Smash's Season 2 Premiere: NBC's Musical Drama, Take Two

By Lily Sparks

Feb 06, 2013

Smash S02E01/S02E02: "On Broadway"/"The Fallout"

Hi! I am the one critic on Earth who loved the first season of Smash. When I heard it was getting a major re-tooling for its midseason return, I was a little dismayed. Would it lose the elements I love about it? The Fame-esque/restrained Chorus Line rehearsals, the street shots of the city that feel so authentically New York, the thrill of show time from backstage?

Glory be, the new showrunner (Gossip Girl’s Josh Safran) kept all those elements, and tipped out of the canoe some of the dead weight that bogged down Season 1. Namely:

1. Ding dong, Frank is gone! The torturous marriage of Julia and Frank looks to be completely, fabulously dissolved.

2. NO LEO. Easily the most hated character besides Ellis the Scheming Henchman, Julia’s 16-going-on-7 son was nowhere to be found in the premiere or Season 2 promos.

3. NO ELLIS! The mustache-twirling villain-without-a-cause was blissfully absent and for that we can all be thankful.

4. Derek is getting called out on being a sexual predator. His storyline last night included him questioning whether he was even attractive as six dancers filed charges of sexual harassment. A rather eloquent yoga instructor also summed him up nicely, telling Derek he woke up every day with more power than everyone he worked with, yet never respected it. And his woozy ruminations on all the girls he’d diddled led to the craziest, most neon musical number Smash has ever done. That pink-high-heels group table dance was so weird and spectacularly lit and felt like an 80’s music video in all the right ways. More of that insanity s’il vous plait.

5. Hey, there’s another hot young female star on Broadway and she’s not an asshole or a raging diva! Jennifer Hudson was remarkable and she looks stunning. What a genuine star.

6. Karen’s gotten “aged down” a little in her living arrangements and costumes, she’s no longer an engaged woman with a stodgy boyfriend (bye Dev!), she’s a hot young thing living with a gaggle of jazzy friends who love launching into a capella at the drop of a hat like a Glee + Friends.

7. Someone finally didn’t lap up Karen’s B.S. and beg for seconds. Karen ran up against the first and only character who didn’t want to take her out for a “New York Moments Montage” seconds after meeting her and wow, was it refreshing. For once when she got up and flexed the autotune glory of her pipes, the intended audience got FURIOUS at her instead of getting down on their knees and thanking the Lord for having ears.

But now I want to talk about plot elements from the Smash premiere that concern me. And Hipster Genius Barkeep is by far the most concerning. Not that I don’t secretly thrill to someone being rude to Karen (her character is just too jazzed about how she sounds—she’s Pollyanna meets Sharpay from High School Musical). But the idea of a snarky barkeep casually strolling over to a bar piano after a full shift and launching into some amazing “Jonathan Larson” song he’s written, singing with his whole heart and a full orchestra backing him up somehow, and unaware someone is listening... I had to chuckle. The ladies of Smash sure have profited from meeting men in bars! And then his writing partner/fellow barkeep pulling out his envelope of dozens of playbills that he keeps stashed under the bar fulltime for some reason... it was all a little silly. But perhaps silliest is the idea that this guy who KNOWS HE’S GOOD, THANK YOU would refuse anyone’s help launching his musical. That’s probably the biggest leap of disbelief the show asked us to make last night, that a young person in 2013 would not be savvy enough to know that you take whatever kind of help you can get in any creative field.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the conceit that Bombshell will be dueling with a younger, hipper production for Karen’s attention. And I absolutely loved Karen getting shut down by someone at long last after being rude enough to treat the room to a buzzed, top-of-her-lungs serenade. But PLEASE do not let this guy be her romantic interest. I am not buying it.

And this brings me to the thing that worries me most: I genuinely loved Derek and Karen’s complicated, sometimes-icky-but-always-chemistry-filled Season 1 relationship. Her being his muse or his dark twisted fantasy or whatever she is to him—I’m into it. I 'ship it big time. Titanic-size 'ship, for me. If we’re supposed to believe this Sandisk-toting, faux-hipster Genius Barkeep is her new romantic interest I’m going to be quite put out. Even if he’s meant just to prop up another leg of the Ivy-Derek-Karen love triangle for some sexy quadrangulation, I REALLY don’t buy Karen and Genius Barkeep as having ANY romantic chemistry. I understand the will-they-won’t-they Sam-and-Diane tension this premiere seemed aware of between Derek and Karen, but that he walked away from her so easily when the production was frozen... I sort of missed his fantasies of Karen-as-Marilyn and being a little in awe of her and protective of her. But seeing if this element will come back into play and charting the various horrible heartbreaks of Ivy and waiting for my Jaren moments is what’s going to keep me returning to watch for the rest of the season.


– Genius Barkeep: What is his problem!?

– Jennifer Hudson's character: Will she become a threat or stay a friend to Karen?

– Did Julia’s couch-meld breakdown cut too close to home?

– Are you glad Frank and Leo got the old heave-ho?

– Karen and Derek: Headed for romance or will they be “Sam and Diane’d” for all time?

– The show's new direction: Where do you think the season is headed and will it keep you watching?

