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LORI RACKL: “Smash” goes for drama in second season

Jennifer HudsKatharine McPhee star second seas'Smash.'

Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee star in the second season of "Smash."

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:23AM



After an uneven first season that gave rise to the term “hate-watching,” NBC’s musical drama “Smash” is back for round two.

This TV show about Broadway theater — the drama on both sides of the curtain — has had some changes heading into its second season. It’s not the same old song and dance, but it also hasn’t had as radical a transformation as, say, another NBC show, “Up All Night.” (Not sure why they didn’t just give that one a new name and start over.)

One major change is who sits in the “Smash” showrunner chair. Creator and theater veteran Theresa Rebeck is out. Joshua Safran of “Gossip Girl” fame is in.

Safran said the essence of the show hasn’t altered much under his reign, but the sophomore season is “maybe bigger, more music, a little bit younger in some regards.”

Also out: “Smash’s” old time slot on Monday nights. The show’s new schedule is 9 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays on WMAQ-Channel 5, with a two-hour season premiere from 8 to 10 p.m.

Here are a few more “Smash” ins and outs:

IN: Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson, whose multi-episode arc starts in the season premiere. Hudson plays Veronica Moore, a Tony Award-winning Broadway sensation who embodies everything that Karen (fellow ex-“American Idol” contestant Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) aspire to be. Glen Ellyn native Sean Hayes joins former “Will & Grace” co-star Debra Messing in the “Smash” cast as a guest star later this season.

OUT: Conniving, back-stabbing, smoothie-spiking Ellis (Jaime Cepero), one of last season’s most reviled TV characters. Recently-fired Ellis, unfaithful Dev (Raza Jaffrey) and cuckold Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) will have drastically reduced roles going forward. “We wanted Ellis to be an evil character, but how deep people’s reaction was to Ellis was a surprise,” co-executive producer Neil Meron said.

IN: A more youthful vibe — in the cast, tone and music. Young Broadway stars Jeremy Jordan (“Newsies”) and Andy Mientus (“Carrie: The Musical”) have come on board. They play a couple of friends working on a current-day rock musical that stands to rival the Marilyn Monroe-based “Bombshell” that was the focus of season one.

OUT: Messing’s thick, woolly, omnipresent scarves, which ran neck-and-neck with Ellis in the “Smash” hate race. Messing doesn’t don one until a scene at the end of the season premiere.

“As your friend and partner, can I say something?” asks Tom (Tony Award-winner Christian Borle), in a wink to the audience. “It’s time to retire the scarves.”



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