If you’re invested in Smash — and since you’re reading this, chances seem good that you are — then reports about how new showrunner Josh Safran tweaked the series for season 2 have probably left you feeling ambivalent. On one hand, jettisoning problematic characters like Dev, Michael, Leo, Frank, and dearly departed Terrible Ellis, striking cheesy bowling alley song-and-dance numbers, and sending all those scarves back to Grandma Ida’s House of Hideous Knits could only strengthen this Broadway-style drama.
But on the other hand, scarves, cheese, and the dastardly doings of Ellis the Terrible are what make — or made — Smash the glorious, glitter-drenched, compulsively watchable show it became in season 1. If the camp is dialed down and the self-awareness is dialed up, will Smash reach an equilibrium that lands it square in Boring Valley? Can a show built on a foundation of camp and ridiculosity still command attention when it’s been toned down and tuned up? If Smash isn’t about shrieking with laughter as the camera pans to yet another person standing behind a door, brow furrowed in concentration, then what is it about?
We’ll have to wait a few more weeks before we can fully answer that question. In the meantime, though, I feel confident declaring that Smash in season 2 is no longer as bad-bad as it was in season 1 (that still-amazing pilot notwithstanding). It is also, however, no longer as good-bad — which may or may not become a problem as the Safran Era progresses.
Wait, why am I still blabbering — we’ve got two hours of show to get through, thanks to tonight’s double feature premiere event! But first, previously on Smash: Karen and Ivy started out as two likable characters before one became a sanctimonious bore and one literally got hopped up on crazy pills. Julia offered this thoughtful assessment of one Marilyn Monroe: “So beautiful. So tragic.” Derek sniped and snarled and tried to sleep with anything in a blond wig. Rebecca Duvall showed up and couldn’t sing (“not surprising,” sneer Cady Huffman fans). Eileen tossed drinks with abandon and got money from her shady bartender boyfriend. Tom was great and didn’t get nearly enough screen time. All caught up?
Good. We fade in on a girl performing a new Bombshell song that sums up Smash‘s season 2 philosophy: “Cut, Print… Moving On.” As Karilyn croons about not dwelling on the past, we see a montage of Karen moving in with a new roommate — fellow actress Ana, played by ex-Wednesday Addams Krysta Rodriguez — and Ivy throwing away all of her delicious, delicious drugs. Excellent; all-natural bitchery is much more fun to watch.
And then it’s back to business as usual. The cast and creative team gather in that familiar, sun-drenched rehearsal room. Everyone’s happy about how the Boston tryout went, though of course changes to the show will have to be made. (Which changes, specifically? Julia doesn’t know — she hasn’t read the reviews yet.) As Bobby warns Ivy, this could mean they’re going to get rid of a certain attempted boyfriend-snatcher. “[Karen] is part of the creative team now,” he tells his pal as Karen looks at her with a gaze that could turn a chorus girl to stone. Is that really how Broadway works? Whatever — message received.
NEXT: There’s a new Idol in town