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New This Week
A half-hour dramedy about an insanely angry executive whose visit to a very expensive clinic in Hawaii makes her insufferably narcissistic in a far more spiritual way, “Enlightened” comes to HBO from the great Mike White, whose screenwriting credits include “Chuck & Buck,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “Orange County,” “The Good Girl,” “Nacho Libre” and “School of Rock.”
It was the best new half-hour of autumn 2011.
White’s excellent feature directorial debut, “Year Of The Dog,” co-starred Laura Dern, who now co-stars in “Enlightened” with White, Luke Wilson and Dern’s mom Diane Ladd.
Like “Year of the Dog,” “Enlightened” demonstrates how delusional halfwits with profound emotional disorders can hold jobs. The HBO series shows how lawyers, psychotherapists and corporate culture can enable horrible people.
I love that the focus falls sharply on Dern’s character, Amy. It’s not an ensemble piece that wastes a lot of time with boring b-stories. Dern is hilarious as a big ball of crazy bullshit, as is Wes Anderson collaborator Wilson as her horny ex.
Amy’s demotion from department head and “Health & Beauty buyer” to data entry clerk is an ugly one. Her sane and useful assistant is promoted during Amy’s recuperation and given Amy’s old office in the high-rise corporate sky while Amy’s new workstation is in the basement, where she’s surrounded by people who embody anything but health and beauty.
Ignore the critics who say the show doesn’t have enough laughs. It this played in cinemas (and it feels like one of White’s indie movies), I believe the funny would make itself more obvious.
... wittily sends up the self-actualization movement. ... the fun of “Enlightened” early on is in not knowing too much. Amy seeks a higher purpose, but for the time being she would settle for getting back to an office with an assistant and an expense account. or Amy, consigned to the basement with all the other lunchroom rejects, moving one floor up would be nirvana.
... the most interesting and ambitious series of the fall season ... White and Dern might have settled for lampooning a certain strain of spiritual striving and the blindness the convert mistakes for sight, in which case they would have done nothing new. But they're out for something more, it seems to me, something as deep and deeply moving as what Amy herself wants to feel, and they bring you every so often to the same ecstatic, painful place their heroine inhabits. You might weep a little. …
... Fans of "Pasadena" -- all three of us -- will recognize the tinkling background music as familiar along with that show's dark humor. But like so many HBO "comedies," this one is really more of a drama with comedic elements than it is an out-and-out laugh-fest. …
... Laura Dern doesn't make it easy, either for her character's co-workers in the new sitcom she created with Mike White, or for the show's viewers. The fact that her character is difficult and at times, insufferable, is one reason "Enlightened," premiering Monday on HBO, is worth it for viewers. ... The supporting cast is terrific, especially co-creator White as a nerdy, deadpan co-worker …
... sublime yet broodingly real ... finds a sweet spot between utter heartbreak and wry satire of corporate culture. …
… Am I hooked? Yes indeed. This is a double-dark comedy. Dern is fantastic as Amy -- you cringe as her histrionics drive people away, and cringe again as she tries to suppress her feelings behind a veneer of New Age peacefulness. Dern’s real-life mother, Diane Ladd, is perfectly icy as Amy’s withholding mother. …
... as not-quite-there as it may sometimes be, Enlightened is interesting enough to avoid the increasingly common HBO curse of egregious self-indulgence. Indeed, thanks to a wonderful and often moving central performance from Dern, it can even be strangely absorbing. ...
... Amy seems to have no idea how uncomfortable she makes everyone - and that, in turn, makes much of "Enlightened" extremely uncomfortable to watch. ...
... still isn't completely clear regarding its intentions. In the hands of writer/co-star Mike White, that's not entirely bad, but the unorthodox tone and emotionally fragile protagonist suggest this strange journey of self-discovery will harbor narrow appeal even by pay TV's refined standards. …
Watching a series like "Enlightened" makes you happy there's a home for shows that don't fit the mold. ... what makes Enlightened so intriguing is that it never stays in that one gear, workplace comedy of bitterness and remorse (though it's very funny when it does, primarily because Dern can hilariously and instantly turn from New Age goddess to screaming, swearing maniac -- her ability to be foulmouthed is impressive to witness) ...
