Well, we're back. And after a Season 1 that began with a lush and beloved pilot and descended into the most glorious of hate-watchable TV, Smash is rejiggered, with a new showrunner in Josh Safran and a cast that is streamlined and re-molded to focus on what we're supposed to love most: the high-stakes Broadway drama. So, did last night's first two hours of Season 2 deliver?
Well, yes and no. Much of the first hour is spent on clearing the decks and setting up the new situations, which means we've got a big chunk of time spent on Julia moping about her marriage and whether or not Frank is cheating on HER this time, which ends with him dumping her, very publicly, in the midst of a press event for "Bombshell." It's soapy and loud and eyerolling. Gone immediately, without mention, is peanut-poisoning assistant Ellis (thank God) and Karen's cheating and forgettable boyfriend Dev (ditto), who leaves a note. But the best piece of left-behind plotting comes in the form of Ivy, who we learn DID NOT take those damn pills at the end of the finale. That was a cheap move and I'm glad it's whitewashed away; we're left with an Ivy who spends much of the episode trying desperately to earn Karen's forgiveness, and when it doesn't really come, she makes up her mind to move forward. I like this Ivy much better, and it's easily the most refreshing of the fixes put into place thus far.
The rest of the first hour sets up three new characters and one big plot; Jennifer Hudson is wonderful as two-time Tony winner and star Veronica Moore, who gives Karen a pep-talk and rubs elbows with Derek before stealing the show at the "Bombshell" event with a duet of "On Broadway" with Karen that we're supposed to think is awesome, but just comes across as limp and ill-timed, as with much of the pop moments of Season 1. We also get mean-spirited bartender Jimmy, played by Broadway vet Jeremy Jordan, who is secretly writing a musical with his writing partner when he's not insulting Karen and refusing her tips. There's also Karen's roommate, but that goes nowhere. Anyway, the big plot push is that "Bombshell" is poised to move to Broadway, but Ellen's funds were acquired under shady means, so her husband tips off the feds and everything is frozen. Oh, and Rebecca accuses Derek of sexual harassment, as do a whole bunch of other people, so his employability is in question. Everyone goes all droopy, and then Karen "discovers" Jimmy playing and cell-phones the song to Derek and everyone is excited again.
Episode 2 fares a little better; Ellen and the wing crash an American Theater Wing Gala and Ivy gives the first awesome performance of the season in "They Just Keep Moving the Line," a number from the musical that somehow gets Ellen to accept a check from Jerry. So, maybe we're back on.
We get a lot of the handsome but grating Jimmy, who insults Karen's looks (repeatedly) and professes to be a serious artist who doesn't need anyone's help. His buddy gives Karen some of his sheet music, and her useless roomie can play one of the tunes, so Karen and the gang head to Jimmy's apartment (WHICH IS BEAUTIFUL. HOW DO THEY ALL AFFORD THESE PLACES?!) and crash a party (it's a theme of these episodes...) and Karen sings one of his songs. It's okay, but everyone seems to love it. Jimmy hates her, though, because remember, he doesn't need any help. Anyway, it all ends with Jimmy depositing the whole score of his show at Karen's place. He's pretty, but I hate this guy.
All in all, friends, it seems like we've got more of the same here; Smash is definitely streamlined, but it'll take more than this to make us forget the lows (and occasional highs) of the first season. What did you think?