Well here we are, a new season, a new show runner, new faces, and a new reviewer. After what many would called a disastrous first season, Smash is back for an encore. Will the hate watchers keep watching or will the show be able to save itself? Well NBC is banking on it with all the heavy promotion of the season two opener. But let’s not get distracted by all the razzle dazzle (OMG it’s J-Hud!!), let’s bitch.
Recently Buzzfeed posted a facinating article on Smash and how it became such a train wreck. It’s an interesting read for anyone who watched season one and saw it go down in flames. If you were like me, you seriously wanted to fast forward through most of the second half of season one. I’m not outing myself as a hate-watcher, because I don’t truly hate the show. Yes, it was frustrating, and yes it went terribly wrong in some departments but there’s still something about it that I enjoy and I want to see it get better. And with a new season comes a new opportunity to better itself.
So what’s changed? Well there’s a new showrunner, Josh Safran (of Gossip Girl fame). But that’s behind the scenes stuff. Let’s talk about what really matters to us. Gone is the dead weight from season one: Dev (Raza Jaffrey), Leo (Emory Cohen), Michael (Will Chase), and most importantly Ellis (Jaime Cepero) – although there have been hints that he might return in season two (worst idea ever!). As well, Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) bids us adieu in what feels like a bum rush as we get to see him briefly before he goes all Hulk and storms out of Julia’s (Debra Messing) life and Smash for good (Side Note: They could have extended his stay a little longer to give us a better send off. But hey, they’ve got new characters to introduce!)
The big question of course is whether all of these changes will help the show. They do. But by no means is the show great (not yet anyway).
Let’s get to the first episode. We start off with the return to NYC after the previews in Boston. Everyone’s excited after a successful run. Have we forgotten about the attempted murder, the new star who didn’t know the part, the final scene that was written hours before curtain? Boy if that was a job well done, I’d hate to see what a disaster was. Oh wait, I did watch season one of Smash. (zing!)
The first episode goes to desperate measures to clear the air and introduce the new storylines and characters for season two (including Veronica Moore – the stunning and glorious Jennifer Hudson). I have to admit, J. Hud is the number one reason why I decided to come back to Smash for season two. I love J-Hud. I only wish they would’ve given her more to do. Apart from a terrific musical number, she seems to just be in the scenes waiting for something to happen. I will say that she steals the duet between her and McPhee. Even if the number is rather clunky, watching Hudson belt out made me giddy with excitement over the other musical numbers I will see her in.
Also introduced is Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) and his writing partner Kyle (Andy Mientus). The new writing duo, who are working on a new musical that Karen (Katharine McPhee) just happens to discover. I like the idea of this storyline and I do see its promise, I only hope that the character of Jimmy doesn’t become a silly bad-boy stereotype. Meanwhile Kyle could prove to be a fun love interest for Bobby (Wesley Taylor). I mean these guys displayed more chemistry in their 20 second scene together than all the scenes of Tom (Christian Borle) and Sam (Leslie Odom Jr.) put together. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Apart from the new blood, the first episode sets up the major storyline of getting Bombshell to Broadway. After getting the St-James theatre, I knew it wouldn’t be that easy – and I was right. The government decides to investigate the funds Eileen (Angelica Huston) used to bankroll the show. Remember that sketchy friend of Nick’s (Thorsten Kaye) from season one? The first episode closes with the group disbanding as production is stopped on the show. Cue act two, or episode two.
The second episode in the two-hour premiere works better to show us how the show will actually play out this season, since it didn’t have the first season mess to clean up. As a whole, the episode felt tighter, the characters motivations and actions were clearer and it had a fantastic musical number from one of the stars. Unfortunately, it also had one of the worst dream sequences of the entire series.
Let’s start with Karen as she attempts to befriend Jimmy to get her hands on his music. After attempting to talk to him but only getting the cold shoulder, Kyle convinces Karen to give them another chance by giving her a copy of one of Jimmy’s songs and inviting her to a party at their place…in Brooklyn!! Smash tries amp up the cool factor by bringing out the Brooklyn hipsters. The only problem is that the scene falls flat and feels completely inauthentic. I really don’t think hipsters are rocking out to Broadway musicals. I mean really?!? Apart from this we do get a nice scene between Kyle and Jimmy that nicely sets up their relationship and gives Jimmy the guts to share his music with Karen.
And while his muse is off awkwardly flirting with Jimmy, Derek (Jack Davenport) is being slapped with a chorus of sexual harassment allegations. This is a great storyline and could prove to be a great source of drama but I have to single it out for having one of the worst dream sequences, and this show has had many. Watching Derek drunkenly imagine the ladies sing to him in an 80s hommage was cringe inducing. They really need to work on song selection. Let’s stick to new and old Broadway numbers, it’s what works (most of the time).
Meanwhile Ivy (Megan Hilty) is losing confidence in her future prospects on Broadway and is thinking of leaving the biz. Like she ever could, she’s a star. And if you didn’t know that, you know it after her knockout performance of ‘Moving the Line.’ Seriously that number gave me shivers! She kills it! Somebody give this girl a Tony already. Or at least a starring role in a musical. Even though that whole scene at the benefit seems crazy and preposterous, the number makes it all worthwhile.
Then there was Will and Grace, I mean Tom and Julia who become roommates when Julia’s marriage falls apart. Julia spends most of the second episode in bed mourning her marriage but is brought out with a fake invitation to speak at the Theatre Wing benefit dinner. (How great was it to see Harvey Fierstein!) Of course the truth comes out, but we get a great scene between Julia and Tom, who really are, for me, the emotional center of this show. And let’s not forget that they also address the biggest problem with season one, Julia’s scarves. It’s nice to see them having fun with all the criticism.
Finally Eilleen spends most of the episode trying to save Bombshell and ignore her ex husband Jerry (Michael Cristofer). While she is able to do some damage control, she is forced to go to her ex-husband for some help. We’ll see how this plays out as the season goes along. But for a show that was called a disaster by the end of last season, it seems to have bounced back. While not perfect, the first two episodes do show promise. Here’s hoping that the rest of the season is as good or even better.
What did you think viewers? Are you happy with all the changes? Did you enjoy the musical numbers? Did you cringe during Derek’s dream sequence? Did the show redeem itself? Are you ready to give the show a second chance? Will you be watching next week? Sound off below.
Smash airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on NBC.