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  • jaycelay9 Mar 20, 2013

    Plus, it's not good to mix business with pleasure..leisure can take over to much of them..but then again..what's so bad about bromance romance or sexy lip kissing..this show is great and needs to keep with added suspense..! I will kiss Megan Hilton & Kathrin McPhee @ the same tyme..They r hott and need to keep switching roles..I would kiss Dereck once to prove nothing, but Genius..? Yea that's Genius BRO! ;) p. ;;Spring Break in the HOUSE -musiq, rave love*plur&Respect;,,culture,,fashion show..Cruella del vill shall take over parliament and justices of Bombshell..Hell Yea! Can't wait! Bombshell for everyone,but hey @ least they grub, snub and food and wine and development..$mash is a $mash with a Blast! Love it! ;)p

  • jaycelay9 Mar 20, 2013

    Genius Barkeep is adorable yet Nucking Futz,,what ever his problem is, its deep within his aora..I believe he could admit what we've all been waiting for..his bromance for his partner in crime and songwriting ehh anyone?? Lol..well I think Karen needs to test the waters but not swim deep with genius.. He will realize he is the dominate force on his deeper bromance romance with an unsuspecting character...Dereck perhaps..a new twist plot..? And sweet Megan Hilty will conseed in becoming a very new Maryln..happier than ever being free to choose her stance and position in the world now..screw what anyone else says..C'esr LA vie!!! ;)p

  • erolas113 Feb 16, 2013

    Season 1 was great but this season has something new to keep people hooked and i apreciate tem for strring the pot and creating posibly a new musical to vie for the attention of derek and karen, might be interesting

  • KayWatkins Feb 10, 2013

    Yeah, that GB was super annoying, unrealistic and his head looks too big for his haircut. I think he needs his side burns. His haircut makes him an eyesore!

    Do NOT like the Karen/Derek "chemistry" and I felt so bad for Ivy when Derek horribly dismissed her like that! H8 him too! Although the 80's number was fun, the draw to this show for me is the original music. I don't like when they just do cheesy covers. That's what Glee is for.

    I think they are trying to make GB a potential love interest for Karen. I could care less though because I don't like either of them. He was okay in the first hour and I saw potential in the show in bringing in a male character getting some vocal attention but then they ruined it by making him a ridiculous azzhole. Once they fix that I guess he'll be okay. I still won't like Karen but ah well.

    I am happy about the character cuts. They were MUCH needed! Good riddance to them all!

  • sabrips Feb 10, 2013

    I just can't stand Ivy. She did slept with Karen's fiancé, slept with Derek to get the part, manipulates everyone by playing the 'overdose card' over and over. Also the 'I've been to long on this bussines so I deserve it more than anyone else' is pretty stupid of her. Love Megan Hitly. I think her charactes is supposed to be annoying and she plays it so well. In interviews she always seems so sweet so it makes me think of how great of an actress she is. Still hate Ivy though.

  • LG0827 Feb 08, 2013

    They made some good changes for this season except they had one major oversight: should have minimized scenes with McPhee. Hilty is a far better actor and singer and they don't give her enough airtime. It will be hard to watch rest of season if McPhee's robotic character continues to take up the lion's share of the plot lines.

  • KayWatkins Feb 10, 2013

    AGREED! I have a little girl crush on Hitly so I am a little biased but still. I was just happy that she got to sing even if she was second choice (which Karen felt she needed to rub in! H8 her!).

  • WavSlave Feb 07, 2013

    A scene with Ellis getting his comeuppance -- up to and including being drawn and quartered in the middle of 42nd Street -- was what I was most hoping to see. It's too bad that they didn't give us that cathartic moment.

  • Red_Diamond Feb 07, 2013

    The premiere of season 2 was pretty boring to me. I loved season 1. Most the song were catchy. But all the songs from this episode (the original ones) were not as good as in the Pilot. The new characters that stood out to me were Karen's new roommate and the snarky barkeep's friend. I feel sympathetic to him. And yes I agree with Lily, where did the chemistry between Karen and Derek go?

  • ben45tpy Feb 07, 2013

    Bravo Lily in standing up for this show. I also loved season 1. There certainly were enough jarring elements for critics to sink their teeth into but I've been disappointed at the lack of acclaim the show's received. And I'm missing Ellis, I never had a problem with him, I found him an interesting and textured villain. Leo and Frank I won't miss, Dev is a shame as even though his chauvinism was off-putting if he'd matured a little I'd have liked him to stick around. Karen will always be problematic and I'll get angry if she Ivy doesn't maintain her prominent role throughout the season. I hope you'll continue covering the show and maybe bring back the captions?

    As for the episode(s), I didn't love them. It seems the wind has gone out of the sails a little, there's less plot marching forward and more tedious introspection. I fully blame the new showrunner, the change certainly seems a little more CWy. There's little point in eliminating the allegedly weaker aspects of the show if you can't maintain or improve upon its strengths. Even the score sounded a lot cheesier (too cutesy followed by too melodramatic) than usual. Some of the songs weren't great, especially Would I Lie to You, but I was liberated by Ivy's outstanding number at the end and it gave me hope for things to come. So I liked the episodes but didn't love them.

    As for the bartender, he's hot-headed and immature. Not only are his actions totally understandable they're also not unexpected from someone is his position (putting the faux orchestra aside). He has an incredible amount of self-confidence, so he doesn't believe he needs help succeeding, he obviously believes his material is good enough to get results without having contacts. As I said it's no stretch that someone in his position would be full of confidence and pride. I have no issues with him, and although Karen and Derek have nice chemistry that only really comes to life when they're fully in work mode. There'll be little value in them as a couple until they get back to furiously working on a play. So she may as well hang out with the bartender for a while. Plus if Dev was not much of a chemistry-blocker in Season 1 then bartender will unlikely be one in Season 2.

  • KevinG87 Feb 07, 2013

    thank God they made a clean break with Dev and Ellis.. and Julia's son.. and sort of her husband. couldn't stand any of them. the new guy who wrote the songs that Karen was obsessing over is kind of a douche so far so I'm not sure how I'll feel about him yet. apart from that, good episode.

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