A 2009 animated comedy from “Beavis and Butt-head” creator Mike Judge and fellow “King of the Hill” writer-producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, “The Goode Family” looks at a clan virtually paralyzed by its desire to be as politically correct as possible in a highly PC neighborhood.
Lending voice to the project are Judge, Nancy Walls Carell, Linda Cardellini, Dave Herman and Brian Doyle-Murray. Some parts are funnier than others, and some of it doesn’t make a lot of sense; wouldn’t a family obsessed with political correctness have learned decades ago that “African-American” is the new PC gold standard for labeling U.S. blacks?
The funniest thing about the pilot is a subplot about the Goodes’ pet, a dog driven to eat the pets of neighbors by his owners’ insistence on keeping him on vegetarian diet. But I also found laughs in the Goodes’ adopted teen son, who also has difficulty fully embracing to the family’s bleeding-heart regimen.
“Goode” was good enough to get a season pass on my DVR.
… both smart and not very funny. …
… The voice of the patriarch, Gerald Goode, an administrator at a community college where even students qualify for tenure, is provided by Mr. Judge, who could not have improved on his tone of narcoleptic earnestness if he had apprenticed for “All Things Considered.” He is exceptionally funny in the role (as he was playing Hank in “King of the Hill”), and a lot of the writing is too. …
… A sitcom premise is a kind of booster rocket, meant to get the show into orbit. It's there to serve the characters rather than the other way around, as is largely the case here. "The Goode Family," which is nicely acted and well animated, works best when the cultural potshots give way to the more basic human needs of its characters: a mother's desire to be close to her daughter, or to her father (Brian Doyle-Murray as the resident voice of political incorrectness), in spite of "a lifetime of crippling negative comments," and a father's willingness to go outside his comfort zone to make his son happy, as when Ubuntu joins the football team. There's a show there.
… If you passionately loved "King of the Hill," you will cautiously like "The Goode Family." Tiptoe into it if necessary.
… Skewering the holier-than-thou can be hilarious, but joke after joke, episode after episode, it all gets a little too predictable. The Goodes ask WWAGD - What Would Al Gore Do - but of course they do, right? All of this was done essentially in reverse with "King of the Hill," and to better effect. …
… As a comedy, it's not-quite good enough. "Goode" is smart but not as funny as its creators imagine …
… while the jokes may be funnier than "King" has been in a long time, the new show also feels more uneven and strained. …
… a scathingly funny report from the front lines of America's culture wars. … will do for PC what 30 Rock does for corporate capitalism or Lost for commercial air travel: Leave it in ruins. …
… The production company behind “The Goode Family” is Media Rights Capital, which programmed CW’s Sunday night right into oblivion and is responsible for such dreck as the Bob Saget show “Surviving Suburbia.” The company finally has produced a decent show. Let’s see how long it lasts.
… the best bits of the series are those that let the characters deliver the punch lines, not become one, and there aren't quite enough to go around. …
… a smart, wryly funny animated comedy … Ultimately, there's no substitute for amusing scenarios like the one with the dog, and clever writing, which "The Goode Family" boasts in abundance. " 'The View' is on," Gerald says trying to cheer up Helen, who's confused about what to tell Bliss regarding abstinence. "The pretty one is saying crazy stuff again." …
The most telling moment in HBO’s fast-paced, highly engrossing new TV-movie “Game Change” is likely a moment that’s not in the Halperin/Heilemann book on which it’s based.
On his own, screenwriter Danny Strong discovered (among other things) that senior McCain/Palin campaign advisor Nicolle Wallace could not bring herself to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket on Nov. 4, 2008.
“Game Change” shows us what frightened both Wallace (Sarah Paulson) and her fellow senior McCain/Palin advisor Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) over the two months between Sarah Palin’s September nomination in St. Paul and the election that put Barack Obama in the White House.
