Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright in NBC’s “Smash.” (Mark Seliger/MARK SELIGER/NBC)

The second season, would detail the musical coming to Broadway and “How does ‘Marilyn’ fare in New York?” creator Theresa Rebeck told TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2012.

But she did a tap dance around questions as to whether the series producers, including Steven Spielberg, and NBC hope to actually mount a B’way musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe in real life, as has been reported.

“What we are aiming to do now is write a great television show,” Rebeck said. As to the future, “Who knows, we could all die tomorrow or something,” she said, eliciting groans from critics and fellow panelists who jammed the ballroom at the Langham hotel in Pasadena.

How this series keeps going for four seasons is very much on TV critics’ minds, such as they are — particularly after seeing their darling “Glee” take a ratings tumble this season for lack of story direction.

And, because no discussion of “Smash” can be had without talk of that Fox musical series, critics asked the “Smash” producers to describe — no detail too small — how very much they owe to “Glee.”

“Smash” exec producer Craig Zadan, who produced years of musical re-boots for TV — including “Gypsy,” “The Music Man,” and “Annie” “Music Man” — in the late 90’s, paving the way for “Glee,” explained this in the nicest way possible for the many TV fanboys and fangirls who are covering the tour and have absolutely no idea there was music on TV before there was Ryan Murphy.

“When we did ‘Gypsy’ with Bette Midler [on CBS] it opened the door for TV musicals,” Zadan noted of himself and producing partner Neil Meron.

“When Ryan Murphy did ‘Glee’ he broke a great barrier — he allowed networks to believe there was room for drama, comedy and music in one show, week after week.

“I don’t think any of us feel our show is like ‘Glee’ but we feel grateful to ‘Glee’ for opening that door,” Zadan said, graciously.

The two actresses who play the two actresses who are trying to land the Monroe part on “Smash” were among the sea of panelists at the show’s Q&A session. Former “American Idol” non-winner Katharine McPheee talked for a while but, really, we didn’t understand what she was talking about most of the time:

“I one hundred percent think [stereotypes] are there for a reason.”

“Probably there is more backstabbing in theater because it’s more of an ensemble with the star.”

Anyway, she looked great.

Making more sense, Megan Hilty, an actual B’way veteran (“9-5: the Musical,” “Wicked”):

“Her story is one of tragedy, heartbreak, glamour, love — all things that make for great drama.”

Though NBC chief Bob Greenblatt did his best to manage expectations for the series during his Press Tour at bat, “Smash” has been crowned NBC’s big hope for resuscitating its primetime this season.

And, in fairness, NBC has allocated a whopping big chunk of marketing and promo dollars to the show’s launch. Among its plans, NBC will screen the pilot episode to the public in 10 cities around the country this coming Monday (Washington is not among them).

The pilot episode is also going to be offered for download on iTunes and Amazon from Jan. 15-30, on OnDemand cable outlets from Jan. 16-Feb. 6, and on NBC.com and Hulu from Jan. 23-Feb. 6.