Is it possible to become a major success without your past coming back to haunt you? That’s part of the premise behind the second season of NBC’s “Smash,” which followed the coming and goings of a Broadway musical trying to find lasting success. Some of the results were dazzling, but there were a few things that needed a little more work in future episodes.
“Smash” followed the cast and production team of “Bombshell” as they tried to get their musical to Broadway after a successful run in Boston. Unexpected star Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) was enjoying her newfound success, but she was constantly reminded by how her new friend Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) betrayed her while they were in Boston. When they returned to New York, Ivy’s status with the show was unclear because she had made too many enemies recently. She had a couple of allies in the show’s creative team Julia Houston (Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle), but Ivy was unaware that Julia and Tom’s partnership was also experiencing some problems. Julia’s marriage was on the rocks and she received some bad reviews for her work on “Bombshell.” Tom was forced to pretend that things were okay when they were anything but. He wasn’t surprised when the show’s Director/Choreographer Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) had his personal life put on display when he was accused of crossing the line with a star. Unfortunately, the show’s biggest setback came from its producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) had to put a hold on production because she was being investigating due to questionable investments made to get the show to Broadway. Will Karen’s chance encounter with a rising musical duo (Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus) help to fill the void?
In terms of questions, the show’s premiere posed a few and helped to clear up a few nagging issues that were left behind after the uneven first season. The episode had established a potential format for the show to follow for the rest of the season. There was a huge focus on the work and the personal dynamics behind it, while the extra stories that weighed the show down before disappeared. It also helped immensely that the songs performed seemed to blend a little more realistically with the show and didn’t seem too out of place. Luckily, the biggest improvement was that Julia’s soap opera worthy family life went up in smoke at the best possible time. With Julia’s family life in the background, “Smash” could now wisely focus on the dynamic rapport between Messing’s Julia and Borle’s Tom, which was a lot more compelling than Julia’s personal life. For the second season, the show has designed the writing partners to be much than a mere Broadway version of “Will & Grace” that the first season turned them into. The premiere also showed that there were some cracks brewing in Tom and Julia’s partnership after some bad reviews came out for one of them. Hopefully, the show will continue to test the boundaries of Borle and Messing’s on-screen relationship because they were up for the task whether they wanted to admit it or not.
In terms of breakout stars, Jordan and McPhee had the potential to add more drama this season as their character seemed destined to fall right into a perfectly designed romance. The premiere didn’t allow them to interact much, but it was apparent that they had plenty of chemistry to spare. Future episodes have showcased that Jordan and McPhee will be working together much more closely as the season progresses. Another memorable part of the premiere was the arrival of Jennifer Hudson’s Veronica Moore, because she tended to bring the house down whether she intended to or not. Hudson and McPhee had a showstopping duet, but it was Hudson who ultimately sung her heart out in the end. The show would be wise to keep Hudson on for as long as they possibly can because her presence helped to keep the episode moving right along. Sadly, the show’s biggest casualty was finding how to properly use Hilty’s Ivy after she burned too many bridges and changed personalities far too often. Let’s hope that the show will find the right personality for Hilty’s character and stick with it. She should also have the opportunity to mix it up with Hudson’s Veronica. The fireworks alone would be worth the price of admission.
“Smash” premieres on February 5th and airs Tuesdays at 10:00 PM on NBC.
Verdict: The show’s season premiere demonstrated some improvement, but it still had a few kinks that needed to be ironed out.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)