John McCain’s running mate (portrayed masterfully by Julianne Moore) is depicted as a lying, unstable, petty, whiny, childish, egotistical, vindictive, delusional, power-abusing and duplicitous middle-aged mean girl. No surprise there.
What’s jaw-dropping is that “Game Change” demonstrates that Palin is likely much more weak-minded than even her TV interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric let on.
The world is full of people who are bad at their jobs, but those who are great at their jobs are often those who are engaged by those jobs. Good politicians, I think, tend to be those who are driven by an interest in identifying and solving problems.
The world is also full of 44-year-old adults who spent their lives without a lot of intellectual curiosity about history, geography, political doctrine or world affairs, and the movie demonstrates that Sarah Palin – the former Wasilla mayor only 19 months into her first term as Alaska governor – was one of these, a woman ridiculously ill-equipped to run for national office.
“Game Change” reunites screenwriter Strong (still known to “Buffy” fans as Jonathan Levinson, charter member of The Nerds of Doom) with director Jay Roach (the “Austin Powers” trilogy), who collaborated also on 2008’s Emmy-winning HBO movie “Recount,” which delved into hanging chads and the controversial Bush/Gore contest of the year 2000.
Another surprise is how well all the Republicans not named Sarah Palin come off in “Game Change.” Schmidt and Wallace are portrayed expending considerable talent and effort trying to make lemonade out of an overwhelmed, ungrateful lemon of a running mate. Harrelson, a million miles from Woody Boyd, contributes his best performance in years as the brainy Schmidt.
As portrayed by the Ed Harris, the foul-mouthed backstage HBO McCain comes off as smarter, sharper, menchier and more charismatic than the CNN McCain we saw in 2008. The HBO McCain, more avuncular than grandfatherly, seems in fact more electable than the tin-eared weirdoes currently vying for President Obama’s job.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am a longtime registered Republican who has yet to vote for any Democrat. I love famed California Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood and was a big fan of Alan Alda’s Republican character on “The West Wing.”)
Best of all, “Game Change” helps us understand completely how McCain could choose a running-mate as dim and generally awful as Palin. Faced with an overwhelmingly popular Democratic opponent and plummeting poll numbers, McCain realized putting another old white guy on the ticket would have not reversed his fortunes. Tapping the telegenic but unseasoned Palin was a desperate move, and – all things considered – not an unreasonable one.
I like the casting of “Game Change” generally. The Palin daughters look so much like the real thing I wondered for a moment if the movie somehow tricked Bristol and Willow into playing themselves. Austin Pendleton turns up as former Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (George W. Bush’s crippling recession had made the GOP so toxic that year that McCain gave serious thought to organizing a party-bridging McCain/Leiberman ticket.) Other recognizable faces playing McCain/Palin staffers include Peter MacNichol (“Ally McBeal”), Ron Livingston (“Office Space”) and Jamey Sheridan (“The Stand”).
