Monday, February 4, 2013

Can Smash Still Become A Smash?

Before Smash debuted in September 2011 NBC executives were calling it their best chance at solid gold plated hit.
And then the soap opera about the making of a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe's life slowly disintegrated from within.
Season Two which debuts on CTV Two Tuesday night at 9 with two new episodes is an attempt at a complete remake.
Smash then settles into its regular time slot on Tuesday February 19 at 10 p.m.
Gone is the creator, respected Broadway veteran Theresa Rebeck replaced by the show runner on Gossip Girl Josh Sarafan.
And many key characters have also departed. Gone is Karen's boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey) --after all he slept with the star's resident slut Ivy (Megan Hilty).
And Julia's son Leo (Emory Cohen) and her husband (Brian d'Arcy James) are also departing early on in the season.
And the cast's most annoying member, the quick witted Ellis (Jamie Cepero) is only making an appearance or two.
Big stars from Jennifer Hudson to Liza Minnelli have been imported as well as young Broadway standouts Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus.
But the key question is: can a new show get the re-tinkering needed to stay on the air and actually become a hit?
Well, it worked for Knots Landing, didn't it?
I well remember the Dallas spinoff opened on CBS in December 1979 as a weekly self contained set of stories. Ratings were bad but CBS persevered.
The second season star Don Murray was dumped as too nice and Donna Mills imported as the new villain and with added cliffhangers  ratings soared.
Then there was Dynasty. The Aaron Spelling soap opened in January 1981 and promptly faltered.
The second season  Joan Collins and James Farentino were imported and the serial became a big hit.
So, yes, Smash could be saved if its structural weaknesses are addressed.
Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) are still brawling over who will play Marilyn when or if the musical ever opens on Broadway.
And producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) is having cash flow problems exacerbated by her ex-husband's desire to ruin her.
Two new songwriters have been imported in a surly bartender Jimmy Collins  (Jeremy Jordan) and his writing partner  Kyle (Andy Mientus).
And Jennifer Hudson gets a lot of singing time as a Broadway star although her presence contributes absolutely nothing to the dramatic flow. Cast as diva Veronica Moore she has predictable clashes with her stage mother (Sheryl Lee Ralph)
It was New Yorker TV Critic Emily Nussbaum who coined the term "hate watching" to explain why people hated this show yet still watched.
So how many hate waters are there out there? Enough to save this very expensively mounted series?
This season Ivy is a much nicer person, easier to understand. Julia's marriage collapses and she moves in with her writing partner Tom Christian Borle) who gives her great  fashion advice: "It's time to retire the scarves."
It seems to me the reboot is partly successful already:  the story lines are less confusing, the pacing of scenes has perked up.
Debra Messing has more to do and gets adequate screen time. Director Derek (Jack Davenport) doesn't get the chance to grow as a character. Jordan and Mientus need scenes to develop but how -- we already have one songwriting pair on this show.
Strangest line has Julia crashing with Tom who says "It's like a sitcom!" Meaning Messing is back on Will & Grace. Could this be the reason she wasn't keen to act with her W&G co-star Sean Hayes when he guest stars?
Don't forget  that more series flop in their second season rather than the first.
Smash still has a ways to go but it certainly is a better constructed, more viewable show the second time around.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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