Is ‘Smash’ any better this season?

Jennifer Hudson guest stars on "Smash" with Katharine McPhee. (NBC)

It seems like just yesterday we were writing about changes being made to the second season of "Smash" -- when in reality, it was only a few weeks back. But the time for rumours about cast changes and scarf elimination is over: Tuesday night saw the two-hour Season 2 premiere, and instead of re-capping it while pining for an Uma Thurman cameo, we've opted to see how it really stacks up -- or whether it's even changed at all.

Item 1: Scarves
Among some of the biggest changes to "Smash" was the wardrobe of Julia Houston (Debra Messing), and her scarves were reportedly the first to go. And indeed they went -- into the closet of one Karen Cartright (Katherine McPhee), who debuted her own in the very first scene.
Lights out or standing ovation: "Smash" Season 1 implied that you were no Broadway personality without knit accessories, so maybe that's why Julia experiences a meltdown when her marriage fails (as opposed to using work as an escape), while Karen cements her place as the musical's lead -- until the production gets shut down. +3 scarves in hopes of giving Julia back her powers

Item 2: Musical numbers
"Smash" was built on flashy production numbers, and on that foundation it continues to stand. In the first hour alone, we saw four separate performances -- and none were like last season's infamous Bollywood number from which no one will ever truly recover.
Lights out or standing ovation: While guest star Jennifer Hudson brought her A-game with an original number and rendition of "On Broadway" in the first hour, hour two's "Would I Lie To You?" (led by Ivy and Karen) was everything we loved to hate. -4 scarves of which to hide our eyes behind

Item 3: Goodbye, characters!
The series cleaned house this season as actors Raza Jaffrey (Dev, Karen's boyfriend), Emory Cohen (Leo, Julia's son), Jaime Cepero (Ellis, worst assistant ever), Brian d'Arcy James (Leo's father), and Will Chase (Michael Swift, Julia's lover) got the old heave-ho -- and according to the premiere, they are not to be missed.
Lights out or standing ovation: Aside from a public blow-out between Julia and her husband (which leads to their divorce), only Dev and Swift got an explanation behind their departure. Dev leaves a note (which Karen reads within the first two minutes), while Michael Swift "wants out of his contract." But if only fans could've watch each written-off character fight with his spouse publicly, as countless Broadway personalities watched on in horror! +5 scarves, in tribute to "Smash's" fallen heroes

Item 4: Guest stars
"Smash" Season 2 has promised a bevy of guest stars, and in addition to the waiter Karen now hopes to turn into a Broadway sensation, audiences were given Jennifer Hudson singing her heart out -- twice in the first hour.
Lights out or standing ovation: Jennifer Hudson always gets a standing ovation. Always. Regardless of why she's singing or how. +3 scarves to toss onstage as tribute

Item 6: Drinks in Jerry's face
True, aside from pointing out the ridiculousness of "Smash" in general, no one's vowed to change anything about Eileen Rand's (Anjelica Huston) approach to post-divorce confrontations. (Read: throwing a drink in her ex-husband's face every chance she gets.) But regardless, things have changed.
Lights out or standing ovation: Despite Eileen's continuing problems with ex-husband, Jerry, she only references drink-throwing as opposed to going through with it. Perhaps that's why Jerry chose to sabotage "Bombshell," leaving Eileen disgraced, and the production shut down. -5 scarves since they've been used up sopping up spilled/thrown martini

Consensus -- is "Smash" really better this season?
No -- and thank goodness. "Smash" may have become synonymous with "hate-watching" as its first season drew to a close, but inexplicable Bollywood dance numbers have been replaced only with a "Would I Lie To You?" dream sequence, and Ivy auditioning for a production with "Don't Dream, It's Over." The drama's still there, the questionable life choices are still being made, and for some reason unknown to all of us, Karen continues to climb Broadway ranks while Ivy -- who's been in the business forever -- fails miserably.

It's unrealistic. It's over-dramatic. It's "Smash," and it's back, baby.