"Smash" is worthy of its name.
The second season opener (9 p.m. Tuesday, WBIR, Channel 10) is grander, bolder and tempered with just enough heart to keep it tethered to a semblance of humanity.
While it is still over-the-top and one "Real Housewives" champagne glass away from someone getting splashed, "Smash" has a keen way of building its underdogs — and there are several to be found — to grab sympathy and put you in his or her corner.
The two most obvious underdogs are Broadway star wanna-bes Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty), rivals from the get-go when they went for the same lead role in "Bombshell," a fledging musical about Marilyn Monroe. The women aren't saints, they've both been awful to each another, but the case to vilify Ivy and make Karen the victim grew sharper as the first season went along.
By the second season, Karen is the star of the show, and a broken, teary Ivy is a cast off, making it easier to get in her corner.
"Smash" sets up a bevy of storylines in the two-hour season opener to last it all season: The financial woes of "Bombshell," leading its producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) into a hot legal matter and the scorn of the theater community; The destruction (finally) of the marriage of lyricist Julia Houston (Debra Messing); Director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) having to face his past sins; and, perhaps the most appealing plot, Karen coming across a hot new and unknown talent, a bartender who is arrogant, stubborn and talented enough to be worth it.
"Smash" is touching upon its universality. "Smash" is built on character development, relatable struggles and a desire to see the underdog win.
Score: 4 stars (out of five)
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@telebuddy.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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