… We’re left with the conviction that Sarah Palin would have made a dangerously incompetent president of the United States, and that those closest to her in the campaign, including John McCain, came to realize that. …
... engaging ... As her image falters, and mockery mounts, Ms. Palin’s inflated ego takes a toll. She turns sullen and almost catatonic, refusing to prepare for her Katie Couric interview, and then blames staff members when that ends in disaster. … mostly it chronicles the advisers’ consternation over what they missed in the vetting process: As Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson), a former Bush aide who was a senior Palin adviser, puts it, “She didn’t know why North and South Korea were different countries.” …
... Even when Palin turns petty or paranoid, the overarching image is of a sleek and shiny big fish from a very small pond suddenly transported to the wide and densely populated ocean, unable to reconcile her self-image with what the campaign, and eventually the nation, is seeing. ... either a very sad film, or a very, very scary one. …
... jaw-dropping … a thoroughly engrossing film made all the more compelling by Ms. Moore's performance. … the movie depicts Sen. McCain quite sympathetically. And his advisers, although they make some huge mistakes -- most notably in failing to fully vet Palin before recommending her for the Veep slot -- also come across as devoted patriots who grow terrified of the Pandora's box they may have opened with Palin's nomination. …
… Directed by Jay Roach ("Recount"), "Game Change" is graced by three extraordinary performances in the leading roles, beginning with Moore's portrayal of Palin, which is both complex and entirely credible. Yes, the hair, makeup and costumes contribute mightily to transforming Moore, but the nuance she brings to the performance is simply astounding. … Harrelson has rarely done work as good as his performance as Steve Schmidt, the smartest guy in the room, but one whose zealous determination and single-minded focus on gamesmanship blinds him to political reality until it's too late. …
... While Moore's performance is riveting, the most insightful aspects of the tale are the insider reactions. The mounting concerns about the veep choice are illustrated by Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt, McCain's senior campaign strategist, and Sarah Paulson as Nicolle Wallace, a senior adviser for the campaign. After the initial burst of enthusiasm for this charismatic speechmaker and go-getter mom, these team members demonstrate the campaign's dawning awareness of the candidate's lack of substance. Not only are the speechwriters and campaign consultants shocked at Palin's lack of knowledge about international affairs, they are stunned by her declaration that her nomination is "God's plan."...
... There is nothing I can say about “Game Change” — good, bad or indifferent — that won’t be taken the wrong way by somebody. Nevertheless, it’s a good movie. (Wince, duck.) It’s a lot better than the network’s numbingly rote “Too Big to Fail” last year and almost as good as the memorably gripping “Recount,” the 2008 HBO movie about the forever-disputed outcome of the 2000 election. …
... Academy Award-nominee Moore looks smart in her wardrobe and makeup, but she nearly chokes on that Wasilla twang. Anyone who suffered through the BU grad’s attempts at playing a Boston native during her 2010 “30 Rock” run knows accents are not her strength. …
… a compelling, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant dramatization of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Republican side of the 2008 presidential campaign … Moore and Harris may have the higher profile roles, but it is Woody Harrelson who is the real star of the film as McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt. In a strong, quiet performance, Harrelson portrays Schmidt as a smart, thoughtful, loyal man who is trying to do right by his boss and his country but becomes increasingly alarmed as Palin becomes more powerful and less of a team player. Sarah Paulson also impresses as Palin aide Nicolle Wallace, whose job to prepare Palin becomes combative.
... star-studded, fast-moving, generally entertaining...
... exactly what you would assume an HBO film about Sarah Palin to be, and possibly even a little bit less than that. Palin isn't quite as broadly-drawn as, say, many of the Republican bogeymen on "The West Wing," where even though I agreed with the writer's politics, I cringed at the one-sided portrait of the other side, but nor is it particularly insightful or three-dimensional in telling this very familiar, very divisive story. Even if you take the side of the authors and filmmakers over Palin and believe that the film is 100% accurate, it doesn't shed enough new light on things to be worth the trouble of making, or watching. …
… a searing, sizzlingly well acted docudrama … an electrifying and darkly entertaining parable of the perils of modern political celebrity. …
… Jay Roach, who directed the Austin Powers films and won an Emmy for the HBO political drama Recount, knows from parody and keeps his actors from slipping into it. …
... If you think America dodged a bullet when Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) lost the vice presidency, this movie is happy to agree. If you love the former Alaska governor, you will hate the film with the fire of a midnight sun. But even to this non–Palin supporter, it all feels like piling on–the campaign movie as blooper reel. …
… isn't going to change minds among haters or admirers of the former Alaska governor. It may not be vicious enough to satisfy Ms. Palin's worst enemies, and it is unflattering enough to offend her supporters. When it's all over, both camps will retreat to their respective corners, some glad, some sad, and none much the wiser. ...
