Rebecca Paller

Associate Curator

February 29, 2012

NBC’s Smash: No Dough, No Show

by Rebecca Paller

Smash, the NBC drama about the trials and tribulations of creating a Broadway musical, may be the season’s most promoted new show (Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers, and a record $25 million was spent on advertising prior to its premiere on February 6) but it’s also proving to be a disappointment in the ratings. Even though the number of viewers (6.7 million) who watched this week’s broadcast was up slightly from last week, the show still finished fourth in its time period—not exactly the stuff that producers dream of, especially this particular season when NBC sorely needed a “savior” among its new programs.

I have qualms about Smash but nevertheless will continue to watch it every Monday night in the hope that it gets better (and that the superb singing actor Brian d’Arcy James, who has been cast in the thankless role of the husband of the Broadway lyricist played by Debra Messing, gets some real airtime).

I won’t bore you with my thoughts on Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen (Katharine McPhee) and why neither of them is right for the part of Marilyn Monroe. I also won’t criticize the normally wonderful playwright Theresa Rebeck, the creator and executive producer of Smash, for writing clichéd love triangles and making all the characters (especially the composer’s assistant Ellis, who is played with unappealing unctuousness by Jaime Cepero) such one-dimensional stereotypes.

I would like, however, to point out one little thing (actually a really big thing) that in real life would have shut down the workshop of “the new Marilyn Monroe musical” before the first rehearsal. 

I’m talking about the fact that the musical’s producer, Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston, who chews the scenery a la Mrs. Meers), does not yet not have in hand the proper funds—$200,000 (a rather small amount, in this day and age)—for the workshop to proceed. A producer is required to post a bond with Actors’ Equity before the performers’ contracts are drawn up. This money ensures that the workshop participants will receive the minimum salary, pension, and health credits guaranteed by the agreement (generally two weeks’ salary and benefits).

Thus it was almost laughable this past Monday night when we learned that Eileen—who is in the midst of a messy divorce with her “big pockets husband”—had only $8,000 in available funds. But boy is she ever resourceful! By the end of the episode she had almost negotiated a deal to sell her prized Degas drawing to a young TV star played by Nick Jonas (!). Her asking price was, of course, $200,000.

No doubt Eileen will come up with the money by hook or by crook. But in real life the show would not have gone on.

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Rebecca Paller

Associate Curator


Before joining the Paley Center in 2000, Rebecca Paller was associate editor of Where Magazine in New York and Northern Ohio Live in Cleveland. She has written about the arts for publications including Opera News, American Theatre, Vogue, and Playbill.


Performing Arts


Rebecca Paller

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