Sorry Smashers, I’ve got some bad news. On Wednesday NBC announced that it would be banishing its musical-driven drama Smash to Saturdays at 9 starting April 6. Since Gossip Girl‘s Josh Safran took over the reigns of the show from creator and Broadway vet Theresa Rebeck, Smash tanked in the ratings in its second season. On February 5 the new season premiere to 4.5 million viewers and a meager 1.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo. Since then those numbers have dropped and fluctuated but remained dismally low–so low that the Peacock had every right to pull it from the schedule and call it a day; the most recent airing attracted only 2.9 million viewers and fell below the 1.0 rating threshold to a 0.9. However they are playing nice with the series’ small yet passionate fanbase and they’re letting it run its full 17-episode course before (very likely) pulling the plug on this thing.
In an interview with TVLine, Safran acknowledged the move to Saturdays. “I didn’t see it coming, being relegated to Saturday,” he said. “We’re all aware the show is not successful, but I guess I had hoped we would see what happened when The Voice came back [or] maybe they’d move us to a better time slot. But I understand from the network’s point of view. We hit a number and we stuck there.”
Despite the poor ratings, Safran stands behind his creative changes. “Everyone here from the top down is incredibly proud of the work,” he admitted. “I know that there are people who have their opinions and that’s totally acceptable, but that doesn’t change our viewpoint that we’re really proud and we love the show.”
Thankfully for fans Safran says the season 2 finale (which will most likely serve as the series’ final installment) “was constructed as a series finale.” He went on, “I don’t want [viewers] to think they are going to be left hanging, because they won’t be. The season has a beginning, middle and an end… [And] it just gets better and better.”
Currently Smash airs Tuesday nights at 10PM; to reiterate the show moves to Saturdays at 9PM on April 6 and will remain there until the end of its run on May 26.
TCA 13: ‘Smash’s new leader Josh Safran injects NBC’s musical with new life (season 2 preview inside)
When Smash returns for its second season this February, it won’t feel all that different but you should know that the musical drama has undergone significant behind-the-scenes changes in the interim. Right off the bat, Smash creator and Broadway vet Theresa Rebeck has stepped away as showrunner and taking her place is former Gossip Girl executive producer Josh Safran. Also, you will surely notice the absence of many season one characters including Raza Jaffrey (Karen’s boyfriend Dev), Jaime Cepero (Eileen’s annoying assistant Ellis), Brian d’Arcy James (Julia’s husband Frank), and Will Chase (Julia’s old-time crush Michael). But even with all of these players out of the picture, the show won’t deviate from its roots.
“I don’t think its changed that much,” said Safran. “It’s still the same Smash, just bigger with more music and younger in regard to some cast members.” New additions include Andy Mientus (from Broadway’s Carrie) who plays a poor kid from Brooklyn with dreams of writing for Broadway; Jeremy Jordan (from Broadway’s Newsies) plays a Brooklyn-born singer with a self-destructive streak, Krysta Rodriguez (from Broadway’s The Addams Family) plays Karen’s fun and spunky new roommate who is looking for her big break on Broadway; and Julian Ovenden (from TV’s Foyle’s War) will be Bombshell‘s John F. Kennedy. The season will also welcome many talented and musically-inclined stars including Jennifer Hudson (as Veronica Moore, a threat to Karen and Ivy), Liza Minnelli (as herself), Sean Hayes (can you say Will & Grace reunion!?), Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray), Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order), and Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me). Also, Bernadette Peters returns as Ivy’s mom.
“There’s more than one original song per episode: bigger [and] more is something we played with,” added Safran. “We have more original songs [per episode] and diverse musical styles. I kind of wanted to represent the bigger theatrical worldview on the show this season.”
Executive producer Neil Meron admitted that the first season had its ups and its downs. “First seasons of shows need time to find themselves, to lock into what they are, especially with a show like Smash,” he said. “There are so many moving parts to figure out the mechanism. It’s a fantastic machine. When certain moments worked in season one, I dare anybody to say what could be better.” Then: ”There were certain story lines that were pinpointed that you’d say, ‘Yeah, they’re right it could be a little bit more impactful.” Confirmed at a previous junction: Debra Messing’s hideous scarf collection has been tossed in the garage (and the crowd went wild). Now only if they’d get rid of her depressing son… at least Ellis the terrible has made an exit stage right.
