Smash season 1 DVD review: lights, camera … and development

SMASH Season 1

Season one of ‘Smash’ started strong but didn’t always hit the high note. The DVD edition is pretty much the same: good, but missing that little extra something.

 

Season one of NBC’s Smash was an interesting animal. It started strong as one of the network’s most promising pilots, but like many Broadway shows, had its trials and tribulations before it got to its finale. As season two is just around the corner on February 5th, the first one is now out on DVD. The DVD set for Smash is as good as the actual season itself: it has its strengths but it, too, has some room for improvement.

If you didn’t catch the series when it aired, a quick evaluation: season one of Smash is very much a first season; you can see the cast settling into their characters and the writers trying to come up with the next idea, perhaps moreso than other TV shows. There are some things which are great, and as we know now, there were a lot of things that didn’t quite work, because the show got a new showrunner and a cast overhaul during its hiatus. (Which makes watching this DVD set a little different – you’re looking at a version of the series that doesn’t much exist anymore.)

Jack Davenport chews the heck out of the scenery as director Derek Wills.

Here are some of the things that did work: the show brought Jack Davenport back to TV, and he chews the heck out of the scenery as director Derek Wills. He’s a wonderful actor and it’s great to see him in a part that lets him play against his usual type. One can never argue with Anjelica Huston. Broadway veteran Megan Hilty brings her stage presence and great singing chops to the role of Ivy Lynn, although the material she’s given gets a little melodramatic as the season goes on. And Katharine McPhee is plenty charming as Ivy’s competition, wide-eyed newcomer Karen Cartwright, though count me in the camp of folks that don’t necessarily see Karen as the phenom the show wants us to believe she is (yet). There are some good actors here, who get to do huge musical numbers every week, and there’s something really fun about that.

The DVD version of Smash is likewise both good in places but also missing a few things that would’ve made it great. Most importantly, the transfer of the episodes is solid, in both picture and audio quality. It’s not demonstration disc-quality, but it’s a step above broadcast, and should make fans of the show very happy. (To answer the inevitable question: there is no Blu-Ray release planned.)

The selection of special features, once you remove the near-obligatory deleted/extended scenes and gag reel, is very limited. There are two featurettes: one that examines the aforementioned interesting cast, and the other which spotlights the show’s composers and choreographer. The first essentially doubles as the standard ‘making-of’ piece, as it also talks about the origins of the series. There’s actually about as much with the producers as there is with the actors in the less than eight-minute clip. The second is just over seven minutes, and it’s interesting enough, but also feels too short. There’s also an Ultraviolet digital copy of the season, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This is a set that really should have more bonuses, but is likely limited because of all the changes that must have been going on while this release was being developed.

This is a set that really should have more bonuses, but is likely limited because of all the changes that must have been going on while this release was being developed. One imagines that it’s hard to wrangle cast and crew for commentaries when some are departing and new folks are coming in. As much as I’d love to hear why the writers chose to do A instead of B, or grasp what led up to some of these bigger creative decisions, this DVD set isn’t going to shed any light on that – and that’s perfectly understandable for the same reasons that it’s disappointing.

For those of you who loved season one of Smash, you’ll be content with this set, if only because the episodes are handled with care. Yet this production is definitely crying out for a showstopping number.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy, provided to CliqueClack, solely for the purpose of this review.

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Photo Credit: NBC

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