As NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt put it, NBC is giving Smash the full-court press.
The network announced Friday that the full first episode will be available as a digital download beginning Jan. 16 — three weeks prior to the show's Feb. 6 premiere — on Apple iTunes, Amazon VOD, Xbox, Playstation, Samsunb MediaHub and Vudu. It will also be available on Comcast's VOD and on select American Airlines flights. A week later, beginning Jan. 23, viewers will be able to stream the episode on NBC.com and Hulu.
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And if that wasn't enough advanced exposure, NBC will host screenings of the pilot on January 9 in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and San Francisco, and on January 11, it will screen in LA's Outfest. And like Fox's Glee, the songs from each episode will be made available soon after each hour airs.
Smash, starring American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston, revolves around the backstage drama involved in the creation of a new musical about Marilyn Monroe. McPhee and theater vet Megan Hilty (Wicked, 9 to 5) play two actresses vying to portray the Hollywood legend. Playwright Theresa Rebeck created and executive-produces the series, which will feature original songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray).
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During the show's session at NBC's winter TV preview, the cast and creative team, many of whom have Broadway experience, were quick to say the soap operatic (and stereotypical) behind-the-scenes shenanigans — scheming actors, a director who comes on to his actresses, super-sized egos — are pretty true to life. "What happens behind the curtain is way more interesting than what's happening on the stage," Hilty said.
"The genius of making this idea into a series is when you're a live performer...there's so much at stake when you're exposing yourself to hundreds or thousands of people, it naturally sets the tone and stage for high drama," she continued. "The stakes are so high and there's so much at stake. This show taps into all that... All those stereotypes are there for a reason "
As for which character will ultimately play Marilyn, Rebek says it's not so clear-cut. Not only will McPhee and Hilty be up for the part, but guest-star Uma Thurman will swing in late into the first season as a major movie star also in consideration to lead the musical. For now, McPhee said the differences between the two characters's versions of Marilyn are quickly apparent; McPhee's Karen is a very green budding actress while Hilty's Ivy has been a chorus girl waiting to land a lead role for years, and willing to do anything to get it. Also, McPhee says, "I think of myself more of a pop artist, and Megan's got this big Broadway voice," McPhee said.
Smash premieres Feb. 6 at 10/9c on NBC.