A year ago, Smash began its first season on NBC, critically praised and exceedingly hyped, with the well-funded backing of the network and its chairman, Robert Greenblatt, who considered the musical drama his pet project. Steven Spielberg had dreamed up the concept, and his DreamWorks TV was behind it.
But by the time the show had its finale in May, it had become an object of ritualistic ridicule: appointment television for hate-watchers, that new American sport created by social media. Smash's unsympathetic lead characters, oddly placed musical sequences, schizophrenic tonal shifts, cartoon-like villains who literally say, "You haven't heard the last of this," and strangely accessorized actors all became fodder for Twitter jokes. Comedian Julie Klausner even devoted a podcast to Smash, which she called "the best television of all time."
Along the way, Smash's creator/showrunner, Theresa Rebeck, was fired. Rebeck had made it clear that Smash was her vision, and when that vision turned out to be laughable, she was shown the door. Despite all of Smash's problems, it did well enough in the ratings to be renewed for a second season — it aired after hit The Voice, and benefited from that lead-in.
Now, new executive producer Joshua Safran, late of Gossip Girl, will attempt to turn Smash around in Season 2. It has a two-hour premiere on Tuesday.
How does a lovingly looked-after show with such high stakes for all involved become a joke? Smash is a case study: in how megalomania and television can clash unproductively; in how high expectations can crash immediately; and in how intense network and studio oversight can result in a paranoid show creator who causes workplace misery and, most importantly, a bad TV show.
NBC would not participate in this story. Instead, I spoke with more than a half-dozen people who worked on the first season — all of whom would talk to me only under the condition of anonymity out of fear of angering NBC, DreamWorks, and a number of other people — to try to figure out what went so horribly wrong with Smash.
You must read the rest of the piece in the SOURCE; it's some of the best TV journalism ever. Half the stuff blew my fucking mind, seriously. And it explains EVERYTHING.