is an obvious attempt to recreate the financial profits and crazed fandom of this uncontrollable phenomenon—and slightly audacious considering no episodes have aired—we don’t see any problems. Non-musical themed shows have released albums before (The O.C., Gossip Girl, Friday Night Lights) so it’s pointless to argue that someone ripped off someone else. As long as it’s well written and decently acted, what’s the big deal? At least it’s not another reality show or competition series, where any and all similarities would be a lot more grating (you can only listen to so many screeching auditions before you require medical attention). And in this era of horrible television, where MTV hardly attempts to do music-related programming anymore, shouldn’t we be celebrating more song and dance within our nightly programming? Shows like this encourage kids to dream, are what keep them off the streets, etc. etc.
Watch an extended preview of Smash below, in which McPhee’s character wows judges and blue-balls a horny producer. And has “Beautiful” become the quintessential audition song? We’ll take it.
And, for old time’s sake: