Smash - Season Two
Much like the series itself, the DVD set for season two of NBC's "let's put on a show" series "Smash" is a missed opportunity. In this age of endless delayed viewing options, the real reason to buy a DVD set is for the special features. The possibilities were endless (interviews! commentary from bitchy actors whose series was just cancelled!) but deleted scenes and a few deleted musical numbers make for a sad little set.
The second season of a fictional attempt to bring a musical about Marilyn Monroe to Broadway started out with off-screen drama as creator Theresa Rebeck was replaced as show runner by Josh Safran, who promised to jettison what viewers hated and focused on what they loved. True, scheming-and-yet-boring Ellis is gone and Julia's drippy husband (a criminally underused Brian d'Arcy James) and son, and Karen (Katherine McPhee) is no longer with her fiancé but instead lives with a sassy chorus gal played by Krysta Rodriguez. Angelica Huston, as the show's producer, has another song you'll only find in the deleted scenes. And there are a bunch of great new songs.
But the show still goes astray. Yes, the addition of competing show "Hit List" means Jeremy Jordan (from Broadway's "Newsies") joins the cast, along with Andy Mientus as "Hit List"'s creators. However, Jordan is saddled playing a jackhole that eclipses even director/choreographer Derek Wills (Jack Daveport), in his continuing jackholery as he skips from Marilyn musical "Bombshell" to "Hit List" and to further sexual harassment.
Then "Smash" spirals into a shameless rip-off of the real-life tragedy of "Rent" author-composer Jonathan Larson. The plot move smacks of desperation and signals that in less than two seasons, "Smash" managed to run out of original ideas.
So enjoy the badass numbers that the luminous Megan Hilty gets to sing as chorus-girl-turned-star, especially "They Just Keep Moving the Line" and the saucy "Grin and Bear It," a smooth Sammy Davis salute by Leslie Odom, Jr., and stunningly staged "Hit List" numbers "Reach for Me" and "I Heard Your Voice in a Dream." When Debra Messing and Christian Borle's songwriting team aren't threatening to break up, they still have great chemistry, and "Smash" makes the very wise move to have Borle sing again, a lovely version of Billy Joel's "Vienna."
Also enjoyable are the Broadway names in recurring parts. Bernadette Peters, Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes and Jesse L. Martin are bright spots but it's fun to see original "Rent" cast member Daphne Rubin-Vega as a driven publicist. Just as fun are the parade of cameos: Lisa Minnelli, Rosie O'Donnell, Lillias White, Ron Rifkin, Kathleen Marshall, Marin Mazzie, and Lin Manuel-Miranda, who gets the best line of the series, "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to see "Bombshell" but I hear the tourists love it."
The DVD producers could have put in every special feature a theater queen might desire -- perhaps interviews with the cast, rehearsal footage, audio commentary -- but no, just some deleted scenes and a limp blooper montage. Of the three deleted musical numbers, only an expanded version "At Your Feet" starring Peters is worth watching. Huston's French ditty isn't embarrassing but it's also not interesting, and the "Hit List" diva battle "I'm Not Sorry," the "original" off-Broadway version is a curiosity only for McPhee's unfortunate pseudo-Cleopatra getup.
Smash Season Two