Omg! TV

How ‘Smash’ can save its lackluster second season

Anne T. Donahue
omg! TV

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NBC

For "Smash" aficionados, this week marked a tragic moment in the series' legacy: the show hit a ratings low since its premiere last in February 2012. A mere 2.6 million viewers tuned in for Tuesday's episode, and the installment earned a paltry 0.7 share in the Nielsen ratings.

Oof. Evidently, a lack of scarves, the removal of Season 1 characters, and the addition of a singing waiter lacking sideburns has not only failed to earn new viewers in 2013, but they've contributed to the exit of existing ones, too. And while Season 1's Bollywood dance numbers and Uma Thurman's guest spot were admittedly preposterous (why would Thurman's peanut allergy-ridden character risk her life by drinking a peanut-tainted milkshake just to give Karen a shot at being Marilyn Monroe?!), this season's lack of insanity makes the show fall flat in comparison.

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Yes, the musical is in jeopardy since there's no money to fund it, but now that Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) are friends, who cares? Julia's (Debra Messing) marriage is over, but what fun are romances if they're not extra-marital affairs that take place in the very same rehearsal space production dancers are juuuust about to walk into? And does anybody really care about Tom (Christian Borle) and his boyfriend? (No. Even though Christian Borle is great. Sorry, man.)

Unfortunately, not even guest appearances by Jennifer Hudson and Rosie O'Donnell are enough to bring life to the second season of "Smash," as proven by the fledgling ratings. However, if showrunners opted to create a love story viewers could invest in (let's face it: the Derek/Karen relationship is eventually going to happen -- why not just give it to us now?), audiences could champion certain characters and their relationship instead of rooting for them to fail -- or worse, not caring about them at all. (We're looking at you, Karen.)

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Ivy's inability to land decent roles up until recently is also unbelievable -- especially since Megan Hilty herself has starred on Broadway in "Wicked." And now that Ivy and Karen are no longer sworn enemies, Ivy's new role in "Liaisons" (with guest star Sean Hayes) would be the perfect opportunity for writers to establish a friendship between them: since they're no longer competing for the same role, Karen and Ivy can now become friends who champion and teach each other in the midst of a harsh industry. After all, it works for Meredith and Christina on "Grey's Anatomy," and it would absolutely work here.

As for any additional actors and guest stars: dial it down. An appearance by Rosie O'Donnell might prompt a Rosie fan to tune in once, but after that, then what? The key to securing viewership is to create a premise people want to see (which "Smash" has, because musicals rule), and to populate that premise with likeable, memorable, multi-dimensional characters. "Smash" lacks these. So instead of publicity stunts and an homage to last season, why not use Season 2 to breathe life into these protagonists? Then there will actually be a reason to watch them change and grow.

Oh, and we never thought we'd say this, but bring back Julia's scarves.

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