4 Ways To Make ‘Smash’ Smashier.
A little over a year ago, I blogged about the then upcoming prime time series about Broadway called Smash, and what it could mean for Broadway. I could just imagine those millions of people hearing the words, “Broadway” over and over every week. I’ll go back on the record and say that this show could have the biggest marketing impact on the future of our industry. It’s international. It’s weekly.
And it got renewed for a second season.
Let’s be honest. I know quite a few folks out there that were nervous Smash wasn’t going to get a 2nd green light, but thankfully, for all of us, it did. For those out there who have been critical of some of the season, I’ve always responded with a, “Hey – go watch the first season of Seinfeld.” It wasn’t that good. And you could feel the writers/actors and everyone involved finding their way through what was then a new form of the form.
But they figured it out.
And my money is on Smash . . . and that they will figure it out too.
And let’s face it . . . a singing dancing series ain’t easy. Hasn’t been done that often, never mind to critical and commercial success. And Smash’s ratings are très respectable. And they’ve got a great shot at season #3 and beyond, as well as giving our box office a shot in the arm.
All that said, I’ve got a few ideas (surprise, surprise) on how the Producers of Smash can make the show even smashier, so I thought I’d share some of them with you:
1. You Do TV Better Than We do
A great deal of respect was shown to our community by hiring some of the best to run the show. But TV ain’t theater. And what works on those 2 dimensional flat screens is a lot different than what works on a stage. The best people for a TV show may very well be TV people. And I’m thrilled that the smarties that call the shots have hired Gossip Girl show runner and veteran Josh Safran to lead the second season.
2. When Was the Last Time You Watched a Mini-Series?
Watching a musical come together from inception to production is fascinating, but it also makes every episode so dependent on the prior . . . which means that if a viewer misses an episode, they might feel like they can’t catch up and then tune out (I call this the “Studio 60” syndrome – God that was a great show, that only lasted two seasons because it felt like one giant movie that you couldn’t afford to miss five minutes of). It starts to feel like a mini-series, and we know those aren’t made anymore for a reason. I’d like to see Smash go a little more procedural, a little more LA Law, to go ol’ school, where each episode’s drama is a little more self-contained. And showing the Producers and Actors and Staffers working on several different types of shows might draw in people who aren’t drawn in by Marilyn.
3. To Glee or Not to Glee.
Do you only have the songs in performance situations, like rehearsals, or tech, or previews? Do you have the characters sing about how they’re feeling? Or try to work in more “real” singing situations, like karaoke? This has got to be one of the hardest decisions facing the writers of Smash. My opinion? Just keep it to where and when it’s real. And part of the plot. Keep it to the auditions and the rehearsals and the performances. Finding another place to get the characters to sing an unoriginal tune, just because there hasn’t been a musical number for awhile doesn’t work when writing musicals, and I don’t think it’ll work for TV either.
4. Atkins was right: More stake is good for you.
Want to know the reason why there are so many Legal Dramas and Medical Dramas and Cop Dramas on television? Life or Death is a part of every episode – which means high stakes are built into the plot. It just comes with the genre. We’d like to think putting on a Broadway musical is life or death, but let’s face it, it ain’t. Smash has the challenge of trying to find these same kind of stakes within what it brings to the table. And that’s gonna be tough. But I think that’s what it should focus on, because that’s what will lead to more viewers. Everyone has love/life/death in common. Where/when it’s set doesn’t even have to matter. Raise up those stakes and ratings will follow.
I’m a big fan of Smash. And I’m rooting for it’s continued success. There have been lots of shake ups already with cast members going and cast members coming (Jennifer Hudson anyone?). And I’ll be watching every episode of Season 2, hoping that it’s has that same path as Seinfeld.
Because Season 2 is where it really got good.
I know you’ve got thoughts on this subject. So tell me, and the world wide webbers everywhere: what ideas do you have to make Smash smashier?
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Like most TheaterMakers, I got started in “the biz” early…
I drafted this blog in 2020. And then, well ….
Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.