March 23, 2012

THE SKED: Backstage Drama At “Smash”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Almost simultaneous with the announcement of NBC’s renewal of SMASH to a 2d season came news that the series creator and lead Executive Producer, Theresa Rebeck, will be stepping down from her showrunning responsibilities.  The spin is that Rebeck will be returning to her theatre career (her play Seminar is currently on Broadway), and everyone is making nice noises about her possibly continuing to write for Smash, but it’s hard to avoid the implication that losing Rebeck was a condition for the series being renewed.

The disparity in quality between the Smash pilot and the series episodes has been notably sharp.  What started as a smart, incisive and enthralling mix of drama and music has become an increasingly sodden soap.  In particular, the Julia character played by Debra Messing (whoever’s leaking the information today wants people to know that this character is based on Rebeck herself) has been pivotal in a disastrous adultery storyline that’s dragged down the entire show for the past several weeks.  
NBC and its in-house studio Universal Television, which produces the show (along with a star-studded group of producers that includes Steven Spielberg), will now bring in a new showrunner, whose style and taste will largely determine the future tone of Smash.  Sometimes these moves turn a show around, and sometimes they drag it into the ground.  The remaining episodes of this season were all produced by Rebeck, so we won’t know which direction Smash will take until next fall.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."