Late last night news broke ("news broke" is sort of a dramatic phrase for this, but whatever) that Gossip Girl writer/producer Josh Safran will be taking over as the showrunner of NBC's Smash from creator Theresa Rebeck. Will this do anything to change the trajectory of the sadly disappointing show?
While we've certainly been hot and cold on the show, we don't think Smash needed rid of Rebeck as showrunner in order to get better. A revered playwright and theater veteran, Rebeck first started developing Smash years ago for Showtime, so it's difficult not to feel bad that she's been booted so soon after it finally made it to air. Plus, she certainly knows the industry, and it's that kind of expertise we wanted more of in the plotlines. Safran, on the other hand, has written eighteen episodes of Gossip Girl, a show that gets New York culture so frustratingly wrong, makes it so dumb just to fit a storyline, that we can't possibly imagine he'll add anything smarter to the mix.
The boring relationship stuff is what often sinks Smash — not the in-rehearsal relationships, but Debra Messing and her husband, Kat McPhee and the guy in the mayor's office — and Gossip Girl is almost entirely boring relationship stuff. Safran is one of that show's better writers, but he's still firmly one of the clique. Will he make Smash juvenile or tone-deaf? We want some silly soapy stuff on the show, it oftentimes takes itself far too seriously, but the theater of it still needs to ring true. In that regard, Safran's presence makes us worried.
But maybe it's silly to worry. Rebeck is, after all, staying on as a producer and writer, so maybe she'll still be quality control in that department while Safran does the unenviable task of steering the rather unwieldy ship. Really, there isn't that much to lose with Smash at this point, it's mostly a smear of mediocrity peppered with occasional greatness, but there is potentially a lot to gain. Here's hoping Safran and his writers, Rebeck included, stop squandering the opportunity.