Will Smash‘s Broadway musical Bombshell actually inspire a real show in New York City? “When we watch Bombshell moments, we think wouldn’t that be great on Broadway? But that’s where we leave it,” Meron said. “Our first priority is to make the show. It will inspire more conversation, but have we done anything about it? No.” Take that as a maybe! Announced at TCA panel was a soundtrack featuring 22 cast-recorded songs from Bombshell that will release February 12.
Smash returns Tuesday, February 5 with a two-hour installment. The space after the break is home to a brand new season 2 preview and a behind-the-scenes clip. (Click here for more…)
Unlike CBS, NBC is taking their time when it comes to announcing their program renewals. On Thursday March 22 the peacock network granted the Broadway musical drama Smash a deserved second season. Though the scale seemed to tip the other way during its run thus far (with so-so ratings and high production value meaning it’s likely expensive to produce), NBC ultimately decided to keep the flashy drama on its radar at least for another year. Though the show’s ratings are not extraordinary (it averages 7.7 million total viewers and a 2.6 demo rating in adults 18-49), Smash does rank as the network’s highest rated drama this season in those aforementioned categories. Season 2 will consist of 15 episodes (that’s up from this season’s 13) and Smash‘s creator/showrunner/executive producer Theresa Rebeck will be returning in a lesser capacity. Deadline reports that she will keep her executive producer title and might write a few episodes, but she will no longer be involved in the oversight of everything else. It still hasn’t been determined who will step in to take over the reigns from Rebeck. Before the news of renewal, Rebeck shared with the press that Smash season 1 would “take Marilyn to an out-of-town tryout, her first really public presentation,” and that a potential (and now set in stone) season 2 would tackle the question “how does Marilyn fare in New York?”
Also renewed at NBC? The Friday night sci-fier Grimm.
Smash – NBC — 10PM
I’m sure you’ve seen ads everyone for NBC’s upcoming musical drama Smash starring Katherine McPhee of American Idol fame. The question remains: is this show worth checking out? With a talented ensemble cast including Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Jack Davenport (FlashForward), Anjelica Huston, and Megan Hilty (of Broadway fame in 9 to 5: The Musical), exciting musical numbers, and a compelling plot that’s expected to captivate viewers quickly, Smash is definitely a new series you don’t want to miss out on giving a try. It’s easy to compare this show to FOX’s Glee since both of them include characters bursting out into song multiple times per episode, but you should know that it will be immediately apparent that the two don’t share all that much in common. For one this show tells a grander story of two aspiring artists vying for the lead role in a Broadway musical; Rachel Berry has time before she makes it that far. This story will encourage competition, backstabbing, and everything else that comes with a dramatic rise to stardom. From the commercials you should have an idea that Smash will try its best to weave a character-driven story with an extraordinary cast consisting of real-life singers and talented veteran actors. That should be enough to get you started on the pilot and from there we’ll see where it takes us. My prediction? NBC has a Smash hit and home-run with this one.
The River – ABC – 9PM (two-hour premiere)
Lots and lots of hype is surrounding The River, ABC’s fright fest from the creator of Paranormal Activity Oren Peli. Is all of it justifiable? I scream with a resounding yes. As you know I was fortunate enough to screen the pilot at Comic Con and I must say this show is not for the faint hearted. This show is genuinely scary and the strong pilot will make you forcibly jump out of your seat, I can promise you that. The eight episode first season will play like a miniseries, taking you on an adventure through the Amazon River in search of wildlife expert and TV personality Dr. Emmett Cole (played wonderfully by Bruce Greenwood). The rescue team consists of Cole’s wife played by Leslie Hope (24) and son Joe Anderson (Across The Universe). Paul Blackthorne (24) leads a camera crew that documents all the craziness that goes down during the mission. Though The River will frighten you at the same time it will grip you and keep you engaged from the start. The Amazonian backdrop and the various plot devices utilized to their advantages (including shaky cam, docu-style taping and elements of supernatural surprise and edge-of-your-seat it’s too quiet…SCARES) will hook you in the first hour and it’ll be hard to drop this show from your weekly schedule. The mystery of Cole’s disappearance will keep you guessing at who in the ensemble cast may be part of a larger conspiracy. The stars have aligned leading up to the premiere of this show; the cast is great, the plot is intriguing, the pedigree is there with Peli and executive prouder Steven Spielberg. And if FX’s American Horror Story proved anything, it’s that US audiences are drawn to TV experiences like they’ve never witnessed before. I can say without hesitation that The River is excitedly different from anything produced for the small screen sitting in your room.
