Is Smash a 'smash'? No. Is it success? Objectively, yes. Is that enough for NBC? At this stage, it has to be.
Now, is it the savior for scripted programming that NBC was obviously hoping that it would be? Probably not, but that's primarily a classic case of high expectations casting the big picture in an unflattering light. NBC promoted Smash heavily, so it came to be seen as this "savior" show that it probably had no business being in the first place. The ratings success of Glee and all these singing competitions have somewhat overshadowed the fact that this isn't exactly a readily-accessible, fool-proof premise. The same thing that makes it more 'sophisticated' than Glee - Broadway, original songs, heavy serialization, etc. - also serve as barriers to entry. This isn't the pretty hometown teenage girl trying to win a recording contract/millions of dollars by singing a classic country song that everyone in the audience can sing along to and cheer. Katherine McPhee's American Idol following doesn't automatically carry over to her fictional counterpart, apparently. They're two different
Publicly, people can look at the Voice's numbers and speculate that NBC is wasting its one good launching pad. Privately, NBC can lament this all they want. The fact that it dropped from a 4.2 to a 3.4 in its second half-hour certainly doesn't inspire good will for its next few weeks. The problem is that they really don't have anything else that could go after the Voice and get similar numbers. Recent years have shown that unscripted shows don't seem to provide much retention to scripted shows unless their auidences are highly compatible - look at Castle's numbers behind DWTS in the Fall and Spring versus the drop-off its numbers take behind The Bachelor in the winter. Leaving aside the Touch preview, shows following American Idol these past few seasons (Human Target, Breaking In, The Finder, etc.) haven't even come close to being hits by either retention percentage or objective ratings standards. The Voice and Smash are about as compatible as a unscripted show and a scripted show could ever be - sadly, I doubt Awake, Community, or any other show they could put there could match those numbers.
No, the retention isn't great, but poor retention percentages often don't affect renewals as much as it seems like they should, particularly if the ratings are still high relative to other shows on the network. Happy Endings routinely sheds nearly half of its Modern Family lead-in, but it still breaks a 3.0 with some reliability and is the second-highest rated comedy and fourth-highest rated scripted show on the network. Is it the second-highest rated comedy solely because of its lead-in? Probably. Would the Middle or Suburgatory do better than Happy Endings if they aired at 9:30? Possibly. Will Happy Endings be renewed? Personally, I would be stunned if it wasn't. A 3.0 is still a 3.0. It probably won't get the Modern Family lead-in next year, but if it can maintain its core audience, it will still be seen as successful.
It's a different story on CBS, where Rob (and before that, Rules of Engagement) is pulling a 3.4/3.5 while still shedding nearly 40% of its lead in from The Big Bang Theory. The difference is that despite those numbers being high, Rob is still CBS's lowest rated comedy at the moment. Their other comedies are all averaging above a 4.0 or star current media-star and awards-darling Melissa McCarthy. So unless they either expand their Thursday comedy block to two hours or premiere no new comedies next year, there is a decent chance that Rob might be canceled because CBS believes that something else might hold on to more of TBBT's audience. In other words, they can 'afford' to be disappointed.
Bottom line, pundits and internet commentators like you and I are in a position where we can afford to be 'disappointed' with something like Smash, but NBC isn't. The Office is the only regular scripted show the network that has regularly topped a 3.0 this year, and recently it has been slipping into the high 2's. It's best days are clearly behind it, both creatively and ratings-wise, but NBC will keep renewing it long past the expiration date because every other scripted show on the network (Parenthood, Grimm, Parks and Rec, etc) are happy if they can just crack a 2.0. If Smash can stabilize above a 3, or even in the high 2's (at 10 PM no less, where ratings are generally lower across the board), NBC will renew it in a heartbeat and count it as a "hit". Next year, if they decide that they want it to stand on its own and use The Voice lead-in for something else, the story may change. I don't know how expensive the show is (it certainly doesn't look cheap) but that's an issue for a hypothetical Season 2 and beyond, and an issue that I'm sure at that point, NBC would be happy to have.
God, that's a long essay. To think I was more or less indifferent about the show when I watched it on iTunes last week.