'Smash' Season 2 changes: 'Bigger, younger and more music' -- but 'the stuff you love is still there'
"Smash" faced the music today (Jan. 6): At the TCA press tour, the cast and producers took to the stage to address television critics' concerns about its first-season nosedive -- and the changes its new showrunner, Josh Safran, has implemented for Season 2.
Safran was diplomatic about the freshman flaws -- "interesting" was the closest he came to an actual critique of Season 1, which he called "exciting and thrilling to watch" as an audience member.
"Changes wise," insists Safran, "I think it's [still] 'Smash': I don't think it's changed that much. Stuff from last year that you loved is still there, and maybe stuff people thought went off on tangents we've looked at [and] sort of tried to find a way to put back together.
"But it still is the same Smash, [but] maybe bigger, [with] more music [and] a little bit younger in regards to some of our new castmembers."
Four original characters we won't see are Karen's fiancé Dev ( Raza Jaffrey), both Julia's husband ( Brian d'Arcy James) and her lover ( Will Chase) and, technically at least, the evil Ellis ( Jaime Cepero)
Executive producer Neil Meron dodged the question of whether the much-reviled Ellis, heard in a phone call in Season 2's second week -- would reappear: "Ellis is still alive," he laughed. "How could you forget Ellis?"
In addition to the financially threatened "Bombshell," Season 2 will feature two other new productions, the musical in which Jennifer Hudson mentors Karen ( Katharine McPhee) and "Hit List," an off- Broadway "fringey" show.
"We have more original music, more music sequences per episode [and] more diverse musical styles," enthused Safran, adding that "Smash" will also reflect Broadway's "bigger worldview."
"What we're really proud of and excited about is that 'Bombshell' is ongoing but Josh found a way to find another show on a parallel show on its own course," noted EP Craig Zadan.
Executive producer Neil Meron also has high praise for his new showrunner:
"When Josh came in and addressed all of those issues [raised by critics], it seemed like it was really the right fit," said Meron.
Without addressing specific changes -- only acknowledging with a laugh, "the first one that comes to mind is [Julia's] scarves -- Meron noted, "There were certain storylines that were pinpointed that you'd say, 'Yeah, they're right -- it could be a little bit more impactful.'"
"First-season shows need time to find themselves and really lock into who they are," Meron concluded. "For a show like 'Smash' that has so many moving parts, to really figure out the mechanism is really difficult."
Season 2 of "Smash" premieres Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 9 p.m. on NBC. Will you be watching?