Fade in. Against a black background, the name of the series is spelled out in lights: SMASH.
OK, hold on, before we begin can I just say one thing? Despite every lazy critic in the country writing that Smash is “Glee for adults” Smash is not Glee for adults. Glee is Glee for adults and there’s no reason to insult adult Glee fans by saying otherwise. That said, comparisons of the two series are probably inevitable. Just, try to be nice about it, OK?
The title card fades out and we fade in on a woman in a sparkly dress standing on a bare stage in front of a sparkly background. The music swells and she begins to sing “Over the Rainbow”. The first verse is lovely but as she heads into verse two a ringing cell phone interrupts her. Transition to an audition room where the director (a cameo by lesbian comedy icon Kate Clinton) answers it. She looks up from her call just long enough to dismiss the auditioning performer. The performer, Karen Cartwright (American Idol contender Katharine McPhee), exits. The next auditioner, Ivy Lynn (Broadway’s Megan Hilty), breezes in and cheekily asks the casting team, “Do you want the ballad or the up-tempo first?”
Cut to a Manhattan apartment where Broadway composer Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) is wondering why he has so little mail after a week out of town. His totes adorbs new assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero) explains that he’s sorted out the junk mail and the magazines. Also, he’s rearranged the kitchen to create a “tea drawer” and has macaroni and cheese and a meat loaf in the oven. As Ellis bustles off to unpack Tom’s suitcase, a clearly smitten Tom gloats to best friend and librettist partner Julia Houston (Debra Messing) about his new mail-sorting, comfort-food making, cute assistant. Julia thinks he’s straight but I find Tom’s “he made a tea drawer” argument fairly persuasive.
Tom dishes up some mac and cheese and he and Julia dish an announcement in a trade paper of a planned revival of My Fair Lady. Julia channels our own Ed Kennedy, grumbling about the preponderance of remakes from Broadway and Hollywood. They move to the living room and Ellis puts away a coffee table book on Marilyn Monroe he’d been reading while house-sitting. Tom adds “he likes Marilyn” to the “he’s totally gay” column and also blatantly checks out Ellis’ perky backside as he re-shelves the book.
They chat about Marilyn for a minute and Ellis opines that she’d be a great subject for a musical. Tom and Julia inform him it’s been done (1983’s Marilyn: An American Fable which ran for 17 performances) and that there’s also a glut of Marilyn-related material at the moment. But as they talk, Tom becomes more intrigued with the possibilities, including her marriage to Joe DiMaggio serving as the basis for a baseball number.
At a cafe, a terribly handsome man with a terribly sexy nose whom we will learn is Karen’s live-in boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffery) is texting as Karen arrives to refill his coffee and inform him she didn’t get the part. They told her agent she wasn’t sexy enough. She’s tired of having to try to be sexy all the time and of always being hungry and being told she’s “light”. Dev commiserates in a terribly sexy accent while feeding her bites of his dessert until she’s called back to her waitressing duties.