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'Smash' is back

Katharine McPhee portrays Karen Cartwright in the series

Katharine McPhee portrays Karen Cartwright in the series “Smash, which starting April 6, will move from Tuesdays to Saturdays on NBC. Credit: AP

OK, let's talk "Smash," which returns tonight (WNBC/4, 9) for its sophomore season in an attempt to address a few matters, notably production turnover, backstage issues, and a few creative/narrative ones.

Below, I offer a few good clips from NBC, though hardly representative ones, for this reboot is somewhat less musical-driven, more narrative-driven.

Is it good? Should you watch? Oh, sure. (Sure.) Perfect? Great? Amazing? No, no, no. But this is a rebuild effort, and none of those were expected. I was a fan last season -- not one of those "hate viewers” who liked to tune in for the distinct and curious viewing version of schadenfreude, howling over What-"Smash"-Got-Wrong. (Though, sure, if I had taken the time to think about it, would have thrown a spitball or two on occasion as well.) This was and remains an ambitious New York production; juggling everything to perfection without dropping a few balls would have been just about impossible. What's new this season? Notably newcomer Jeremy Jordan, who is Karen Cartwright's -- Katharine McPhee -- future love interest.

Here's a chunk of my review that explains a few things.

MY SAY In its first season, poor "Smash” managed to attract the sort of following that would thrill only bone-bleached masochists with a mean streak: Hate viewers. These hate viewers watched and howled, tossed spitballs at the show on message boards, and otherwise made a nuisance of themselves. But they may been on to something. NBC sacked the creator (playwright Theresa Rebeck), then installed a new show-runner, Joshua Safran ("Gossip Girl"), who set to work mending the single most important series on the network. Has the triage worked? Look, the haters are still gonna hate -- that's a given -- but what "Smash” really needs are lovers: Viewers passionate about the story, cast, music and especially that roiling insane magical universe of New York theater.

This two-hour opener doesn't quite hit that mark -- even with JHud on board and bookended by a pair of rousing musical numbers by the series' two certifiable stars, McPhee and [Megan] Hilty. That's because it spends so much time repairing self-inflicted damage from last season -- damage that had turned some of the key players into unlikable jerks who slept with the wrong people or too many people. In Tuesday night's episode, they become humanized and get their comeuppance at the same time. "Smash” is also a little less "let's put on a show," more "let's figure out a TV narrative." That's the most practical direction, but it also makes it all feel a little more earthbound.

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