Pairing a can’t-miss premise with a formidable cast, our hopes were sky-high for NBC’s inside-Broadway drama “Smash” when it debuted last year… and then we were sorely disappointed by the ridiculous storytelling (poisoned smoothies? really?) that followed. But with Season 2 debuting this week, we’re still willing -- God help us -- to give “Smash” one more shot to win us over. We can’t blame you if you’ve already snuck out during intermission, but here’s why we’re setting aside our reservations and buying orchestra seats for this encore performance.
They dropped the characters we hated the most
Eileen’s scheming assistant Ellis, who concocted the infamous Smoothie of Death? Gone. Julia’s annoying son Leo, who looked a decade too old to play a surly teen? Out. Thankfully, the “Smash” producers listened to our complaints about last season and got rid of all the most irritating characters, refocusing the series on the backstage theater drama… of which there’s plenty. Think fewer excruciating scenes with Julia’s family and more behind-the-scenes creative conflict as the Marilyn Monroe musical “Bombshell” slowly but surely makes its way to Broadway. After all, that’s what we’re tuning in to see, right?
Anjelica Huston is still a national treasure
We still can’t believe Huston didn’t get any awards-show love last season; she’s a certified Hollywood icon, and her work as ever-resourceful producer Eileen Rand was a Season 1 highlight. She’s back this season, and riding high after “Bombshell’s” successful trial run in Boston; she even has a triumphant confrontation with her sleazy ex, Jerry -- and doesn’t throw a drink in his face! But the entire production is thrown into jeopardy when her fundraising comes under investigation by the feds. We knew we didn’t trust that smooth-talking bartender beau of hers…
The Karen-and-Ivy feud rages on
One of Season 1’s juiciest storylines was the ongoing battle to play Marilyn between icy veteran Ivy (Megan Hilty) and fresh-faced newcomer Karen (Katharine McPhee). Last season, Ivy had the inside track on the lead role and took great pleasure in treating Karen like dirt. But now that Karen’s secured the role of Marilyn (and knows that Ivy slept with her ex-fiance Dev), the shoe’s on the other foot. Still, “Smash” knows that the catfight potential between these two is one of the things keeping us hooked, so this showdown is far from over. Karen may be poised on the brink of stardom, but Ivy’s waiting in the wings in case she stumbles -- right where we want her.
We love us some Derek Wills
Maybe we’re just hopeless anglophiles, or maybe we just remember Jack Davenport fondly from his years on the British sitcom “Coupling.” But we find Davenport’s cynical stage director Derek Wills one of “Smash’s” most fascinating characters. With his cutting wit and loose ethical code, Derek represents the dark side of making it big on Broadway… but he’s so entertaining, we can’t hate him for it. He does get a bit of a comeuppance this season, though, when he’s confronted by a bevy of his former conquests in a dream sequence set to the Eurythmics’ “Would I Lie to You?” And if that question is directed at Derek: Yes, he would, honey.
More guest stars are on the way… including an Oscar winner who can flat-out sang
“Smash’s” guest stars were a mixed bag last season. (Bernadette Peters, yes; Uma Thurman, not so much.) But this season’s crop gives us hope, leading with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who joins the cast as Tony-winning diva Veronica Moore. In the premiere, J-Hud even hooks up with her fellow “American Idol” alum McPhee for a show-stopping duet of “On Broadway.” Also keep an eye out for a pair of real-life theater veterans stepping into the spotlight: “Newsies” star Jeremy Jordan as an up-and-coming songwriter who catches Karen’s eye, and Krysta Rodriguez as Karen’s new roommate, now that Dev is out of the picture. Fingers crossed that all this new blood means “Smash” won’t repeat the sins of last season. (No more Ellis is a good start.)
But don’t take our word for it. Watch the first hour of “Smash’s” Season 2 premiere right here, and let us know if you’ll still be watching in the comments:
Season 2 of "Smash" premieres Tuesday, 2/5 at 9 PM on NBC.