TV Review - Smash: Season 2

Jennifer Hudson (left) and
Katharine McPhee in "Smash"
Last year, Smash was about the making of a Broadway musical, focusing the majority of its drama on who would get the lead role in that musical. In the first season, we saw the musical get made and we saw who got the lead role, so there was really no need for the show to exist after that point. The series used Glee as a pattern for itself, which it did but without any humor. Glee, however, had the benefit of doing current, pop songs, but Smash built itself on original songs that come from its fictional musical, the show-within-the-show. When those songs ran out, so did that element.

Glee in its fourth season had to introduce a bunch of new characters and essentially re-invent itself. Smash is having to do the same after only its first season, which was only 13 episodes. This doesn't bode well, but fans of Smash, what little there are, could go with it. Except, one thing might be unforgivable. The show-within-the-show, the musical about Marilyn Monroe, known as "Bombshell," the musical that was built up all last season, is established in this second season as something that is awful and needs re-working.

Debra Messing stars as Julia, the playwright for "Bombshell" who in a meta-commentary moment reads the reviews for "Bombshell" when it played in Boston and becomes depressed on how bad they are with a lot of the criticisms aimed at her. Depressed and separated from her husband, Julia moves into the apartment of Tom, the songwriter for "Bombshell" and Julia's gay best friend.

Tom helps Julia out of her funk being that his dancer boyfriend Sam, played by Leslie Odom Jr., has gone on tour. Tom and Julia did so in season one, but their living together this season really harkens to Will & Grace, the NBC sitcom that also starred Debra Messing about a NYC woman living with her gay best friend. Again, Smash harkens but does so with little to no humor. Yes, this series is a drama but it's just getting too depressing. Even, Glee, which part of its re-invention also has a girl and her gay best friend in NYC pursuing performing arts storyline, balances the comedy and drama a thousand times better.

Anjelica Huston co-stars as Eileen, the producer of "Bombshell" who doesn't think Julia is doing enough to re-work the musical, so Eileen hires a dramaturg named Peter, played by Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me), to re-work the musical from a tough, objective standpoint. The problem is that Peter wants to change everything in the musical and his argument for doing so makes no sense. Julia resists him but she ends up changing or adding things to the show, which flies in the face of everything we saw last season. What we saw last season was great in terms of "Bombshell" but now we're supposed to believe that it wasn't. It makes no sense.

Because it would be stupid to have all of season two be about re-working "Bombshell" with the edict from Peter of making it sexier, the series diverts by having two of its characters break off and work on another new musical. Karen, the star of "Bombshell," played by Katharine McPhee, discovers these two young guys trying to produce this new musical called "Hit List." Karen gets Derek, the director of "Bombshell," played by Jack Davenport, to assist with putting "Hit List" on stage.

Jeremy Jordan plays Jimmy, the singer by day and bartender by night. Andy Mientus plays Kyle, the roommate and aspiring playwright. Jimmy and Kyle are the two young guys trying to produce "Hit List." In real life, both Jordan and Mientus have made great strides on the New York stage. Both Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus have been on Broadway, but Mientus makes Kyle likeable and makes it clear from a personality perspective why he's on Broadway.

Jordan does not. His character clearly has issues regarding his family, possibly abusive issues, but Jimmy's attitude from the moment he first appears is off-putting. He's rude and his reactions to things seem to be awful for awful's sake. Yes, he can sing. Yes, he has a voice you might want to hear but otherwise he comes off as a person you don't want to be near.

This season, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson guest stars. Hudson plays Veronica Moore, a fictional Broadway star. She's great, but her storyline doesn't at first seem significant. Dealing with an African-American in this world and how she rises or falls would have been something the series could have explored. Instead, the series continues to beat the drum of woe-is-Ivy. Ivy, played by Megan Hilty, is the actress who almost was the star of "Bombshell." The first season was all about acknowledging her as the better talent but still beating her down. This second season also wants to be about beating her down.

It was nice to see Ephraim Sykes (Leave It On the Floor and 30 Rock), a young black dancer in "Bombshell." Sykes' character doesn't have a name nor has he spoken really, but here's hoping he's featured more. His character is seen rehearsing with Karen, but, for a show about a Broadway musical, there's not a lot of singing and dancing so far this season. Ivy sings "Don't Dream It's Over," which Glee did last year. I feel like Glee is the show to follow instead.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-L.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 9PM on NBC.


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