Wednesday, February 06, 2013

smash is anything but

Smash debuted its second season last night in a two-hour, two-episode extravaganza. And although it's clear that everyone is working hard to sell this Broadway baby of a series, it still isn't as fun as it should be.

Last year's show creator Theresa Rebeck is out, replaced by executive producer Joshua Safran (Gossip Girl). Also gone are some problematic characters (Dev, Leo, Ellis) replaced by some new ones (Jeremy Jordan) and guest stars (Jennifer Hudson) to up the glitz factor. But the two ingenue hopefuls, Karen (Katherine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) are still at odds, and although we know that showbiz is full of rivalries, their feud just seems petty and boring, not a good thing for a show that should be pushing for over-the-top drama and showbiz catfights, not restraint.

Ivy and Karen are pretty tame rivals
Jennifer Hudson was a smash - the show, not so much
Part of the problem is that Ivy seems much more suited to be the star of the show-within-a-show, the Marilyn-Monroe musical Bombshell. Everyone keeps singing Karen's praises, but I still don't really see it. Hilty was great in the first hour, singing Crowded House's "Don't Dream it's Over." The other highlight of the premiere was any time that guest star Jennifer Hudson was on screen, begging the question — why not ditch the Marilyn musical altogether and have Hudson as your star? McPhee had trouble keeping up with Hudson in their big duet, "On Broadway."

Anjelica Huston, as showrunner Eileen. is still trying her darndest to do something with her nothing plot line — the show is off, it's on, it's off. Yawn. The showmakers would do better to turn her into a villain or have her try to go out for the leading actress herself — give this talented woman something interesting to do. Other fun actors caught in similar spirals are Jack Davenport as the director whose womanizing ways are suddenly a problem for him and everyone around him, and Christian Borle, who manages to be authentic and engaging as Tom, Julia's (Debra Messing) writing partner. So many of the other characters we just don't give a hoot about.

Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport hope that the drama gets more dramatic
It's clear that Smash wants to have fun with its milieu. Theater-folk like Harvey Fierstein turned up last night, but then they leave and we're left with the same boring characters. There were a few fun little references to Will and Grace in Debra Messing's storyline. Her character also seems to be a thinly-veiled reference to the departed Theresa Rebeck. Maybe two hours of Smash was just too much. It might have been better to quit while they were ahead, with Megan Hilty's "Don't Dream it's Over" number at the end of the first hour. I'll probably tune in a few more times to see if they can amp up the drama, but at the moment, Smash, is anything but.
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