Former ‘Smash’ showrunner Theresa Rebeck puts the second season on blast but is she right?

Theresa Rebeck

Theresa Rebeck

Theresa Rebeck, the ousted Smash showrunner who left at the end of season one, called the show’s sophomore season “a complete disaster” in a series of emails earlier this week.

“Most media reporters would agree that the second season is a complete disaster,” Rebeck wrote to Buzzfeed.com, “and that the troubles of a once-promising show go far beyond faring poorly in the ratings.”

It’s true that Smash has struggled to find an audience under the supervision of season two’s showrunner Josh Safran; however, the show’s struggle for ratings began during Rebeck’s first season.

As Rebeck points out, the problem isn’t necessarily in the ratings. The problem for Smash lies in its storylines, most of which stem from Rebeck’s ideas for the first season.

The first season of Smash started strong, following the competition between two aspiring stars, Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty), for a role in the Marilyn Monroe-themed musical, Bombshell.

As the season progressed, Smash became less about Ivy and Karen and more about the personal lives of those involved in the production. Suddenly, season one focused on lyricist Julia’s affair with Michael Swift, the actor playing Joe DiMaggio, which left fans wondering – what happened to Bombshell? Would Karen or Ivy finally be named as the show’s Marilyn?

It wasn’t until Safran stepped in for season two that Smash finally found its focus. Within the first hour of the season two premiere, four of last season’s prominent players were written out of the series which cut most of Julia’s personal drama and allowed the story to be focused on Bombshell’s arrival on Broadway.

The second season also saw the addition of new characters in hopes of drawing in a younger audience. Broadway veterans Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus joined the cast as a new composing duo who create the rock musical Hit List, one of this season’s best additions. The show resembles some of Broadway’s rock musicals such as Rent and Spring Awakening, giving viewers a different perspective on what one might find on the Great White Way.

Through Hit List, viewers see a more modern journey of a show from off-Broadway to Broadway. Several songs from Hit List are composed by up-and-coming theatre composers Pasek and Paul and Joe Iconis. These catchy songs have proved to be hits for Smash, and “Broadway, Here I Come” and “Caught in the Storm” have cracked the iTunes Top 100 charts.

Most importantly, Safran’s season of Smash has brought the show’s small but mighty fan base together. Team Ivy fans finally get to see her play Marilyn in Bombshell and Team Karen fans get to see Karen as the lead in Hit List, a role that is more suited for her pop voice. Fans also dominated Entertainment Weekly’s “Save One Show” poll proving that the small-but-mighty fan base is still existent even as ratings are dwindling.

Rebeck shouldn’t be so quick to say that Safran’s Smash is a “complete disaster” when really, it is far from it. Season two is, simply put, much different than season one, and while it may not be producing the ratings that NBC wants to see, it has a clear focus.

Safran was able to pull in the reins on season one’s storylines and make Smash more enjoyable as a whole. There’s no fantasy Bollywood numbers or dancing in bowling alleys. Smash is now a show that portrays Broadway at its highest and lowest with just the right amount of drama in between.

Do you think Rebeck’s comments were uncalled for? Let me know in comments!

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3 Responses

  1. season 2 has definitely redeemed itself, season 1 was all over the place, there wasnt a specific story that anyone could follow, and you were unable to figure out who the actual stars of the show were, season 2 the show focuses more on karen and ivy on a whole, yes Tom and Julia have their little bits of drama, but Karen and Ivy are finally seen as the stars of Smash once Safran took over. Safran essentially changed Rebeck’s soap opera musical into an actual television drama.

  2. I personally agree with the article. Even though I like the first season, I am enjoying the second season more. Not only do we get to continue seeing the production of Bombshell, we now get to see the makings of another show! I really hope that a third season can happen. I’ve grown really attached to the show. :)

  3. I’m going to disagree that Smash found its focus in the second season. I think that the first season, for the most part, was sparkling. It represented the real life dramas of the people in the theatre world, this being the drama inside and out and about on the streets. It depicted the relationships of the characters, and with the loss of Karen and Ivy competing you lost a lot of the continuity, it felt like there were two story lines going at every given time and it was very hard to focus on one show. While I love the story line for Hit List and the stars that it has brought in, I think that they needed to finish Bombshell before, so I don’t think Rebeck’s comments are entirely uncalled for.

    However, I do think that it has gotten better in the last few episodes and it would be a shame but not unexpected if it didn’t get renewed.