The Farr Side: NBC?retools ‘Smash’ for its second season

David T. Farr

Never have I seen a network give a TV show a makeover like the one NBC is doing for “Smash,”?which returns for its second season Feb. 5. Don’t expect it to be anything like Season 1.

I didn’t follow the show too much, as I vowed to cut back on my TV viewing last year, yet I knew I was missing out. Thanks to TV on DVD, I’ve been enjoying the madness (both good and bad) the show created during its first season.

The cast is stellar, including Oscar winner Anjelica Huston, Emmy winner Debra Messing, Broadway star Megan Hilty, and “American Idol” Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee. Plus, the show’s executive producer is Steven Spielberg.

The show was built around the creation of a Broadway musical depicting the life of Marilyn Monroe. From the writing of the script and financing of the production to the two women (Hilty and McPhee) who brilliantly captivated viewers in their pursuit to be “Marilyn,” I was hooked. Then, there’s the music. It’s great! Original tracks penned by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman are Broadway-good. McPhee also gives spot-on covers of “Beautiful” (Christina Aguilera), “Shake It Off” (Florence + The Machine) and “Brighter Than The Sun” (Colbie Caillet).

From what I’ve seen, “Smash” has it all: beautiful leading ladies, an intriguing storyline, glamorous sets, great music, and oh yeah, drama! But why no fuss? Why hasn’t the music had an impact like its contemporary “Glee” and now “Nashville” have enjoyed ?

“Smash” fared well ratings-wise, but it wasn’t the show’s critical acclaim that caught the attention of NBC. It was the show’s favorable and not-so-favorable posts on social media and blog sites that got them. Network officials apparently took to heart what people were saying and decided to revamp the entire show.

Half the cast was let go, as was creator/writer Theresa Rebeck. For most TV shows, that wouldn’t work. For NBC, it’s not a do-or-die situation. Execs believe so much in the concept they’re willing to go all out to win over critics and viewers.

Thankfully, Huston, Messing, Hilty and McPhee all will be back Feb. 5, as will Bernadette Peters, Jack Davenport and Christian Borle. Joining them for Season 2 are Jennifer Hudson, Liza Minnelli, Sean Hayes and Jeremy Jordan. That’s an impressive cast. Spielberg is also joined by nine other top producers.

Season 2 opens the door to new storylines, new talent, new original music and multiple Broadway productions. Oh, and Messing will be missing her scarves. Apparently, viewers were turned off by her scarves in Season 1. That’s how in tune NBC was to viewer feedback.

Makes me wonder if I ought to rethink my sweater vests.

David T. Farr is a Sturgis, Mich., Journal correspondent. Email him at You can also find The Farr Side on Facebook.