… a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at politics -- as long as you're a Democrat (or a Republican willing to admit that Palin was a blunder -- but even then, the other elements will likely put you off). And yet, credit Game Change for at least trying to dramatize that moment in time. It is, for the left especially, an indictment of anti-intellectualism and our inherently flawed system for choosing our leaders.
… a home run: a big, smart, entertaining and extremely promotable showcase for marquee stars, generating tons of attention (flattering and otherwise) from political and media strongholds in D.C. and New York, in addition to the usual suspects. …
FX’s feeble new laughtrack sitcom from Bruce Helford (“The Drew Carey Show,” “Freddie,” “George Lopez”), “Anger Management” casts Charlie Sheen as an anger management specialist.
Early reports suggested Sheen would assume the role played by Jack Nicholson in the 2003 Adam Sandler movie of the same name. But Nicholson played Dr. Buddy Rydell. Sheen plays an ex-ballplayer-turned psychologist named Charlie Goodson. There appears to be no character named Dave Buznik. The sitcom does not now appear to have anything to do with the movie beyond a shared title.
Charlie runs therapy groups. One of his patients is played by Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure”). Michael Boatman (who worked with Sheen on “Spin City”) plays his neighbor, Brett Butler (“Grace Under Fire”) plays his favorite bartender, Shawnee Smith (“Becker”) plays his ex-wife and Selma Blair (“Hellboy”) plays the fellow psychologist he likes to bone.
Is it at least as funny as “Two and a Half Men,” Sheen’s last sitcom? From what I’ve seen of both, my vote is it is not.
I laughed not once during the first two “Anger” episodes; it’s one of those awful shows that’s silly without being funny -- the silliest component being Goodson’s decision to stop having sex with the Selma Blair character so he can become her patient.
In fact, nothing in this series is one tenth as funny as Sheen’s DirecTV ad:
... The pilot's not especially funny, but it would fit comfortably alongside half the CBS comedy lineup (assuming CBS would ever employ Sheen again), just as it would have been a comfortable fit next to "Drew Carey" or "The Norm Show" or any of Helford's other series --- “Anger Management” is Charlie Sheen doing what Charlie Sheen does — on-screen. It's not artful, it's not elegant, and it makes a very weird lead-in to the "Wilfred"/"Louie" double feature in the 10 o'clock hour, but it will likely give his fans what they want. …
... this repulsive show will no doubt go a long way toward solidifying Sheen's image as a harmless party boy (an image that the media is all too willing to go along with), and erase the image of Sheen as a man who has repeatedly been accused of being violent toward women. Yet despite the careful attention to image enhancement possibilities, the core ugliness and toxic narcissism of "Anger Management" are impossible to ignore. …
... is at heart a simple, old-fashioned sitcom, with raucous recorded laughter and predictable one-liners. …
… I found it about as funny as I found Sheen's last series, which is to say not that funny, though I can see that some will. …
... a so-so sitcom peppered with equal parts funny lines and groaners. …
... This is all fairly predictable stuff and makes for a show that you'd watch because of the cast but would never put in the top tier of TV shows or talk about the next day at the office. A show something like "Two and a Half Men," as a matter of fact. …
... Turns out it was all part of an elaborate personal journey from one mediocre sitcom to a slightly less mediocre one… Nothing in “Anger Management” is all bad, but not much of it is better than half-good. …
... obvious, minimally funny new sitcom …
... just an average sitcom with a few good laugh lines here and there … Unless you’re a Sheen loyalist, there is no light at the end of the “Anger Management” tunnel, it’s only a train. We recommend getting out of the way.
It's as if Charlie Sheen never left TV. And no, that's not a compliment. … And you can't complain if the show funnels a larger audience to Wilfred and Louie. The proximity just isn't doing any favors for Anger Management, which looks even more old-school and clunky than it otherwise might in comparison.
