Bad news, Smash fans. You may not have seen the last of Broadway's most annoying assistant just yet.
"Ellis is still alive," executive producer Neil Meron told reporters with a laugh at NBC's winter TV previews Sunday. "How could we forget Ellis?"
Much to the contrary, the much-maligned character is just one part of the NBC musical comedy that executive producers are hoping fans will forgive and very quickly forget. After receiving a much-hyped launch last February, the show became the unintended poster child for "hate-watching" because of divisive characters like Ellis and less-than-believable lines such as "I'm in tech!"
"I read everything and... there were certain things that were written that I thought made a lot of sense," Meron says of the criticism during Season 1. "When Josh [Safran] came in for the second season and addressed all of those issues, it felt like the right move to make."
Now going into its second season, which premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 9/8c, Smash will return a very different show. Gone are cast members Will Chase, Raza Jaffrey, Brian D'Arcy James and Jaime Cepero, as well as showrunner and creator Theresa Rebeck, who has been replaced with former Gossip Girl showrunner Safran. "Theresa is a really great artist and she was very involved in the theater, and her focus was very much taken up by her other loves," Meron said of Rebeck's departure. "It was [about] availability and where her passions really lay."
Also absent from Season 2 are Julia's many scarves. "The first one that comes to my mind is the scarves," Meron said when asked about which Season 1 criticisms he agreed with. "There were certain story lines that were kind of pinpointed that you would say, 'Right. They could be a little more impactful.'"
Executive producer Craig Zadan went a step further and said the vitriol directed towards the show last season helped the show's creative team confirm their own thoughts of what was working and what was not. "When we felt certain things were going off-kilter we would read about them in the press or on blogs," Zadan said. "We said if we are lucky enough to get a second season, 'Wouldn't it be great to fix things or adjust things or move those things around?' ... A lot of that reinforced our own instincts about the show."
Although Smash's Season 2 adjustments have been no secret, Safran says he doesn't believe the show has changed too much from the show people loved — and loved to hate — last year. "It's maybe bigger and there's more music and it's a little bit younger in regards to some of our new cast members but it's still the show that people love," he said. "We do have more original music, more musical sequences, more diverse music styles."
The more diverse music styles come courtesy of an entirely new musical, Hit List, that will go into development on the show this season. Hit List, which comes from new cast members Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus' characters, is described as a much more rock-pop production than Bombshell and stems from an idea first expressed by executive producer Steven Spielberg early in the show's development. "One of the things Steven said is, 'Wouldn't it be great is, if the show were successful, if we added another musical?'" Zadan said. "What we're really proud of and really excited about is that Bombshell is ongoing, but Josh found a way to start a new musical."
Going into the second season, viewers will see more of the nitty-gritty development of both Hit List and Bombshell, something both Meron and Zadan felt worked in Season 1. "Especially a show like Smash, which has so many moving parts, to figure out the mechanism is hard," Meron said. "When those moments worked in Season 1, I dare anyone to say what could be better entertainment."
The new season of Smash premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 9/8c on NBC. Are you excited for the new season?