2012 Winter TCAs: NBC’s Bob Greenblatt on ‘really bad fall’, hope for success with ‘Smash’, the return of ‘Community’
Last week at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour NBC was the first big network to publicly shed light on its fall TV season performance and hint at where they’re headed in 2012. NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt didn’t waste anyone’s time with these opening words. “We had a really bad fall, worse than I’d hoped for but about as I expected,” he said. “People say the only way to go is up which I believe is true, but there is a long way to get there.” He continued, “We had few strong lead-ins — our most recent scripted hit is six years old [30 Rock]. Some of our older hits lost cast members [Law & Order: SVU and The Office].” He also blames the network’s overall ratings decline on “the fact that we have few strong lead-ins.” He added, “There was no great revelation or shocking epiphany about fall expect it just [reinforced] how hard it is to break through.” Later he spun things positively acknowledging the recent NBCUniversal/Comcast merger. “But the good news is we now have new owners, they’re investing in our business, not only with financial resources, but with their patience.”
NBC’s major disappoints this fall were Prime Suspect, The Playboy Club, and the Hank Azaria comedy Free Agents. Greenblatt made sure to share his thoughts on each failed project. On Prime Suspect: “[It] was probably the biggest disappointment. Was it too cable, was [Maria Bello’s character] too abrasive? Maybe I should say it was the hat and move on…the audience wanted to be entertained with comedy and fairytales [this fall], and there wasn’t appetite in the country for a hard-hitting cop show.” On The Playboy Club: “ “Was Playboy Club too dark? I don’t know. I think it was a just a rejected concept…I know everybody thinks we sat in a room and said, ‘Oh, we have a show like Mad Men, let’s put that on.’ We thought going into the period would interest people, but I don’t think people were that fascinated by that milieu and place.” And finally on Free Agents: “I’ll go on record stating I liked it. Am I surprised that it went down? I’m really not surprised about anything going down today.” Though comedies Whitney and Up All Night haven’t become ratings hits yet, Greenblatt is confident that in time they will find bigger audiences.
The NBC chairmen went on to share his excitement about upcoming drama Smash, and at the same time he made sure to keep expectations at a realistic level. “I think that Smash is going to be very important to us,” said Greenblatt. “I don’t believe it’s a make or break show for us. I think we’re all proud of it and we’re excited to see what it can do. If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, ‘You just need one hit…’ I think in this day and age you need four or five shows to start to turn things around. Smash could be one of those. If it isn’t, it’s not like we’re going to go into receivership. But we do think it’s special and it can break through the clutter.” He noted that the musical will have a ratings advantage since it will be attached to one of the network’s “few and far between” lead-ins in The Voice.
He also discussed the future of cult-favorite Community. “When I announced our midseason changes last fall and took Community off the schedule, I failed to explicitly say that it would be back,” he said. “I want to expel any notion that it is just disappearing off the schedule.” It has been confirmed that season 3 will resume this spring. He continued, “Community was moved to 8PM a couple years ago and that’s an incredibly competitive time slot now on Thursday and I’m really curious to see what something else [30 Rock] would do there. I don’t know if it makes sense to ask it to start off the night again. We’ve tried to migrate some comedies to Wednesday this year. It’s a matter of looking at what happens with the six comedies we’ve got at midseason, to figure out where Community makes the most sense.” And when can viewers expect to hear news of possible renewal? “We’re just going to look at the success of what pilots yield, what the scheduling needs are and make that decision closer to the upfront [in May],” Greenblatt explained.
Greenblatt went on to share his thoughts about other NBC programming. Here are some choice quotes. On Howard Stern joining America’s Got Talent: “I have headaches about a lot of other things but that’s not one of them. I think he’s going to be a great judge and take it seriously. I don’t think his plan is to usurp the show and make it the Howard Stern Circus.” On the status of Fear Factor: “People like to see the snake cage and the swallowing of the bees. What can I say? We’re always happy to have those ratings. It’s [a show] that will probably come and go [on the schedule] as needed.”
The former head of programming at Showtime ended the panel like this. “The beauty of cable is the ratings for a program really don’t correlate to the bottom line. At Showtime, Prime Suspect would have been picked up in the third episode, it would have been declared a hit and it would have been in production for four or five years.” With broadcast TV, “You can’t be as cavalier about, ‘Oh we love the show. We’re just going to keep it on as long as we want.’ That’s the big dilemma that I’m in.” He concluded, “We have to figure out how to cease up on that and not end up in a narrow place.”
Can new midseason shows like Smash, Awake, The Firm, and Are You There, Chelsea? help lift the Peacock out of the ratings rubble and into a better place? Like many things in life, time will tell.