CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At first, I didn't have strong feelings either way about "Smash," NBC's making-of-a-Broadway-show drama that debuts at 10 p.m. Monday. However, any interest I might have developed turned to irritation as I was bombarded with ad after ad after ad on the network - roughly one per commercial break for dramas and every other break for comedies for the past month.
Frankly, when I sat down to watch a sneak preview of the pilot earlier this week, I was fully expecting to hate it. I didn't, but it took most of the episode's 48 minutes to sway me from that direction.
It was the show's very last sequence -- a montage tracking all the players involved as they made their way to a callback audition -- that really caught my interest.
I thought to myself, "OK, now it's going to start picking up." Instead as the camera cut between the audition songs of the two potential actresses, the credits began to roll at the bottom of the screen. I could have gotten sucked in earlier, perhaps when star Katharine McPhee was belting out Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" at an audition ... except that scene is featured so prominently in the overbearing ad campaign that it's lost all of its emotional power.
In all fairness, pilots aren't always exciting because they have a lot of groundwork to lay, but NBC is counting on this and "The Voice" to save its season, so it doesn't have the luxury of a slow start. It needs to hook viewers right off the bat, especially if it wants to take - and keep - viewers from its somewhat formidable competition: ABC's "Castle" and CBS' "Hawaii Five-0." The pilot just didn't do that for me.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not already writing the show off.
The season overview at the end showed enough pizzazz to make me want to tune in to at least a few more episodes. Plus, there are some definite bright spots, particularly British actor Raza Jaffrey as Karen's boyfriend, Dev, and the formidable Anjelica Huston as a Broadway producer, who made her mark in the pilot even without having much to do.
I also like McPhee, who is new to me since I never saw her on "American Idol" (where she was runner up in season five). She can sing, of course, but she also nicely captures the naiveté, freshness and hopefulness of her character - a young, small town talent who dreams of making it as an actress in the Big Apple.
Her character's Broadway career seems to be off to a promising start, but we won't be able to tell for a few more weeks if McPhee's TV career will be following the same upward trajectory.