I liked Smith both in concept and the execution of its action. Smith, though, never drew me into the characters enough for me to want to know more about them.
CBS under appreciates the work it takes to bring people into a new concept - criminals as main characters. The writers failed to connect the viewers to the characters. The number of characters on Smith is normal for a TV series, but connecting viewers with an "anti-hero" requires extra work. The series had too many villain stars. Writers and producers must give the viewers a moral grounding and understanding of the villain stars.
For awhile I thought this new concept (villain stars) wasn't possible, until I saw the new Showtime series Dexter. The Dexter writers, producers, and actors connected the viewer to this vigilante serial killer very quickly in the pilot. The story line makes it easier as there is only one "good guy villain" in this series. Viewers don't have to justify the actions of several characters.
Some might ask is the only way to create a successful criminal show to do it on a pay cable channel, where restrictions on content are lower. The answer is NO!
CBS should take an example from "It Takes a Thief." A broadcast series based upon one criminal is easier, but there also must be some social redeeming value in the main character. Dexter only kills other killers and while it’s an inappropriate action, the viewer realizes he is trying to channel his dark personality to help society not harm it or innocent people.
The lead character must involve the viewers in the planning and execution of his jobs, while not assuming the viewer will all of connect the dots. Unanswered questions are ok for awhile and answers that raise new questions are ok. In the end, though, the viewer requires all the answers concerning the leader character’s character and his jobs.
A new version of "It Takes a Thief" without the main character working for a government agency would be interesting. The series could be about the original thief's Son. He decided to go into the family business and has yet to get caught. The writers would need to develop his personality and abilities in depth and quickly. The viewer must connect on a social, emotional, and intelligential basis. In addition to his life story, the thief must instruct the viewer step by step on his individual jobs.
Not until those who design shows realize these two important facts will broadcast TV have a successful villain based series. Smith failed to take heed of these basic obligations to the viewer.