Can Smash Survive Without Debra Messing’s Terrible Scarves?

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SMASH-HUDSON-MCPHEE_510x380Last night brought the final arrival of bad news for Smash hate watchers. The NBC executives who have taken over the Marilyn Monroe musical drama/comedy are done with all the insane kitsch from last season. In last night's two hour premiere, we quickly learned that that almost all traces of original creator Theresa Rebeck had been removed, all the way down to Debra Messing‘s scarf collection.

NBC is betting that more people will want to watch a serious drama about Broadway than those who tuned in to hate watch Angelica Houston perform in a Bollywood number. But is that true?

According to Entertainment Weekly, last night “Smash came back to 4.5 million viewers and a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49. That’s down 71 percent from its premiere last year and down 47 percent from NBC’s performance average in this time period this season.”

And that's with the help of Jennifer Hudson‘s belting in not one but two numbers.

Last night's episode was missing a lot of the nonsense that Rebeck created. But that is actually why a lot of viewers tuned in. Instead of random nonsense involving Uma Thurman‘s poisoned smoothies, last night we saw Hudson appearing as a seasoned Broadway vet who sang a duet with the show's other American Idol alum Katharine McPhee.

Clearly NBC is hoping that its changes will make room for new viewers to tune in. But that didn't happen last night.

For actual fans of the show, there is still a little kitsch to be found. Most especially when the musical's director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) was accused of sexual harassment and ended up in a drunken haze imagining all the (hot) women in his life singing a Robert Palmer-esque 80s dance montage.

Smash Robert Palmer

Derek's subconscious = addicted to fuchsia.

Smash basically thinks that he has sexually harassed a lot of the women who have come across his casting couch, but it's nothing that a little musical number can't fix.

Other than that, Smash is taking a hard turn for the serious. With a subplot involving an “edgy” young composer secretly writing the worlds' next great musical while bartending in Times Square and Ivy on the verge of popping some pills and leaving Broadway/New York forever, Smash wants to be a contender for serious drama awards this Spring.

If they can entice some new viewers, there were things to watch. Aside from the 80s montage, last night's episode delivered a few strong musical numbers. Gone are the botched Uma Thurman songs and Katherine McPhee slamming herself around in a towel.

In its place is the old standby that every producer in America has learned – when in doubt, hire Jennifer Hudson to belt something out for you. That plan worked. But also, Megan Hilty brought some intense power to her solo near the end of the premiere.

Last night's premiere drew a strong line in the sand between first season of Smash and the future of the show. Gone are the random characters of Ellis the psychopath (Jaime Cepero), Julia's sad son Leo (Emory Cohen) and Karen's politics obsessed boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey). But the final nail in the coffin of the old show? When Debra Messing resurfaced in the final minutes of the episode after being beaten down by divorce and bad reviews with one of her trusty old scarves. Only to end the show with her partner Tom informing her:

“It's time to retire the scarves.”