The Voice episode 2, Smash series premiere

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Welcome back! Last night, as I sat in the post NBC-prime-time glow of The Voice and Smash, I said to myself, "You see, Dena? It doesn't matter what Mom and Dad think, I knew this liberal arts degree would come in handy. Look at all the theater references I understood!"

Between The Voice and Smash, every single musical theater itch I have ever had was not only scratched, but Gold Bonded and soothed for perhaps eternity. I can't even call these shows guilty pleasures. The talent and entertainment value of The Voice is solid and the production value and sheer star power oozes from every light bulb in the Smash logo. Signed, sealed, delivered, NBC, I'm yours.

The Voice

After last night's season 2 premiere, I had very high hopes for this second, 2-hour episode of The Voice. Let me start off by saying that 2 hours is a long time to watch any show, especially a non-plot based, potentially repetitive, competition-type show. But I thoroughly enjoyed all 120 minutes, including the Prince-mash-up performance at the top of the episode from all 4 coaches. (And if I wasn't spot on about the sequins yesterday, Cee-Lo truly out-sparkled himself with that tomato-inspired disco ball/Human Flame outfit last night.) Each one of them has a great way of asserting his/her unique style, and the opening number really confirmed why each one is qualified to be a coach.

On every type of show where there are live performances, I have to wonder if what I'm hearing is the same as what the people in the studio are hearing, and after last night, I must conclude that those are two different things. For instance, the opening couple "The Line"—what was everyone else hearing that was so spectacular? The only great thing to come out of that performance was Blake Shelton's commentary after he lost them to Xtina: "I think they were fooled by flash… and boobs." Bless your country heart, Blake Shelton.

And on the other end of that, the devastatingly stylish ex-crystal-meth-addict, Jamar Rogers: are Cee-Lo and I the only ones with ears? Is that man the perfect combination of Cee-Lo Green, Pharrell and Jared Leto from Requiem for a Dream? Anyone? Anyone?

I do love the seemingly random yet always heartbreaking moments when a contestant sings his/her heart out and gets zilch from the coaches. Not a single buzz. Like the Yale Football Player. He made me sad. He made Xtina sadder.

In summation: Cee-Lo Green sparkled and vaguely sexually insinuated his way into some prime picks. And that Dr. Evil-esque stroking of the white cat moment makes my heart happy. Adam Levine picked up some intensely fierce females this round, including my favorite 50-year-old belting Tell Me Something Good, on whom I have an enormous talent crush. What Blake Shelton wants, Blake Shelton continues to get. And I like it. And Xtina… dear, dear Xtina. Cover up. Calm down. People keep picking you as their coach not because of, but in spite of your appearance and behavior on this show. You can thank the people who wrote Genie in a Bottle back in the late 1990s, and execute your current stylist.


Smash is absolutely everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, I ever could have hoped for in my wildest and most musical-theater-nerdy of dreams. There was a ton of hype leading up to this series premiere, and I can't deny I was nervous the pilot wouldn't live up to it. Moreover, I wasn't sure how NBC was going to make the starving-actor-with-relatively-wealthy-parents-trying-to-make-it-big-on-Broadway-while-working-as-a-waitress-but-also-probably-stripping thing appealing to a broader audience. I also wasn't sure before I watched the show if this was supposed to be a realistic portrayal of the inner-workings of a Broadway production or just a cheesy but well-produced extended musical number. Well, I can only speak about what I know, and what I know is that I have a very large number of friends in New York City with degrees in Musical Theater and/or Drama and/or Lighting Design, and this is their story.

And based on last night's ratings and the now 23 reviews I've read about Smash on other various media sources, it appears the rest of America was pretty into it, too.

For those of you who didn't get a chance to tune in last night, Smash details the creation of a modern-day musical, inspired by the life of Marilyn Monroe. Smash does a bang-up job of noting the fact that Marilyn seems to have been done to death this year (re: My Week with Marilyn) which I appreciated. Debra Messing plays one half of the brain behind the idea, a writer/lyricist who is torn between working on the show and devoting her time to the adoption of another child with her husband. And then we have our starlets. Ivy Lynn (played by Megan Hilty) is a tried-and-true Broadway chorus girl ready for her time in the spotlight. She serves as a pseudo-muse for the writers and plays heavily in the devising of the show, making her the obvious choice for the role of Marilyn. Cue Karen Cartwright, played by ex-American Idol contestant Katherine McPhee, the doe-eyed, small town country girl just looking for her big break who also happens to have the kind of voice I would sacrifice several of my own limbs to possess. Pit these two against each other in a vocal battle royale and I fear my head might explode from TOO MUCH TALENT/GLITZ/GLAMOUR/AWESOMENESS. The seeds of several other plotlines are planted, like the deliciously mysterious drama between the potential director and one of the writers, but I daren't dive into all of them lest I anger the Big Cyber Guy in the Sky and he takes away my computer privileges until I can control my word count.

And let's go ahead and address the tutu-wearing, glitter-covered, jazz-hand-brandishing elephant in the room. Is Smash just a newer, more mature version of Glee? The answer is a resounding NO. I will go ahead and list some very important differences between these two shows:

1) Smash has a plot line. And it doesn't suck.

2) The actors in Smash are actually the same age as the characters they play.

3) I can vouch for the authenticity of the processes depicted in Smash thanks to my years at the theater-crazed institution otherwise known as Northwestern University, from the devising of musical numbers to the audition process to the ruthlessness of the business. I went to high school. And it was nothing like Glee.

Needless to say, Smash opened with, well, a smash, and I have INCREDIBLY high hopes and expectations for the rest of the season. But then again, I can sit and watch sassy ladies belt their faces off at me for hours and hours on end, any day, anytime, anywhere. Throw a brooding, sexy male director and feisty yet obviously talented gay songwriter in the mix and stick a fork in me, I'm DONE. Honestly, Smash, you had me at Marilyn.

Check back in next week for more updates, and as always, thanks for watching KPRC Local 2!

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