Smash has done it again (no, not in the ratings, let’s forget about those for a minute) —we’re talking about using songs that sound pretty familiar — mainly because they’ve been on a different musical TV show, Glee, as recently as the current season.
During its two-hour premiere Tuesday night, Ivy (Megan Hilty) covered Crowded House’s 1986 hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over” as a faraway-look-in-her-eye ballad of resilience. Except that Glee already covered the song, as a cheer-us-up chorus of resilience — and beanies.
This isn’t all that surprising: Before Smash’s debut in 2011, producer Craig Zadan said at NBC Press Tour, “I don’t think any of us feel our show is like Glee, but we feel grateful to Glee for opening that door,” — creating space for more TV musical shows. Last night’s episode certainly isn’t the first time Smash has followed in Glee‘s footsteps: In the pilot, Smash had Karen (Katherine McPhee) singing “Beautiful,” which Mercedes (Amber Riley) sang on Glee all the way back in season 1.
But there’s more! “Over the Rainbow” and “Shake It Out” have been covered by both shows. Perhaps the overlap in last night’s episode was only all the more striking since Smash has prided itself leading up to last night’s season premiere on a second-season renaissance with a new showrunner and some major cast changes.
Both shows build toward similar moments — and that’s by design. They’re both musical shows about music making, with a focus on the full-throated ups-and-downs of being part of the music creative process. But Smash and Glee have different musical teams. The former even has a real-life, award-winning songwriting duo on its payroll, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who do real-life, really catchy original songwriting for the show.
What does the overlap mean for each show?
Consider Tuesday’s Crowded House example: Smash spun the song as a solo for Ivy, backed first by a piano and then a clutch of ghost instruments (quit that). Glee, on the other hand, turned it into a group number when they performed it back in a December episode.
Head-to-head, Smash does the better cover of the song (Hilty’s a performer, plus she brings the most out of the lyrics) while Glee pulls off the better musical sequence. (It gets extra points for not cutting to Angelica Huston dramatically hanging a poster.)
As a matter of performance, Smash has the better performers — it’s full of Broadway vets and real musicians. But as a matter of production and making better TV? Glee can fly wildly off-the-mark, but it has more of a feel for musical moments and using them as chances for characters to interact with each other — even using the songs to introduce conflict and resolution — within the context of the plot.
EW’s requests for comment from both shows were not immediately returned.
So when and how they will overlap again? We’ll have to watch and see, but it might be fun to see them both cover “Something So Strong” for any scene about New York in springtime.
Check out both versions of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” below. Which do you prefer?