By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
8:40 AM CST, February 5, 2013
The Broadway-set "Smash" (8 p.m. CT Feb. 5, NBC; 2 stars out of 4) had one of the best pilots last year, grabbing my attention with its behind-the-scenes look at two actresses auditioning for the same role in a musical about Marilyn Monroe. It just as quickly lost me when all the sizzle of the premiere fizzled into boringly familiar, soapy subplots with cloying characters and some howler numbers.
For its second act, new showrunner Joshua Safran has dumped many elements that failed in the up-and-mostly-down first season. He's axed key characters and added interesting new ones, like Jennifer Hudson's theater diva Veronica Moore and Jeremy Johnson's cocky songwriter Jimmy Collins.
Yet both of these characters have been saddled with lame side stories; Veronica has a stage-mom-from-hell in the form os Sheryl Lee Ralph, while Jimmy's combative insistence on not sharing his music (um, you're a songwriter?!) already grates on my nerves.
Camp can be fun, so the ridiculousness of some of the fantasy numbers works, I guess, as when smarmy theater director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport), feeling the backlash of his womanizing ways, gets shoved around by the women in his life as they sing "Would I Lie to You."
But what I loved most about "Smash" was the backstage pass it gave us into the making of a Broadway show. The addition of Chicago native Hudson is a masterstroke, but with all that other melodrama, "Smash" remains a hit-or-miss proposition for me.
My fantasy is to hear stars Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty use their marvelous pipes to sing The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," because I won't be fooled by "Smash" the second time around.
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