5 February 2013 1:55 PM, PST | Vulture | See recent Vulture news »

Last season, after debuting with much hype and a solid pilot, Smash quickly devolved into something supremely disappointing. Instead of a work-and-ego-driven story about the process of making art, it quickly became a distressingly tame soap opera that just happened to be set on Broadway. But in the NBC drama’s second season (which premieres tonight at nine with two back-to-back episodes), the show about the making of a Broadway musical also appears to be becoming a show about Smash — and this is a good thing. There are moments when characters seem to address the show’s critics directly, with tough humor. Harvey Fierstein has an invigorating cameo as himself, which is to say, as a walking pep talk; meanwhile, Jennifer Hudson’s new character, the young Broadway diva Veronica Moore, delivers what might be the show’s secret mantra: “Somebody’s always waiting to take you down, honey, but if the work’s good, »

- Matt Zoller Seitz

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