“Smash," NBC's Big Gamble, Debuts to Ratings Bonanza

“Smash," NBC's Big Gamble, Debuts to Ratings Bonanza
Katherine McPhee in NBC's "Smash"
(Photo by Will Hart – © NBCUniversal, Inc.)

The estimated $25 million-plus promotion of its new series, “Smash,” apparently paid off for NBC-TV on Monday night.  With a powerful lead-in from “The Voice,” the new series about Broadway debuted to an audience of 11.8 million viewers and an average 3.8 in the enviable 18 to 49 year-old-adult category.  Like “The Voice,” the show, which stars Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston, and “American Idol”’s Katharine McPhee, won its time slot over rival networks, nearly quadrupling NBC’s season average of 1.0. By comparison, the highest rating that any 10 p.m. show has achieved this season in the 19 to 49 category has been 3.4.  

There must be a palpable sigh of relief over at The Peacock given that “Smash” has been considered something of a major gamble for the last-in-place network. Broadway has long been considered niche entertainment, and pundits have questioned whether a series about the trials and tribulations of theater folk putting on a fictional musical about Marilyn Monroe could succeed in sufficient numbers with the TV-watching  public. After all, for every “Glee” there are disastrous flops of musically inspired series like “Cop Rock” and “Viva Laughlin.”    

While “Smash” is off to a rousing start, the jury is still out on its long-term viability. There was a 15 percent drop-off in its audience between the first half-hour and the second, with more than a million people deciding that they didn’t care about the stakes of wannabe Broadway stars.