... For his part, Sheen proves why he’s bankable. No matter what happens in his personal life, he nails his lines, uses his face and physical nature to make punch lines funnier than they might be, and commands a multicamera sitcom better than pretty much everybody in the business. It also would be needlessly high-brow (and inaccurate) to say that Anger Management doesn’t have a string of funny jokes scattered throughout. But they are variations on what you’ve heard a million times and are, at the core, fairly predictable. That might be ratings gold on a broadcast network, but the guess here is that people search out comedies like House of Lies on Showtime or Girls on HBO because they want something different.…
... To their credit, Sheen, the talented cast and seasoned writers know how to make it all look slick and polished, even if there's nary an original bone in its body -- down to the audience's excessively boisterous laughter. …
A continuation of the 1980s series, this time focusing on the grown sons of J.R. and Bobby Ewing, TNT’s pokey, cliché-riddled new “Dallas” comes to us from screenwriter Cynthia Cidre. Cidre, who wrote the acclaimed movies “In Country” and “Mambo Kings,” was also behind CBS’ horrible 2007 drama “Cane,” which many described as the Cuban-American “Dallas.” (Nestor Carbonell, taking a short break from his great work as Richard Alpert on “Lost,” played the Latino J.R. to Jimmy Smits' Hispanic Bobby.)
The Ewings of Southfork were last seen in the 1998 TV movie “War of the Ewings,” which starred original series vets Hagman, Duffy, Gray, George Kennedy, Steve Kanaly and Tracy Scoggins. It dealt with J.R.’s scheme to take control of Ewing Oil from Bobby and Sue Ellen.
A number of cast members return for this “Dallas” as well, among them Hagman (now sporting impressively sinister upturned eyebrows), Duffy, Gray, Kanaly, Ken Kercheval and Charlene Tilton, but they are now supporting characters in service to newer, better-looking cast members.
Two former members of the “Desperate Housewives” cast – Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalf – play the sons of J.R. and Bobby. Jordana Brewster (the “Fast & Furious” movies) and Julie Gonzalo (“Veronica Mars”) portray their love interests. These four, along with Brenda Strong (another “Desperate Housewives” alum), get top billing.
The acting’s often terrible and the writing cascades from poor to dopey. J.R.’s evil spawn bests his entrepreneur cousin with schemes that could never work in the real world. I can’t speak to the quality of the 20th century “Dallas” (unlike Bill Haverchuck, I never paid much attention to it), but this version seems too creaky, slow and dull to warrant continued interest.
... In many scenes, Hagman's eyebrows on their own outact any of Hagman's young new co-stars. .… Hagman — and to a lesser extent fellow returning stars Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray — are so much more fun to watch than their four new, young co-stars that the new "Dallas" plays less like a passing of the torch than a suggestion that torches were better back in the '80s. … It's a very traditional, unapologetic soap opera. …
... pleasingly cheesy … worth watching just to see the evolution of [Hagman’s] magisterial eyebrows, which have more personality than some of the greener cast members …
... doesn’t meet expectations, let alone defy them. This version is palely faithful to the original without any of its seditious zest. … Texans used to be big hat; now they are old hat. So, unfortunately, is “Dallas.”
