TV watch: Time Out New York guest-stars on NBC’s Smash

New York's favorite arts and entertainment weekly gets some pivotal prime-time TV action on Smash.

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NBC’s Smash is required viewing for any self-respecting (or self-disrespecting) member of the theater community—from bedazzled superfan to cynical critic. Sure, it’s soapy and silly, bearing only a passing resemblance to the Broadway we know. But where else will you find a network show dedicated to the development of a new musical—in this case, one about silver-screen sex goddess Marilyn Monroe? Plus, each week’s script includes tantalizing shout-outs to the real theater world: Sondheim! Jessie Mueller! Rent! Gossipmonger Michael Riedel (boo)!

Last night’s episode, “The Fringe,” was special in so very many ways, but mainly because the first ten minutes featured a major plot reveal hinging on everyone’s favorite weekly guide to arts and entertainment: Time Out New York. (You get extra points if you remember the last time we played a pivotal part on the small screen: in 2009 on 30 Rock.)

What was TONY doing on Smash?
Besides the series’ general focus on getting Bombshell (the dangerously titled Marilyn Monroe musical) to Broadway, there’s been a parallel plot: the development of Hit List, a scrappy, alternative tuner by the scrappy, alternative songwriter-heartthrob Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan). With the help of sneer-prone British director Derek (Jack Davenport), Hit List has been accepted into the "Winter Fringe Festival." And in the first segment of last night’s episode, said festival is featured on the cover of Time Out New York. Inside there’s a short article about Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee). Bombshell’s sleazy producer, Jerry Rand (Michael Cristofer), brings a copy of TONY into rehearsal to inform Karen that he’s not pleased. First, Bombshell, not Hit List, is supposed to be Karen’s New York debut. Second, as her producer, Jerry has the right to force Karen to cancel any other engagements. (Can we check with Actors' Equity on that?)

How did the issue look?
We don’t know who designed the "Winter Fringe" package, but it looked pretty close to the real deal…maybe how TONY looked a few years ago, but still quite convincing. The graphics on the cover; the small, bite-size blurbs on the interior… Someone on the Smash team is a reader!

How did the characters react?
Karen was thrilled for the picture and exposure, of course, as was Jimmy’s writing partner, Kyle (Andy Mientus). Producers like Jerry always like to control the press, so he was steaming. Derek simply cast a contemptuous eye at the mag in Jerry’s hand (bloody media parasites!).

How believable was it?
Well, first of all, there is no Winter Fringe. There’s a New York International Fringe Festival, but that happens in August. There’s a New York Musical Theatre Festival in the fall. And there are various festivals around the city all year round. Horse Trade Theater, down on East 4th Street and St. Marks Place, has a Frigid Festival each winter. As for TONY devoting a whole issue to a theater festival, that might be far-fetched. However, keep your eyes on magazine stands and online March 28—for our 50 Things We Love About NYC Theater issue. You heard it here first. And, naturally, bookmark our Theater page for the latest news, reviews and ticket offers.

What’s next for the TONY-Smash synergy lovefest?
This is a no-brainer: cameo appearances! TONY theater experts David Cote and Adam Feldman are both available for booking, right now. Both are uncannily photogenic and have extensive acting chops, mostly below 14th Street. We are available for legit gigs at a moment’s notice: Broadway, Off…even the Fringe.

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