… very much its heir, in spirit and execution. … There is some sloppy writing, as when information regarding Christopher's undersea mining project, which the script treats as somehow secret and valuable, is also displayed as news available on the Internet. And it can look phony: A key opening scene set around a gushing oil well just seems like actors and extras at work; other characters speak technobabble issues like a phonetically rehearsed foreign language. But "Dallas" never was a series that worried over a little wooden acting, or prized sense over the sensational …
… there are more than a few moments when the absence of logic strains credibility in "Dallas." And soon enough, you start anticipating the next unlikely plot development moments before it actually happens. Why? Either because it's a cliche or it makes no sense. And on "Dallas," if it makes no sense, it's bound to happen. Except for Hagman, the performances are adequate without ever standing out, which may be one of the reasons it takes so long to care much about the younger Ewings …
... “Dallas,” always an epic tragedy, has learned important contemporary tricks from “Desperate Housewives” (from which it also borrows some of its new ensemble), “Revenge” and even some telenovelas, while mostly avoiding the pitfalls of the self-conscious camp displayed in ABC’s fizzled “GCB.” …
... Forget Dallas; they should have called it Thebes. You can find mummies who look fresher than this mold-encrusted relic, and who have newer ideas in their empty, embalmed heads. Not, of course, that this embarrassing throwback has any idea to offer beyond a desire to cash in on the standard-setting success of the CBS original in the 1980s. …
... The series will likely be a pass for everyone except those with a high tolerance for nighttime soap conventions — characters not asking obvious questions, double and triple crosses — that are as old as melodrama itself but were buffed to a high gloss in the ’80s by the original “Dallas” and its brethren. That crowd should feel no need to resist. No matter how stiff some of the younger actors portraying the new generation of Ewings may be, or how silly some of the plot twists, the heart of this new iteration is in the right escapist place.…
... This is how you do “Dallas.” TNT’s “sequel series” — don’t call it a reboot — reunites original stars Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray as those fussin’, feudin’, always entertaining Ewings. …
... Granted, very little is subtle about "Dallas," set in a Texas where gun racks are common, corruption is rife and dispute resolution often boils down to storming into somebody's office and smacking them upside the head. Still, it's all executed earnestly enough …
... a slow-moving, super-obvious soap opera with bad acting … Dallas is terrible. … It’s like a paint-by-numbers rendering of a bad idea. Even if you’re a sucker for nostalgia, don’t go back to Dallas. …
“Smash” follows an effort to mount a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. Aside from “American Idol” icon Katherine McPhee, the most familiar faces in its cast are Anjelica Huston and “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing.
Producer Steven Spielberg (“Falling Skies,” “Terra Nova”) is the marquee name behind the scenes. "Smash’s" creator and showrunner is Theresa Rebeck, who used to write for "NYPD Blue" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." The pilot reportedly cost something like $7 million and subsequent episodes were reportedly budgeted at $4 million an hour.
Noting the participation of composer Marc Shaiman, I found myself wishing the show within the show was more like Broadway’s real smash, “The Book of Mormon,” which comes to us from Shaiman’s “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” collaborators.
Too much of “Smash” feels generic and cliché-riddled. The only pop-culture subject matter more fucked-out than Marilyn Monroe, frankly, is probably Elvis Presley – but Elvis never boned a sitting U.S. president and the rights to his music, I imagine, could prove prohibitive even for an expensive NBC hourlong.
I can’t imagine myself keeping up with “Smash” on a regular basis (or paying a dime to see the fictional Marilyn musical its characters are trying to stage), but I won’t fault McPhee, who sings wonderfully and is as fun to look at here as she was on “Community.”
... relies too much on conventional showbiz plotlines and characters for me to get invested in it. … I’m harping a lot on the show’s negatives here, but that’s partly because I think Smash is being sold as something more groundbreaking and brilliant than it actually is so far. (Flame me, but I would argue that Glee at its best—however unreliably its best manages to show up these days—is more ambitious and original, lack of original music notwithstanding. Where you come down on the two shows probably depends partly on how important consistency is to you; I’ll take occasional brilliance over reliable competence any day.) …
… I never felt my pulse begin to race when a production number began, didn't feel my heartstrings tugged at various emotional moments for the characters, didn't get excited about all the backstage conniving, scheming and sabotage. I enjoyed each hour well enough — there are too many ridiculously talented people in front of and behind the camera on "Smash" for it to not be at least a competent entertainment — but felt like I could wait a while before getting to the next episode. …
... an astute exploration of big-city aspirations and showbiz dreams from people who very clearly know their chosen topics intimately. If the rich, well-constructed universe these writers have come up with isn't enough of a draw, "Smash" also has music, dancing, lots of entertaining backstage bitchery and a very talented "American Idol" runner-up. …
… you’re expecting to be bowled over by the pilot, but it ends up feeling like a collage of devices from the zillions of previous backstage plays, musicals and movies ...
... The wonder of "Smash" is not that it's a grown-up "Glee" (it isn't) or that it stars "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee (bringing the modern evolution of musical television full circle) or that the show-within-the-show — "Marilyn: The Musical" — seems prepped and ready for a real Broadway run. It's that creator Theresa Rebeck and her team have managed to capture the grand and sweeping gesture that is musical theater and inject it with the immediate intimacy of television. ...
... The naive, fish-out-of-water Midwesterner is a felony among cliché crimes, which “Smash” is guilty of on more than one occasion. (When Karen’s parents visit her in New York, they literally gasp at the prices on the menu.) The stereotypes slow down in subsequent episodes, which grew more entertaining with each of the four I watched. ...
... viewers with a love of Broadway and good ol' workplace dramas won't regret tuning in for "Smash," an entertaining drama that sucks you in and gets your toes tapping during several musical numbers. …
… So good you can't help wondering why no one thought of it before, a compelling mix of credible real-life melodrama with a fictionalized approximation of what it takes to get a Broadway show from the idea stage to opening night. …
… has some endearing characters, an instinct for backstage meows and a firm grip on its own sense of camp control, which, if nothing else, sets it apart from Ryan Murphy’s now fully atrocious “Glee.” … this is a show made by and for people with a lifelong case of Broadway’s restless leg syndrome. Breaking out into song and dance (with full accompaniment) is just a matter of course here, and whether you think that’s wonderful or not depends entirely on your predisposition for spotlights. “Smash” won’t convert anyone to the lifestyle, but it will intrigue those who are already deep in it. …
... Maybe “The Playboy Club” wasn’t so bad after all. … You’ll be left tapping your feet all right --— wondering impatiently if there’s any sparkle under this drudgery. …
You there, the “Smash’’ that’s awash in soapsuds and a tendency toward cliché? Feel free to exit, stage left, and take your glitzy packaging and your plot contrivances and your “Glee’’-style gimmicks with you. But the other “Smash’’? The one that tries to capture the qualities that make theater special and explain why so many talented people devote their lives to it in the face of long odds and short money? Ah, now we’re talking. That “Smash’’ deserves a callback. …
... the kind of gloriously entertaining, wildly ambitious network series you hope for each season and seldom get....
... Smash is excellent, a bar-raiser for broadcast networks. It may be pigeonholed as Glee for grown-ups, but Smash could be the first series to take America’s fascination with singing shows (one of its main stars is singer-turned-actress Katharine McPhee, the beloved American Idol runner-up in 2006) and mix it with a well-written drama to create something of more substance than Glee. ...
… Though clunky in places, at its best the series captures the essence of what the movie version of "A Chorus Line" didn't, providing an illuminating window into the creative process. Although everyone might not "get" musicals, most can understand people's need to harbor hopes and dreams. …
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Dead By Sunset: The Complete Series
Doctor Zhivago: The Complete Miniseries
I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later
Justified 3.x (Blu-ray)
Trial & Retribution Set 6
VR Troopers 1.x Vol. 2
Amazing World of Gumball: The Mystery
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Ghost Hunters Academy: The Complete Series
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Power Rangers Super Samurai 2.x Vol. 3
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Twenty Twelve: The Complete Series
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Storage Wars Vol. 4
Top Gear: 50 Years of Bond Cars
Wacky World of Tex Avery - Volume 1
Law & Order 12.x
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2.x Vol. 1
Phineas & Ferb: Animal Agents
Rocko's Modern Life: The Complete Series
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles
Care Bears: Totally Sweet Adventures
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Duck Dynasty 2.x Vol. 1
House of Payne Vol. 10
Peter Gunn 1.x
Power Rangers: Clash of the Red Rangers Movie
Regular Show Party Pack
Rescue Bots: Energize
Tom & Jerry: Pint Sized Pals
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Doctor Who: Ark In Space
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Father Dowling Mysteries 3.x
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Law & Order: Criminal Intent 10.x
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Jersey Shore: The Complete Series
Quincy, M.E. 5.x
Sesame Street: Best of Friends
Carol Burnett Show: This Time Together - Collector's Edition
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